Prophecy, Choice and Character | Sheryl Steines

Prophecy, Choice and Character

Prophecy is a message given to a prophet, someone who communicates it to others. It’s oftentimes the vehicle for a fantasy plot line.

As a fantasy writer, even I’m not immune to the use of the prophecy. In She Wulf, it is what the story is centered on. Throughout the story, my assertion for Annie is this; do we have to follow through on a prophecy or do we have free will to simply say no. Or because of her character does she simply not have a choice but to accept her new destiny.


prophecy girl

The question of prophecy and free will is in more than one series. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode, Prophecy Girl I’ve often grappled with that question and wonder what would happen if Buffy simply waits until the next day.

In this episode Giles discovered an ancient book called the Codex, one in which foretells of several different prophecies, all which have come to pass. It tells of Buffy's death at the hands of The Master.



Giles: I wish to G_d I were. But it's very plain. Tomorrow night Buffy will face the Master, and she will die.

But my thought every time I see this episode is this; what if she waits one more day or even an hour after midnight, will the prophecy still hold true. Will waiting allow her to live and still kill the master or will it be her downfall anyway? But it’s her calling as a slayer to fight the Master and ensure he doesn’t rise. For if he did, all forms of evil will break through the Hellmouth and terror will reign. In the end Buffy doesn’t believe she has a choice. She accepts her responsibility and submits to the prophecy.

The other prophecy that always had me wondering came from Harry Potter.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …”

—Prophecy made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney


harry prophecy

Having not heard the entire prophecy Voldemort doesn’t know for sure which child will bring his end and he chooses Harry rather than his other possible choice of Neville Longbottom. But he marks the child and walks directly into a self-fulfilling prophecy in which one of them will have to die by the other’s hand. Would he, had he not marked Harry his equal, been able to avoid the prophecy and succeed in bringing about his plan?

Having their destinies thrust upon them, both Harry and Buffy accept the prophecy and their role in it, not because of the prophecy but because of their character. For Buffy, she is the slayer, and in the simplest terms, it is her job to stop evil. She is able to do this because she is grounded to life by her friends and her mother. Though Harry is responsible for stopping evil, it is his love for his friends and the memory of his parents that keep him fighting. He accepts his role when he realizes he is the only one who can stop Voldemort and keep those he loves safe.

The prophecy is the story’s catalyst. It propels the characters into their journey one in which they learn about themselves and come into the person they were meant to be and in the end, they discover what they are truly capable of accomplishing.

It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

For Buffy and Harry it is their choices to not run but to fight that make them the characters they eventually become.


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