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Focus on the Frightful: That Magic Age

In so much of horror, fantasy and dark fantasy children become heroes when they hit a certain age. It’s usually in the teens – Thirteen, Sixteen and Eighteen seem to be the biggest ages for a teen to start their quests. Whether it’s learning that you’re a wizard, a slayer or a magical creature destined to save the world, age is a magical number.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter found out he was a wizard on his eleventh birthday. He’s a boy learning how to grow into adulthood while navigating not just school but also a myriad of magical beings that want to kill him and a terrible family. He has to navigate the pitfalls of friendship, love, and schoolwork. There is one benefit that Harry has that other comparable magic kids do – he doesn’t have to hide the fact that he’s a wizard around his friends and family. He can be open and honest about being a wizard to Ron and Hermione.

Harry Potter in his school wardrobe


Buffy is activated as a Slayer when she turned fifteen. The Slayers as Chosen Ones aren’t activated by age, though. If the previous Slayer is killed the new Slayer is activated so it’s possible that a Slayer could be activated very young. I don’t know much Buffy lore so if there are any instances cited in the show I’d love to know!

Besides being a Slayer Buffy also has to juggle school, friends, and love. Buffy the Vampire Slayer also had episodes revolving around sex, toxic relationships and difficult parent/child relationships. She wants a normal life but eventually comes to accept the fact that she is The Chosen One. She luckily has a group of friends whom she can open up to but the fact that she has to hide that she’s a Slayer has caused major friction between her and her mom and she feels misplaced guilt over her parents’ divorce.

Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Chosen Ones

Fantasy can be flooded with Chosen Ones. Not all of them exactly worthy of the title. A Chosen One usually starts out on their Hero’s Journey as an average kid. Nothing extraordinary until they reach a certain birthday or event that triggers their quest. Emphasis on the average.

In a really good adventure fantasy the average can evolve to heroic. In too many recent fantasies the supposedly “average” is actually extraordinary the whole time. There’s no challenge they can’t overcome. No romantic interest that isn’t attracted to them. It doesn’t present any challenges. They never have to evolve and change.

Part of the reason these stories are set at these particular ages is so that kids can see that growth is possible. That they can have a character they can identify with through these stories. That they see a character grow and confront challenges, using their intelligence, their abilities, and their inner strength to overcome them.

I think it could be very discouraging to read about a character that is flawless from start to finish. It makes for a simple escape power fantasy but you can make an entertaining story with flawed, human character. Which is why it’s doubly important for tweens through teens to have characters they can identify with. We need diverse characters and stories so that no teen is left behind, forcing a connection that they might otherwise not feel just because there are no other choices.

Rambling Wrap-Up

I may have gotten off-topic a bit. If so, I apologize. My son turned eighteen today. Which put me in a very strange headspace about growing up, adulthood and how fiction plays a part in that. Whether it’s games, movies, or books. Thank you for putting up with the ramblings of a stunned mom today. It truly boggles the mind that I’ve raised an actual human that will be in the world soon. Especially now. It’s fearsome and wondrous.

Published inFocus on the Frightful


  1. Happy birthday to you son from me, too.

    I’m am sick to death of the Chosen One trope. Most of them aren’t done very well. Is Harry classed as a Chosen One, though – I don’t think so. Accidental One, as it turned out, perhaps!

    • Boiled down I do think Harry is a Chosen One Trope. I believe he was Chosen from the moment he was marked by Voldemort.

      I am not fond of it but I do really like it when it is done well. When it’s not just a slap-dash excuse to create a perfect main character (who just doesn’t see it herself, even though she knows she is but, darn it, why do all of these pesky boys like her, etc.)

  2. Aww, I wish your son a very happy birthday!!

    I love the chosen one trope, but am not a fan of the chosen one being too perfect. I like when the character matures throughout the book or series to become worthy of the title.

    • I like it if it’s done well but so many current novels use it as a lazy shortcut to explain the her/heroine’s prowess. “Oh, there’s no reason she should be an expert sniper?” They’re the Chosen One

      It needs to have flesh and bone and a heart.

  3. Olga Nunez Miret

    Happy birthday to your son, Gracie!

    • Thank you so much and a hearty thank you from the No Longer Tiny Tentacle! 🙂

  4. Patricia Masserman

    I love this post, and I agree with you that authors do young readers a disservice by presenting heroic characters that have really always been attractive and strong in many ways, rather than being ordinary and having to struggle to find their own strengths. And it reminds me of what someone said (sorry, can’t remember who; maybe Stephen King?), we don’t tell kids stories about monsters to scare them – kids know that monsters are real; stories about monsters let them know that monsters can be defeated. Showing ordinary kids rising to the occasion serves an important purpose.
    And as a writer, thank you for reminding me of this.

    • You’re welcome! Thank you for taking the time to read, I appreciate it so much!

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