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I’ve talked about prophecies that are a Fake-Out — that is, a prophecy is given and does come true but in an unexpected way. But let’s not pretend, there can also be stories where the prediction is just outright False.

Maybe the “seer” is a con-artist, issuing prophecies that get clients to give them money somehow. Maybe the “oracle” is more interested in pleasures of the flesh, and will tell a succession of lovers that they are “destined” for each other.

False Prophets, unfortunately, have lots of usefulness for governments and institutions. A regime facing unrest might receive a “prophecy” of war if the Beloved Leader is questioned. Or a televangelist might proclaim that “God will take him home” unless a certain amount of donations are received. Someone might even (shudder) foretell that the world is ending and persuade their followers to drink poison.

A mistaken oracle doesn’t have to be wicked, though. The “seer” might mean well and believe that they are foretelling truly (whether by a vision or some method of divination) but there’s no actual magic there. Meanwhile, in the comedic fantasy movie Willow, a village priest declares he must consult the Bones, but then whispers “the Bones tell me nothing” and asks the title character what he wants to do. Once the character decides, he proclaims, “The Bones have spoken!”

As writers, we have rich ground to explore with a False Prophet. The evil seer who predicts the death of a rival — and then hires assassins. The wealthy merchant who always receives the best prophecies money can buy. Or the person of good heart who fudges their prediction in order to help someone out.

My prediction: fantasy authors will continue to write about Destiny and those who tell it for many years to come!


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