Picking the seems: the themes behind King of Sparrows

Self-determination and the question of destiny.

He chooses to be, as do we all, long before any of your meaningless freedoms are presented.

 -Dragon age 2

Thus spoke the Arishok on the subject of existence, though it perhaps seems contradictory. Nobody “chooses to live” after all, for we have no way of experience life without living. Perhaps what it actually infers is that existing without a purpose is not existence.

Fantasy is rife with the cliched peasant child embroiled in a conflict that will inevitably result in his coronation, becoming the stalwart hero of the land/heir to the throne/fulfiller of the prophecy (delete where appropriate), and yet it baffles me that the theme of self-determination is tackled so rarely. What if the prophecy remained unfulfilled, or the hero did nothing at all and the land went to pot? For all we know the hero is actually defeating the evil-du-jour out of a sense of obligation, rather than a desire.  To what extent is the future theirs to control? Does he have any say in what is essentially a pre-determined destiny? Is his choice merely an illusion, is it really freedom?

Writing in itself is a wonderful way of describing a predefined destiny. As a planner, I already know the whole that my characters will face. They may choose to wander from the path, as we all do in life, and yet they will always arrive at the inevitable.

Did you lead, or were you simply led?

The theme of self-determination and the question of destiny in King of Sparrows is embodied by this phrase. The main character, Dakka Bel, is given many choices, both tactically and morally, but he is seemingly dragged through much of the story by others, and at times, an unseen hand. As a slum-dweller, an Outcast, his role in life is to live behind a gigantic brick wall, built by those that sit on his shoulders. He is seen as a slave, one who has allowed himself to be subjugated, rather than a victim of social struggle. It is his desire to break away from his origins that encompasses all that he is and all that he does, but to what inevitably?

We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.

-Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

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