Shanshu Prophecy

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Shanshu Prophecy
Plot element from the Angel franchise
First appearance Angel
"Blind Date" (May 16, 2000)
Created by (Series)
Joss Whedon
Jeannine Renshaw
Genre Fantasy
In-story information
Type Mystical prophesy
Function Prophesies the resurrection of the vampire with a soul as a mortal.

The Shanshu Prophecy is a prophecy that appears in the fictional universe of the television series Angel. Contained in the Scrolls of Aberjian, the prophecy first appears in the episode "Blind Date" and is more fully revealed in the season finale of the show's first season, "To Shanshu in L.A.". The Shanshu Prophecy foresees the restoration of a vampire with a soul into a mortal human being after an apocalyptic battle.

The Prophecy[edit]

The Shanshu Prophecy reveals that a vampire with a soul will play a major role in the Apocalypse (for good or for evil) and receive a reward ("shanshu") for his efforts.[1] The full text of the prophecy has not been revealed.

Translated, "shanshu" means both "to live" and "to die." Wesley interprets the text as meaning that the vampire with a soul will, at the end of his numerous trials, live as human once more.

As of issue 12 in the comic continuation, Angel: After the Fall, Angel's true role in the Apocalypse is (seemingly) revealed to him through a vision granted by Wesley (which he claims comes from the higher ups at Wolfram and Hart).[2]

Role in the series[edit]

After the prophecy is introduced, its fulfillment becomes Angel's ultimate goal in his quest for redemption. Because the prophecy does not refer to any particular apocalypse, Angel determines that redemption (rather than a scorecard of good deeds) is the key to Shanshu; he must maintain a constant battle against evil, rather than just try to amass a demonic body-count.

Angel's faith in his role wavers in the fifth season. He takes on a more corporate, bureaucratic approach to fighting evil when he takes control of the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart, and feels disconnected from his mission. Also, his old rival Spike (another vampire with a soul) is resurrected in L.A.; Spike had recently died as a Champion, sacrificing himself to save the world. Two of Angel's enemies, Eve and Lindsey McDonald, take advantage of the situation; Eve convinces Angel and Spike that the existence of two ensouled vampire Champions is interfering with the Shanshu Prophecy and tearing the bonds of reality. She presents them with a falsified translation of the prophecy, leading them to believe that they can only restore the balance of the universe by competing to drink from the Cup of Perpetual Torment; whoever drinks first will be the one to later become human. Before the hoax is revealed, Spike overpowers Angel and claims the prophesied destiny for himself, proving himself a true contender for Shanshu. Whilst arguing over who the prophecy talked about (Angel or Spike), Spike points out that Angel was cursed with his soul and had no choice in the matter, whereas he chose to regain his soul, at which point Angel points out that Spike only did it to get into a girl's pants.[3] Indeed, Spike's main interest in the Shanshu seems to be more of a continuation of his old vendetta against Angel rather than a specific desire to become human again.

Angel later infiltrates the most powerful demon organization in this dimension, the Circle of the Black Thorn, in an attempt to uncover the representatives of the Senior Partners' power in this dimension. They demand a sacrifice from him to prove his loyalty: he is forced to sign away his potential claim to Shanshu, in his own blood, the Circle unable to understand that Angel would do good just for the sake of it rather than for any reward. Angel, Spike, and their remaining allies later assassinate each and every member of the Circle, thereby incurring the wrath of the armies of the Senior Partners.[4]

Earlier, as Angel and Spike watch the others leaving for their coming battles, they discuss the Prophecy:

Spike: "What do you think all this means for that Shanshu boogaboo? If we make it through this, does one of us get to be a real boy?"
Angel: "Who are you kiddin'. We're not gonna make it through."
Spike: "Well as long as it's not you."

The series ends as Spike, Angel, Gunn, and Illyria stand alone against the demons and dragons sent by the Senior Partners;[4] the fulfillment of the prophecy remains unresolved. Although Angel is revealed to have become at least partly human during "Angel: After the Fall", this is revealed to have been due to the Senior Partners attempting to deprive Angel of his strength when he needs it most rather than out of any benevolence on the part of the Powers,[5] however, this could be seen as an indirect act of fate, as the prophecy was technically fulfilled.

In Angel: After the Fall #12, Wesley, now an agent for Wolfram & Hart reveals the truth behind the Shanshu Prophecy. Gunn (at that point a vampire with delusions of heroism), in an attempt to fulfill the Shanshu Prophecy for himself, attempts to kill Angel. He does this by reversing all the magic Angel has cast on himself; spells used to mimic the powers of a vampire. This includes magic that heals him after injury. All of Angel's injuries come back at once and he has a post-death experience.

At this point Wesley appears and reveals that Wolfram & Hart never had a chance to file the contract after Angel signed away his rights; thus, the Shanshu is still Angel's and can still be fulfilled. Wesley passes on a vision to Angel, the role he will play in the Apocalypse that earns him his Shanshu destiny indicating that Angel will be fighting for evil; the vision depicts a bloodied Angel in vampire form standing in a field of dead bodies.[2]

Horrified by this, Angel very nearly resigns himself to death in order to prevent these events from coming to pass, but, with the assistance of Cordelia Chase – now a higher being – and his son, Connor, he is reminded and reassured that he would never allow himself to become what he saw in that vision. Angel decides to go on and continue fighting because:

...two things always eased the pain, ever so slightly. The first was the belief that it's all building towards something. I always thought it had to be. It had to be. We suffer. We hurt. We die. But at the end of the day, it was going to be worth it. Because we were going to win. [The second was] the fact that the loved ones I lost - usually come back to help me when I need it most.


  1. ^ Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in To Shanshu in LA: "The vampire with a soul, once he fulfills his destiny, will shanshu. It is his reward."
  2. ^ a b Angel: After the Fall #12
  3. ^ Destiny (Angel)
  4. ^ a b Not Fade Away
  5. ^ "Angel: After the Fall" #4 February 2008