Created By: vp21ct on August 26, 2009
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The Epic

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Can't believe we missed this one.

Coppied from the Other Wiki (cause I have trouble describing literary concepts). An epic is a long story centered on a heroic character that describes a series of exceptional events, similar to and suggestive of epic poetry. There are numerous epics in fiction and storytelling. Epics are majestic depictions and capture impressive struggles, such as stories of war, adventures, and other efforts of great scope and size over long periods of time.

Some basic guidelines:

  • A longer-than-average story that:
  • Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a war or a country-wide catastrophe) and
  • Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who
  • Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they
  • Commit extraordinary deeds and
  • Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey

Examples:

Can be divided into a few different subgenres. The divisions also come in two flavors, Form and Subject. (may be subtropes/genres)

Form is mostly limited to literature and theater, and includes.
  • Epic Poem (also known as classical Epic)
  • Epic Narrative (also known as modern Epic)

Both forms can be devided by subject:
  • Heroic (one person, may include companions, but focused on the person)
  • Familial (follows a particular lineage)
  • and National (follows the history of an entire nation, not common)

Need more modern examples, I know there are hundreds.

And feel free to edit.
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • August 18, 2009
    Iverum
    Would this be an index, or what?
  • August 19, 2009
    jason taylor
  • August 19, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Ben Hur

    Journey To The West

    The Ten Commandments (movie)

    Lord Of The Rings

    The Chronicles Of Narnia

    Maybe you could define the word "epic" on the page, as it seems to be getting a lot of overuse. For example, epic weapons.
  • August 19, 2009
    Ryusui
    Whatever you do, just make sure you spell it "Odyssey".
  • August 19, 2009
    Lee M
    And "Iliad".
  • August 19, 2009
    ChupaCabo
    Definitely sounds like an index.

    @Chabal 2 - I agree that "epic" gets overused. Part of the reason for that is that the definition is necessarily kind of subjective, i.e. "long" periods of time, "exceptional" events, "majestic" depictions, etc. I'm wondering if it would help to include an example of something that would not count as Epic, just for clarity? For example, The Chronicles Of Narnia is an Epic because X,Y,Z but The Illuminatus Trilogy (just pulling a title - not a judgement call) would not count as Epic because X, but notY, and Z is bit questionable.

    Or maybe I'm overcomplicating.
  • August 19, 2009
    DracMonster
    Isn't this just Door Stopper? It appears the only qualification is being long.

    If not, Epic Saga is the specific literary genre from which the word comes when referring to long multi-part works. (It often used incorrectly, though)
  • August 19, 2009
    vp21ct
    It also requires fantastic feats and a central hero.

    The bible isn't an epic because it does not have a central hero, but it is a doorstopper.
  • August 19, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The epic poems and epic stories should be separated a bit, even if both are literature. (Iliad vs. Narnia, Beowulf vs. Lord of the Rings, etc.)
  • August 20, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    Epic is actually a literary term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_poetry

    It's not an adjective, it's a genre which is what the OP is trying to create: a genre entry.

    I say it's tropeable. In fact, I'll come in every weekend to take Dragonball Z off the list and mock the people who added it. *thumbs up*
  • August 20, 2009
    Kinitawowi
    Narrative Poem seems to cover a few of the examples already.
  • August 20, 2009
    vp21ct
    @ Shrikesnest, Actually, Dragonball (not Z) might well be considered an Epic.
  • August 20, 2009
    SevenMass
    I think the trope you describe here is already well known as The Hero With A Thousand Faces.

    Indeed, we ought to have this already. More information on the other wiki
  • August 20, 2009
    Rasalas
    @Seven Mass: We have The Hero's Journey. I've made The Hero With A Thousand Faces a redirect to that.
  • August 20, 2009
    vp21ct
    The Heroes journey would be a subtrope I think. Seriosly, the Epic is older than dirt in the most old way possible. Its almost older than GOD (or at least the concept of gods).
  • August 20, 2009
    lukebn
    This isn't an index; it's a genre itself. The Heros Journey is very often the pattern an epic follows, but they really are distinct concepts-- one's a plot pattern, one is a genre. Many other works aside from epics also follow the pattern, and epics aren't always glued to it.

    I think the title should be changed-- it really is the proper name for the genre, but the word "Epic" has been diluted by becoming an adjective. How about Epic Tale?
  • August 20, 2009
    zevans
    Following what Chupa Capo said, maybe a distinguising feature might be that there is at least one story arc which runs through all of the works within the multi-part series, and that the arc is resolved with some sort of level boss. This doesn't really happen in Illuminatus, but does in the classical examples. O Brother Where Are Thou, by the way, is based on the Odyssey.

    Is there an Index for the 7 basic plots on here, and is this one of them - "The Hero" or is it several of them -"The Journey" "The Quest" "The Hero" and we must have all three to count?

  • August 20, 2009
    DanielLC
    Epic of Mel: a more modern one about a computer programmer named Mel Kaye.
  • August 22, 2009
    vp21ct
    bump

    I will launch this thing, but it needs refinement.
  • August 22, 2009
    insofar
    I think you need to add period war movies, such as Braveheart, Gladiator, Troy, 300, Kingdom of Heaven, etc.
  • August 22, 2009
    vp21ct
    Examples can be added alter, I'm more concerned about the article.
  • August 22, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Not to be confused with video game previews favorite word.
  • August 22, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    The Epic of Mel isn't really an Epic. In fact, it lacks almost every piece necessary.

    @insofar: Pretty much the only one of those that kinda fits is Braveheart, at least in movie form. They're all too short and small in scope to count.

    Remember that one of the most important parts of an Epic is that the hero goes on multiple different adventures. He visits different locales, sees different people and interacts with a much larger section of the world than in most stories.

    Literature wise I'm pretty sure Dune counts. Movies wise Star Wars is probably an example. TV wise... I'm really considering whether or not Buffy The Vampire Slayer is an example. I guess I'll say "no" since there's no overarching quest or journey. Avatar The Last Airbender certainly counts, though.

    EDIT: Okay, so these are our criteria then; someone correct me if I'm wrong:

    • A longer-than-average story that:
    • Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a war or a country-wide catastrophe) and
    • Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who
    • Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they
    • Commit extraordinary deeds and
    • Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey

    Look good?
  • August 22, 2009
    insofar
    I don't see how the other movies don't qualify. Gladiator is a good two hours and thirty minutes, which is pretty long for any movie, and each of them satisfy the other criteria (apart from the one about adventures, but I'm not what that even means. The Iliad doesn't really deal with any adventures).

    Add Sindbad the Sailor, he had seven epic voyages.
  • August 22, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    An epic tale that goes by many names is The Saga of the Volsungs, or the Volsunga Saga, or The Lay of the Volsungs, also known as The Tale of Sigurd & Gudrun, and known in Germany as Die Nibelungenlied, also known as the Tale of Siegfried & Kriemhild, Die Nibelungen, or The Nibelung Saga.

    The original tale is an epic poem from 13th Century Iceland, also retold in Germany (with some significant alterations to the story) as an epic poem. The German version is more than 2,400 stanzas long. Both epic poems deserve mention- The Volsunga Saga and The Nibelungenlied.

    The tale has been adapted to film numerous times. Most notable for this entry is Fritz Lang's 1924 version of the story, Die Nibelungen, which is an astounding 4 hours and 46 minutes long. This length for a single tale was unheard of at the time; in 1924, it was rare to find feature length films that surpassed 90 minutes.
  • August 22, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    @insofar: Gladiator doesn't count because the meat of the story is about him fighting in several gladiatorial matches, basically. The movie is lengthy, but the story doesn't cover the right expanse of time; at least in my recollection. The Iliad is an example because it takes place over the course of years and covers an entire war. Gladiator covers a few battles.

    Sinbad's voyages are definitely an example.
  • August 22, 2009
    insofar
    Actually, unknown, it's Das Nibelungenlied in German. I would also hesitate to call a family saga epic.

    @Shrikesnest, Gladiator also deals with the fate of an entire country. The Iliad actually deals with the final year of the Trojan War; you're thinking of The Aeneid, perhaps?
  • August 22, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    Hmm... alright, I'll concede it. Gladiator's an epic. I just rewatched that film, and I'd forgotten a lot of it. And yeah, I was thinking of The Aeneid.
  • August 22, 2009
    Treblain
    Is there something wrong with our definition of an epic if the Iliad doesn't fit? I guess it is an epic poem but not an epic?
  • August 22, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    Oh, no, the Iliad still fits. It's just my descriptions of it in my replies were actually referring to the Aeneid. The point is that an epic *doesn't* have to cover an entire war, provided it's of sufficient length.
  • August 25, 2009
    vp21ct
    Launching in 25 hours.
  • August 26, 2009
    Nybbler
    A number of the characteristics of an epic from The Other Wiki seem inessential; the invocation to a muse obviously, and also the use of epithets (which are an artifact of the epic coming from Oral Tradition -- although if you want fantasy to _sound_ like an epic, epithets will help; Tolkein used them). But one I think is necessary is that the epic starts "in medias res"; in the middle of the action.

    Of course, as it comes from Oral Tradition, this one is Older Than Dirt

  • August 27, 2009
    vp21ct
    can someone launch this for me, I can't figure out how. (I'm new, ok.)
  • August 28, 2009
    Shrikesnest
    Sure, no problem ^_^
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