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.
Form is mostly limited to literature and theater, and includes.
- Epic Poem (also known as classic epic)
- Epic Narrative (also known as modern epic)
- Epic Movie (more broadly defined, includes film adaptations of the literary epic as defined here)
Some basic guidelines:
- A longer-than-average story that...
- ... Is wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a country-wide/planet-wide/galaxy-wide war or 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.
The classic epics had their own guidelines:
- Starting In Medias Res, usually later having The Hero explain via Flashback How We Got Here
- "Invocation of the Muse" (formally asking one of the Muses to help the author live up to the task of doing the story justice, or achieve whatever goal they have in mind for it)
- A trip to the Underworld
Can be divided into a few different subgenres. The divisions also come in two flavors, Form and Subject (may be subtropes/genres). Both forms can be divided 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)
Not to be confused with the modern bastardization of the term
just to mean "awesome."
This is a distinguishing characteristic of Space Opera
and High Fantasy
, in that both are the Epic versions of Science Fiction
do not add an example without ensuring that it first meets the criteria.
Anime and Manga
- AKIRA, both the manga and the film.
- Attack on Titan
- Berserk: The life and times of a lone warrior in his search for meaning in life and quest for revenge.
- Bubblegum Crisis
- A Certain Scientific Railgun
- Code Geass: Upon being granted psychic powers, a young genius embarks on a political revolution.
- The Dagger Of Kamui: One of the earliest ninja epic of the genre.
- Death Note, while not as big in scope as other examples here, definitely fits.
- Dragon Ball: The life and times of the greatest warrior the world has ever seen.
- El-Hazard: The Magnificent World
- Fairy Tail
- Fate/stay night
- Fist of the North Star
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Two disfigured brothers search for a way to undo their mistakes of the past, only to be engulfed in a massive political conspiracy.
- Getter Robo
- Hunter × Hunter
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
- Kill la Kill
- Legend of Galactic Heroes
- The Legend Of Mother Sarah: The other Katsuhiro Otomo epic, which stands out for featuring the quest of an adult woman and still remaining in Seinen territory.
- Magi - Labyrinth of Magic
- Mahou Sensei Negima!
- Mai-HiME: A deconstruction that analyzes what happens when the once-perfect Magical Girl is burdened with the tragic-flaws of mythic heroes.
- Most full-length Gundam series fall under this.
- Heavy Metal L Gaim
- The Mazinger franchise, with all their sequels and spin-offs throughout forty years, definitely fits:
- Naruto: A young ninja strives for greatness, and in the process is embroiled in a conflict that will decide the fate of a nation.
- Neo Human Casshern
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: After the apocalypse, group of children are involuntarily charged with defending the remnants of the human race, or so they think...
- One Piece: A young adventurer embarks on a quest to seize the greatest treasure the world has ever known, and in the process involuntarily joins the world's most-wanted list.
- Panzer World Galient
- Princess Mononoke
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Record of Lodoss War
- Robot Romance Trilogy
- Red Photon Zillion
- Ronin Warriors
- Rurouni Kenshin
- Saint Seiya
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
- Scrapped Princess
- Seirei no Moribito
- Soul Eater
- Strike Witches
- Tenchi Muyo!
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- 20th Century Boys
- Vinland Saga: The story of a young viking hell-bent on revenge for his fathers murder, until he stands before nothing.
- Kemono no Souja Erin
- Utawarerumono: National epic of Tuskuru, under Emperor Hakuoro.
- YuYu Hakusho
- The Aeneid
- The Ballad of the White Horse
- Belisarius Series: Has the grand scale, larger than life characters, and numerous Crowning Moments of an epic. Often interestingly enough has deconstructions, including the Lampshading of many familiar elements of epics.
- Book of the New Sun
- Book of the Long Sun
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Seven books from the creation of Narnia to its end, with the Pevensie children as the most important characters.
- The Dark Tower : The final stretch of a lone gunman's lifelong quest across time and space to reach the greatest MacGuffin of all time.
- Deltora Quest
- The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.
- Don Juan by Lord Byron is an Affectionate Parody of The Epic.
- The Dresden Files
- Dune (particularly the first book, though most of them count anyways, and can be considered a hereditary epic as well)
- The Earthsea Trilogy: The adventures of the wizard Ged.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh
- Foundation: The birth and growth of an empire IN SPACE!, inspired by the history of ancient Rome.
- Gone with the Wind
- Guin Saga
- Harry Potter, the 7th book especially.
- His Dark Materials
- Hyperion Cantos
- The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.
- Kalevipoeg the Estonian national epic.
- Les Misérables, the classic French epic about Jean Valjean, a minor criminal who becomes a good man.
- The Lord of the Rings: Long enough to fill three volumes, it's about four hobbits and their companions, who do important deeds in Moria, Fangorn, Rohan, and elsewhere, in their quest to destroy the One Ring.
- The Mahabharata, the Indian national epic (although it does focus for the most part on Arjuna and his ancestors).
- Malazan Book of the Fallen
- The Memory Wars, by Paul Anthony Shortt, features a protagonist who has been reincarnated throughout history, seeing the Fall of Troy, the old west, and eventually leading the people of New York against an army of gods and demons to save the world.
- The Name of the Wind
- The Night Land, both an epic and a forerunner of the Cosmic Horror Genre.
- North and South (Trilogy)
- Paradise Lost
- The Pillars of the Earth
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- The Saga of Hrolf Kraki
- The Saga of the Volsungs
- The Silmarillion: Spans thousands of years, back to the creation of the world, and follows a few family trees.
- The Thorn Birds
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- The Spellmonger Series
- The Stand: The trials and tribulations of a number of Action Survivors journeying across America after the world ends.
- The Stormlight Archive
- The Trojan Cycle
- Old Kingdom
- War and Peace
- Warrior Cats
- Watership Down; also has its own epic mythology in-universe.
- The Wheel of Time : The classic tale of an ordinary hero chosen by fate to combat a great evil, taken to its natural extreme.
- The Winds of War/War and Remembrance (they are a two-volume set) by Herman Wouk. Someone or other said it was the World War II version of War and Peace.
- The Worm Ouroboros
- GURPS has a number of potential epics for The Gamemaster to work with in its various Sourcebooks some of which are quite well done. Several are suggested in the sample campaigns. In Vikings one can replay any saga or make up one's own. There is even a mythic campaign theme in which Loki escape's and threatens to bring about Ragnorak before its time. In Traveller Sword Worlds there is 100 Parsecs which is about the journey of a group of Sword Worlders to set up a new civilization in which the Sword Worlder way of life may be preserved far in the reaches of the universe. One can also do the original founding of the Sword Worlds which is an intensely powerful theme. Intersteller Wars is in a way a "national epic" of the Terran Confederation. In fact some Gurps ideas are so good that it is a tragedy that they were never taken in hand by a writer worthy of them. Hopefully one is waiting.
- Exalted is epic in a modern, bastardized meaning— but it can also be played as a classical Epic. It can be personal, following a Solar and his close friends. It can be national, following a Threshold nation guided by various Lunars who are in a master-apprentice chain. It can be generational, following a lineage of the Dragon-Blooded as they fight various enemies of Creation.
- Warhammer 40,000
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse : A twist on the classic werewolf myth, wherein the titular monsters are actually Holy Warriors of Mother Earth fighting to make the world a kinder and gentler place.
- Broken Saints, one of the first flash series to take itself seriously.