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The Quest

"Where the road is dark and the seed is sowed
Where the gun is cocked and the bullet's cold
Where the miles are marked in the blood and gold
I'll meet you further on up the road"
Bruce Springsteen, Further On Up The Road

The defining High Fantasy storyline. The quest means business.

Quests feature The Hero and a bunch of supporting cast members traveling across the world with a firm goal in mind: to recover a McGuffin, collect all the Plot Coupons, Save the Princess, defeat the Big Bad, locate a loved one or all of the above. Quite possibly an Impossible Task, to get rid of him. Will usually involve lots of incidental minor adventures, running into oracles and wise men, fantastic creatures and damsels dispensing items that may help you on your quest. A great device, because it allows the writer to do character interaction and showcase exotic locations, and give The Hero a good reason to Walk the Earth. Used mostly in a fantasy world, but can also take place in a modern or mundane setting with enough work-around.

Older versions just set the character off on his quest in the wilderness about them.

Often undertaken by Hitchhiker Heroes or people on The Homeward Journey.

The problem with such a story from a modern perspective is that they can actually tail off too much into the various side-stories and forget the main goal that the characters originally started out on. This was less of a problem before, as Medieval writers often deliberately wrote a network of plots, subplots, and sub-subplots branching out like a tree. Examples of this are Spenser's Fairy Queen, Arabian Nights, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots separates The Quest from Overcoming the Monster. While both involve a journey, the Overcoming the Monster plot is far more focused on heading straight for the Monster (with perhaps a side quest for magic weapons), while The Quest concentrates on a variety of obstacles including Monsters, Temptations, Deadly Opposites, and a Journey to the Underworld. (This probably indicates that if the heroes don't realize there's a Big Bad to fight until after the halfway point, it's following The Quest plot.) Also, The Quest is the plot most likely to include companions (a small group, or just one companion - or, as with The Odyssey, a Red Shirt Army).

Compare The Hero's Journey.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  
  • One Piece: A ragtag pirate crew seek out a massive treasure horde.
  • Pokémon: Ash goes on a voyage spanning the entire globe to bring glory to his name.
  • Wolf's Rain: Four wolves traveling the earth to find the fabled paradise.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure involves this in each of its eight parts. In Part 1, it is to kill Dio (who is an evil vampire) and destroy the Stone Mask, which can create vampires such as him. In Part 2, it is to kill the Pillar Men, the creators of the Stone Mask, and to stop them from obtaining the Red Stone of Aja. In Part 3, it is to rescue Holly Joestar by killing Dio, who survived from Part 1. In Part 4, it is to find and stop Kira Yoshikage (a serial killer) before he can claim more victims. In Part 5, it is to find the Stand arrow and to stop Diavolo from obtaining it, or killing Trish. In Part 6 it is to stop Pucci from realizing his plans and resetting the entire world. Part 7 starts off with the Quest being an Epic Race, but as it goes on it becomes a matter of finding the Corpse Parts. Part 8 is so far a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot focusing on various mysteries relating to "Josuke".
  • InuYasha: A group of demon slayers venturing through Japan to reclaim every shard of a shattered jewel.
  • Berserk, which started out as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge plot, has turned into one of these, as Guts and his companions seek the land of Elfheim in search of a cure for Casca's post-Eclipse insanity.
  • Dragon Ball started out as one of these, with Goku originally leaving is home with Bulma to find the titular Plot Coupons.

     Comic Books  
  • ElfQuest
  • Common for the more "epic" stories in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe. Though there are many, perhaps the most notable variant is the one where Scrooge and/or his nephews search for a lost legendary treasure or something similar. These exist in more than one variant, too, from Don Rosa's historically well-researched stories to the Italian ones where Scrooge typically kidnaps his relatives to go along against their will to search for something bizarre like the key to time or the gigantic coins of the cyclopes.

     Fan Works 

    Folklore 

    Film 
  • Star Wars
  • Indiana Jones, particularly in the third movie, being a quest for the Holy Grail and all.
  • Ironically, probably not The Quest, Jean-Claude Van Damme's esteemed directorial debut
  • Pixar does this often:
    • Toy Story: Two toys are whisked from their home and attempt to find their way back.
    • Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear goes to rescue his friend Woody from the kidnapping hands of a toy collecter.
    • Finding Nemo: A clownfish goes to find his kidnapped son.
    • WALL•E: A waste management robot falls in love and follows her into space.
    • Up: An old widower travels to South America to fulfill a promise he made to his deceased wife... by tying eighty balloons to his house and making it fly.
  • Willow
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which parodies various elements of the trope.
  • The original The Blues Brothers, which involves the duo out to save an orphanage.
  • The Goonies: A group of teenagers seek the treasure of One-Eyed Willy in order to save their town.
  • Yeelen ("Brightness"), Souleymane Cissé's 1987 classic of Malian cinema.
  • In Saint-Jacques… La Mecque, a group of siblings has to walk the Way of St. James together in order to inherit their mother's money, facing mostly mental and social obstacles.

    Literature 

     Live Action Television  
  • In a two-parter on Criminal Minds, "The Fisher King", the unsub frames his crime in the pattern of a quest, including macabre clues and even a damsel in distress...one chained to a bed and scheduled to die if the team doesn't find her.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Doctor Who fits the classical Odyssey structure early on, when the Doctor is trying to return the teachers home and they face temptation ("The Aztecs"), hard journeys ("Marco Polo"), tests of character ("The Keys of Marinus"), Scylla and Charybdis ("The Aztecs", "The Sensorites"), monsters ("The Daleks", "The Web Planet", and a lot more), and even a journey to the Underworld in "The Space Museum" when they are Just One Second Out of Sync, can't interact with anything or anyone and see their own corpses. Once the teachers get Put on a Bus, these elements are discarded in favour of just a neverending story full of aliens.
    • Subverted in "The Keys of Marinus" in which The Chooser of The One informs them that they are the chosen people who must rescue the Plot Coupons and save their planet. Gilligan Cut to them walking off down the beach, Barbara remarking to Ian that "it's a shame we can't do anything for that poor man and his planet. Well, back to the TARDIS." Double subverted when it turns out the man has put the TARDIS behind a force field to force them into doing it.
    • In the Doctor Who serial "Underworld", the Minyan crew's guiding principle is "The quest is the quest." They are rather stunned with success, but when they realize it will only take three centuries to get where they are going, they are delighted.
  • In "The Fisher King" episode of Merlin, Arthur goes on a Quest to get the Golden Trident and prove himself worthy of the throne. Subverted as it turns out Merlin was the one really on the Quest and the Fisher King gives him water from the Lake of Avalon. Arthur still gets the Trident and Merlin, Arthur and Gwaine are named Magic/Courage/Strength as a Trio by Grettir, the watcher of the bridge.
  • Season ten of Stargate SG-1 has a two-part episode called "The Quest" where SG 1, Ba'al, and Adria set out to find the Holy Grail. The journey is largely framed as an Arthurian-style high fantasy, though many elements are subverted since what the primitive folks think of as magic is actually very advanced technology.

    Music 

    Mythology 
  • Older Than Dirt: Gilgamesh went on a quest for immortality, travelling through dangerous supernatural locales to find the survivor of The Great Flood.
  • Every single hero myth ever, across any culture, relies on this. The Greeks and Romans had stories like Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules, and the Aeneid, with heroes being sent on quests by a god or a king. The Middle Ages had many legends based around knights going in search of holy objects or to save a kingdom or a damsel or something to that effect.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • After his magic gun and all of his magical defences stop working, Linkara sets out of a quest to find a magic user to help him out.
  • The whole point of Greek Ninja. Sasha Hunter sets out on one with her team, well, several of them, all leading to the ultimate goal of eliminating a power dangerous to the world.


The PromiseFairy Tale TropesRags to Royalty
PsychopompOlder Than DirtReally Gets Around
Pygmalion Snap BackPlotsQuest for a Wish
The Promised LandSpeculative Fiction TropesThere Are No Global Consequences
MithrilImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Two Towers

alternative title(s): Quest
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