"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"
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
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
. Though separate and distinct tropes, the two don't just overlap, they have adjoining apartments and raid each other's refrigerators Kramer
-style. The main difference is that a quest has a stated goal, and the focus is mainly on the adventures had along the way to that goal; a hero's journey tends to be undertaken in response to events thrust upon the hero(es), and focuses on the personal growth of the characters as they find (or overcome
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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.
- 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.
- A large part of Lost at Sea is devoted to finding Raleigh's soul.
- Innumerable fairy tales. In his analysis of Russian fairy tales, Vladimir Propp described the basic functions as revolving about a quest. Some of these include:
Films — Animated
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- 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
- 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.
- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit. Lord of the Rings was unusual in that, unlike the fantasy sagas that came after, the hero was not on a quest to acquire some item of great power, but to destroy one.
- As its title indicates, this is the main plot of The Quest for Saint Camber.
- Stephen King's The Dark Tower. (The protagonist is such a Determinator that we're never really allowed to forget the main thrust of the quest, no matter what tangents he falls afoul of.)
- In Watership Down, somewhat unusually, the protagonists' quest is simply to find a new home where they can live in peace.
- During the denouement of James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Red Fury, Rafen is told that Fabius Bile got away with some "sacred vitae" and is charged with preparing a ship and going after him. The book ends there.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Uriel is sent, as punishment, on a quest to find and deal with a vision that a Chapter Librarian had. The vision contained neither locations nor names for him to identify.
- The Odyssey — possibly the first novelistic Quest in the West — to return home and defeat his wife's suitors.
- Exodus — a quest to escape Egypt and found a new nation in the Promised Land.
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Also a musical example if you count the Rick Wakeman version
- Around the World in 80 Days — a quest to do exactly that.
- The Belgariad
- Journey to the West and its many adaptations, including Dragon Ball and Saiyuki.
- In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, all knights are supposed to go on a quest. Sir John is sent after Waldo's heart because he had never performed a proper quest before.
- In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, Prince Zorn is sent for a thousand jewels, to be found within ninety-nine hours.
- Quest for Fire
- The Reynard Cycle: The voyage of the Quicksilver in Reynard the Fox is one of these. The object is a MacGuffin that may be alive.
- The first few Shannara books.
- In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, the occasional quest is standard for the demigods being trained at Camp Half-Blood. The books themselves follow the various quests of Percy Jackson, with the quests heavily influenced by ones undertaken in Classical Mythology.
- All Redwall books will include a quest as one of their Two Lines, No Waiting.
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the harper claims that the quest is not important, since the object must be a MacGuffin: it's Jason and Medea that matter, not the Golden Fleece. Donovan disagrees; the qualities of the object matter and affect the nature of the quest.
- The narration at the opening of On the Razor's Edge describes it as a quest.
- In E. D. Baker's The Wide-Awake Princess and its sequel Unlocking The Spell, Annie goes on a quest in each book to break a spell.
- In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jenny tells Jack that she's looking for her brother Tom. That invokes his promise to help those on a quest.
- In Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Mr. Honeyfoot and Mr. Segundus go looking for Mr. Norrell in part because of the tales of medieval magicians who would go looking for things and return after A Year and a Day.
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Knight, Ash is on a quest for a soul.
- The Last Dragon Chronicles: Essentially, how Agawin's story begins: a pilgrimage to see a dragon leads to a quest to save a girl.
- The titular character Zahrah of Zahrah the Windseeker ventures into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle for an unfertilized elgort egg because it's the only thing that will cure her friend of a venomous snake bite.
- In Susan Dexter's The True Knight, Wren and her master are forcibly recruited to help retrieve the prince in swan form. After they escape the attack and realize that the queen will have Galvin killed for failure, Wren and Titch go to retrieve him.
- The last book of Song of the Lioness has Alanna meeting several new companions as she goes on a quest for the Dominion Jewel so she can return to Tortall as a hero rather than a disgrace or a curiosity. It was added at the behest of Pierce's editor because "fantasy books always have quests," although the Jewel is mentioned in the subsequent series.
- Journey To Chaos: In Looming Shadow, Dragon's Lair Mercenary Team Four is hired to travel to the island nation of Ceiha to investigate a castle that may or may not be Dengel's final lair. If it is, then they are to raid it for things that are magically, historically or economically valuable.
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.
- 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.
- No Rest for the Wicked, based on Fairy Tale "The Buried Moon" involves a quest to retrieve the moon.
- The Order of the Stick's whole story is pretty much kicked off by Roy's quest to defeat Xykon. Needless to say, things got a little more complicated...
- Overcoming the Monster turned out to be only the first Act; just finding out they have a Quest, to protect or destroy the Gates, was one of the obstacles they had to overcome. The Act I Monster, Not Quite Dead, is still there as an obstacle, so the final Act could easily turn back into Overcoming the Monster.
- Homestuck: Build up, get through the gates, fight the denizens, kill the Black monarchs...though the kids are often more concerned with their own hijinks.
- Looking for Group has Cale's epic-expanding quest to settle and rebuild Kethenecia.
- 8-Bit Theater, a parody of Final Fantasy I
- In Rusty and Co., two at once.
- In Impure Blood, Dara explains /ib024.html they are -- or at least she is -- on a quest to find the last of the Ancients.
- In Consequences of Choice The Characters are on a continuously changing quest, all with the same intent, keeping the Invisus hidden.
- In Sinfest, Slick's laptop goes searching for him while he's missing.
- In Dragon Mango, two sets of Dragonslayers set out on quests at the same time.
- Cucumber Quest: To defeat the evil queen and save the realm. Almond insists on doing it the hard way.
- 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.