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The Quest

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Without a monster or two it's hardly a quest!
Merely a gaggle of friends wandering about!

"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 The Faerie Queene, 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) their destiny.


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     Anime & Manga  
  • One Piece: A ragtag pirate crew seek out a massive treasure horde.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon: The Series: A boy and his partner Pikachu travel across the land to compete in league tournaments and become the world champion like no one ever.
    • Pokémon Horizons: The Series A girl travels across the globe with an airship crew to unlock the secrets of her grandmother's mysterious pendant and the legend of the ancient hero.
  • 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 his home with Bulma to find the titular Plot Coupons.
  • Fist of the North Star begins with Kenshiro seeking his lost love Yuria and then seeking his brothers of Hokuto while opposing Souther and the eldest brother Raoh.

     Comic Books  
  • 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.
  • The first arc of Wonder Woman (1987) has Diana leave Themyscira to defeat Ares' current plan, gathering a supporting crew of Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Julia Kapatelis and Matthew Michaelis who help her on her quest.
  • In Sojourn, Arwyn and her companions are on a quest to find the fragments of the arrow killed Mordath.

     Fan Works 
  • The Vasyn quest in With Strings Attached. Even though it turns out to be a setup.
  • The first part of All That Glitters (Othellia) revolves around searching for a mysterious artifact that supposedly has the power to end an Endless Winter.
  • Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily deconstructs the basic concept of this with Gladion wanting to become stronger to fight off Nihilego. It's not glamorous at all, what with the training and fighting and sleeping alone in hotel rooms all the time. The fairy-tale that introduces the story even notes that quests rarely ever mention the boring or exhausting parts of them. This doesn't stop Gladion from going on his own knightly quest across the Infinity Train to end the Apex and by the 400 Rabbits Car arc, it becomes a quest to collect the memory tapes of the Apex and trap them within their own pasts in the hopes of them realizing their mistakes and getting their numbers to drop.
  • Austraeoh: Rainbow Dash flies East. She has a goal, but you don't learn about it for a good while and she doesn't really care.

    Films — Animated 
  • Child of Kamiari Month: Kanna is tasked with gathering offerings of food from the kami at Shinto shrines and bodhisattva at Buddhist temples across Japan, and taking them to a feast of the gods at Izumo-taisha Shrine. Failure to do so will result in Japan suffering a year of calamity and misfortune.
  • 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.
    • Finding Dory: A blue tang goes to find her lost parents.
    • 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.
    • Onward: Two elf brothers find a spell that brings their late father back to life for one day; when the spell goes awry and only brings back his bottom half, the brothers set out to find the magic gem that will finish the spell before the 24 hours are up.
    • Turning Red: Four friends raise $800 to go to a Boy Band concert.
  • Shrek has many adventures:
    • The first movie has him and Donkey try to find Princess Fiona for Lord Farquaad in return for the fairy tale creatures leaving his swamp alone.
    • Shrek 2 has Shrek, Donkey, and frickin' Puss in Boots try to make Shrek turn into a handsome prince.
    • Shrek the Third has the trio sail to find Fiona's cousin Arthur (yes, King Arthur himself) and get him to become King of Far Far Away… just so Shrek won't have to be king.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: particularly the two JJ Abrams-directed films of the sequel trilogy, which both feature a clear and specific MacGuffin: respectively, Luke Skywalker and the Sith Wayfinder.
  • Indiana Jones in general, but most explicitly in the third movie, as it involves following an intentionally left puzzle trail to locate the Holy Grail.
  • Ironically, probably not The Quest, Jean-Claude Van Damme's esteemed directorial debut.
  • Willow: Willow initially undertakes the seemingly unspectacular task of returning the infant Daikini to those of her own kind. He doesn't yet realize that she's The Chosen One, and the evil Queen wants her head.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which parodies various elements of the trope, such as following a series of clues and battling monsters, all hilariously adapted Monty Python style.
  • 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.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: A guy named Kolaig wants to become a knight and thinks he has to kill King Arthur and free Guinevere from a tower to do so. Since he's pretty stupid and has a bad case of Complexity Addiction, from there it's just a Humiliation Conga and ends on an Epic Fail for him, despite the help he gets from Arthur.
  • Riddle of Fire injects Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane fantasy themes into an otherwise conventional events. Our three heroes are kids who embark on a quest to fetch a speckled egg to complete the ingredients to a blueberry pie to bake for their mother so she'll give them the password to their television so they can play video games. Along the way, the run afoul of a witch and her Enchanted Blade Gang.


  • J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and its predecessor The Hobbit. Lord of the Rings has actually been called a 'reverse quest' as the hero was not on a quest to acquire some item of great power, but already had one and was seeking to destroy it.
  • Nightfall (Series): Subverted. Myra, whose limited knowledge of the outside world is based on books, imagines herself going on one. Nothing goes as planned.
  • 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 The Dreamside Road, most of the story revolves around the ongoing journey to find the eponymous treasure trove, a collection of anomalous artifacts and items reclaimed from the IHSA.
  • In Watership Down, somewhat unusually, the protagonists' quest is simply to find a new home where they can live in peace.
  • During the Dénouement 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.
  • Empire of the Vampire: A large part of Gabriel' retelling revolves around his part in a quest seeking the Holy Grail, the ancient artifact thought to be mankind's last hope at defeating the Dead for good.
  • The Odyssey — possibly the first novelistic Quest in the West — to return home and defeat his wife's suitors.
  • Book of 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 follows a group of prehistoric humans trying to find a source of 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.
  • The Ramayana's Kishkinda section focuses on Rama and Lakhsmana's search to find the kidnapped Sita, as well as the army they assemble along the way. Since Sita's abductor could fly, the quest takes several months.
  • In the comic fantasy The Dragon Hoard, the quest for the Dragon Hoard is a spoof of the Argonauts' quest for the golden fleece.
  • Several in Warrior Cats, with the most prominent one being at the start of the second series, The New Prophecy: a group of Chosen Ones (plus two tagalong friends), following a prophecy, quest through unknown territory to follow the setting sun to the sea and "listen to what midnight tells them".
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows becomes this, as Harry and his friends set off to destroy all of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
  • Cradle Series: Near the start of the series, Lindon receives a vision of his home being destroyed in thirty years, and he sets out to stop it. Notably, Suriel, the one giving him the vision, intended it only as a comfort; at the time, his life was terrible, so she was showing him that he lives a happy life before his entire home is destroyed. However, when he refuses that future in favor of trying to save his home no matter the cost, Suriel gives him a tour of the most powerful people on the planet, ending with Yerin, a girl about his age and power level, who can journey with him to become stronger and eventually save his home. After Lindon sees a Monarch fighting a Dreadgod, he realizes a similar battle is what levels his home. Or rather, he's pretty sure that a god accidentally steps on his home and kills hundreds of people during a much more important battle.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The centerpiece of most Tours. Usually a magical object is sought to use in defeating the Dark Lord and or saving the world. Many clues will have to be followed, with numerous barriers and also foes which are overcome while doing so.
  • Daughter of the Sun: Orsina has been on one for two years, searching for a great evil in Vesolda that she must fight. However, she's had no luck at the start of the story. Then she comes across a chaos goddess, and it seems she's finally found the great evil... but things are more complicated than they first seem. It turns out her quest is not from Orsina's god Iolar. Instead, she was sent away with this excuse by her lover's father, who lied about having a vision Iolar sent which ordered it.
  • Villains by Necessity: The protagonists go in search of the Spectrum Key, an object split into six pieces which can reopen the Dark Gate and save the world before it's too late if reassembled.

     Live-Action TV 
  • 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 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 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Arya's attempts to reunite with her family.
    • Bran's journey to the Three-Eyed Raven.
    • Brienne's search for the Stark girls.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: After the death of her brother, Galadriel took over his mission to find Sauron.
  • 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.
    • Most of Stargate revolves around this. SG-1 are almost always on a quest to find something - the Asgard, the Ancients, various lost or hidden superweapons, Atlantis, Daniel's wife, etc.. While episodes tend to follow the Monster of the Week format as obstacles in a longer quest, they often also take the former of smaller quests of their own, with the quest being established in the opening scenes before the title credits.


    Mythology & Religion 
  • 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.
  • In Ananthalos, Gruvalg and his companions are seeking a fabled hammer.
  • In Consequences of Choice The Characters are on a continuously changing quest, all with the same intent, keeping the Invisus hidden.
  • Cucumber Quest: To defeat the evil queen and save the realm. Almond insists on doing it the hard way.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, presumably Yokoka has one, judging from the webcomic title, but it's not revealed what the quest is yet (unless it was the Fetch Quest started in chapter 2 and resolved by chapter 3).

    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 eponymous quest in Chronicle of the Annoying Quest: where a group of Paladins within the Pious Patron Bar task John Ellars sends him off on a Quest to find and kill "A Black Dragon of at least 2000 years of age" in order for Ellars to be allowed to drink at the bar. While the "Quest" itself is in-reality a Snipe Hunt combined with an Impossible Task, Ellars and Guy efforts to actually find a Black Dragon takes them up-and-down the width and breadth of Azeroth in pursuit of steps that'll lead to the location of a Black Dragon.
    Guy: I hate this quest!

    Western Animation 
  • The main quest in Avatar: The Last Airbender revolves around the Avatar named Aang and his mission to master all four elements and defeat the Fire Nation, which has been waging a war of conquest against the other nations for a century. Aang's role as the Avatar is to maintain balance in the world by bringing peace and harmony among the nations. Aang and his friends - the waterbender Katara, her brother Sokka, blind earthbender Toph Beifong, and later on, firebending prince Zuko - travel across the world seeking out masters to teach Aang the different bending powers. Ultimately, Aang must confront Fire Lord Ozai, the leader of the Fire Nation and the Big Bad of the series, in a battle to save the world. With the support of his friends and the knowledge he has gained, Aang faces his fears and fulfills his destiny as the Avatar, bringing an end to the war and restoring balance to the world.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: Features a young boy and his five animal friends trying to find the boys parents during World War II.
  • Parodied a few times in The Owl House.
    • In the episode "Witches before Wizards", a wizard gives Luz a quest to retreive a magical whatsit. Along the way, she encounters hillariously generic companions and solves comically easy challenges, only to discover that the entire thing was a ruse by a shapeshifter to lure in Luz' mentor, Eda. The show isn't cynical about this trope, however, as the core message of the episode is that no one ever became great by waiting around for someone else to declare them the Chosen One. You have to get up and start your own quest.
    • In the episode "Sense and Insensibility", Eda and her sister Lilith are competing to retrieve the Bloom of Eternal Youth, both following maps they bought from a stall at the market. The show's upfront about how obvious a scam it is, and neither sisters are particularily surprised when the scam artist turns out to be a vampiric being luring them to his nest. They then kick his ass.
    • The show's season 1 two-part finale is a Night Sea Voyage variant, as Luz and her friends have to infiltrate Emperor Belos' castle in order to find a magical item that can cure Eda. They fail, and the result is that Eda is captured. In the next episode, Luz infiltrates the castle alone to save her, even managing to land a strike on Belos, but she's severely outmatched. She does save Eda, but only by striking a deal with Belos.