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Quest Fantasy

What is Quest Fantasy?

Make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes because this journey is going to take you places. Quest Fantasy is Quest Fantasy is a journey towards something—a goal, a place, a person, or something else, but it is specific. On the way to the goal the hero will travel, which means the reader will experience all sorts of fantastical locations and cultures. As such, world building is a large component of any Quest Fantasy story.

The quest story has a long history including myth, folklore, fairy tales, religious stories, medieval romances, and more. A prime example in Greek mythology is the 3,000 year old story of the Argonauts and Jason, who must recover the Golden Fleece in order to reclaim his father's kingdom. It is an ancient and epic tale where Jason and his crew sail across the sea to an unknown land. The mission seems doomed to failure, which is why Jason's usurping uncle King Pelias sends him on the quest.



The tale of the Golden Fleece is also an example of a common trope in Quest Fantasy that takes the form of a triangle: hero, dark power, female helper. The trope is very common and also demonstrative of the male centered nature of Quest Fantasy (this characteristic has begun to change recently). Another common trope of the sub-genre is the hero's companions/fellowship/buddies who help overcome obstacles and contribute to the story's action.

Quest can also be an internal journey. A journey of self-realization. This version of Quest Fantasy has more female protagonists. In an internal quest the goal is self-knowledge rather than a place or object. Most often, these stories involve a rite of passage. Of course, many stories incorporate both internal and external aspects of the quest.

Quest Fantasy is long-winded and ancient and epic and a pretty big part of the larger Fantasy genre...so just watch Shrek, which parodies most of the sub-genre's tropes (also fairy tale tropes, but that's for another time).

 

Other Features of Quest Fantasy

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  • Level of Magic

    Variable. Quest Fantasy often overlaps with the more magical sub-genres of Fantasy, which means that magic is a huge component of the world. But, the magic is a feature of the other sub-genre and not a requirement of Quest Fantasy.

  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications

    Moderate. In Quest Fantasy the fate of the world may be at stake and while the stakes may be grand, the ideas surrounding the quest are not necessarily equally grand. Indeed, the ideas and implications explored in Quest Fantasy often are more localized to the protagonist.

     

    Quest Fantasy has a history of having white male protagonists, female characters who only seek the love of a good man, and feature privileged members of society. The abundance of Quest Fantasy stories that lack diversity can be read as a commentary not on the story, but on genre itself, and even us (as writers and readers).

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  • Level of Characterization

    High. Readers will undoubtably develop a great understanding of the protagonist and will in many cases identify with him or her. This relationship is even more profound when the story combines the external quest with an internal one. However, secondary characters are not always so well developed. Secondary characters are important to Quest Fantasy; they are the hero's companions and they help with the action of the story as well as with the hero's internal growth.

  • Level of Plot Complexity

    High. Plot is super important to Quest Fantasy, arguably the most important feature. After all what good is a quest without a bunch of events taking place that influence outcomes and actions and all that? But! Even though plot is the driving force of any Quest story, these stories tend not to be terribly inventive. While the events and obstacles that make up the plot may be new and exciting, the overall structure remains the same: hero journeys/searches for something, hero finds super special thing, hero fights the villain and uses super special thing, hero wins and doom is averted.

  • Level of Violence

    High. Violence is a part of the action of Quest stories.

Related Fantasy Subgenres

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    Sword and Sorcery. Crossing Sword and Sorcery with Quest Fantasy makes for an action-packed quest.

  • Heroic Fantasy. The hero or heroes, of Heroic Fantasy often embark on a quest.

  • Mythic Fantasy and Legend Retelling Fantasy. Mythology, folklore, and legends are filled with quests. In these tales the quest is as much a plot device as it is a symbol.

  • High Fantasy. High and Epic tales of the Fantasy genre almost always include quest.

     

  • Epic Fantasy. By far the most popular fantasy subgenre. Differs than High Fantasy in that epic fantasy is more about scale (world ending events, a band of heroes fighting an oppressive evil, events that effect the entire world, etc. )while High Fantasy is about the setting. Epic Fantasy almost always includes a Quest and as such is one of the closest subgenres to Quest Fantasy.

Quest Fantasy Isn’t For You If...

If you don't like Fantasy. Quests are basic storytelling and fantasy, being tied to story, is also tied to quests. Most fantasy incorporates a quest to some degree. So, maybe you won't like this sub-genre because it is so basic and classic—it doesn't generally have that dark, gritty atmosphere that modern fantasy has.

Popular Quest Fantasy
  • 1 Two Hearts


    By Peter Beagle. The short sequel to The Last Unicorn and is the quest of a young girl who seeks to make her village safe from a mean griffon.

  • 2 Wizard's First Rule


    By Terry Goodkind. The first book in the Sword of Truth series introduces a classic Quest Fantasy story with an unlikely hero fighting against evil.

  • 3 The Lord of the Rings


    By J.R.R Tolkien. In this classic fantasy example, Frodo and his buddies embark on a grand quest with the fate of Middle Earth at stake. During the course of the very long and physical journey, Frodo also embarks on an internal journey. Both the physical and the internal journey are woven together making for a complex story and characterization.

  • 4 Alices Adventures in Wonderland


    By Lewis Carroll. Featuring a female protagonist, this story does have some external goals, but it is very much Alice's internal journey. 5. Homer, Odyssey. This epic poem, while not strictly from the fantasy genre, does nonetheless have some elements of the genre. It is also one of the first and most iconic quest stories.

  • 5 Odyssey


    By Homer. This epic poem, while not strictly from the fantasy genre, does nonetheless have some elements of the genre. It is also one of the first and most iconic quest stories.

  • 6 Eragon


    By Christopher Paolini. Children's fantasy with some quest, some dragons, some elves, and most of the earmarks of classic fantasy. 7. L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Another classic quest story about a young girl who just wants to go home.

  • 7 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


    By L. Frank Baum. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Another classic quest story about a young girl who just wants to go home.

  • 8 The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights


    By John Steinbeck. This novel is just one example of the many Arthurian stories, which involve all-consuming quests.

  • 9 Before They Are Hanged


    By Joe Abercrombie. This is the second book of the First Law Trilogy and it is the tale of the main protagonist's quest (motley crews seeking magical objects) and its surprising end.

  • 10 The Belgaraid


    By David Eddings. The protagonist was brought up on a farm and while he does not believe the old stories, he is soon led on a quest of magic, danger, and prophecy.

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