"There and Back" Story

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It's not the destination that matters, it's the journey!

The "There and Back" Story is a common form of plotline also referred to as a "home-away-home", centered around a form of (usually) heroic journey undertaken by a small group of characters from starting point A to destination B. The intermediate stops made along the way are usually tangential to the journey itself, and the ensemble of interesting characters that the group almost inevitably meets have their own varying levels of relation to the central plot. The trope is named for The Hobbit, which was subtitled "There and Back Again".

The journey is usually treated as a major plotline, if not the main plot itself, and the secondary and tertiary locations and characters that our group encounters are at most a source of smaller subplots, which are usually resolved shortly before that location is left - after all, it's about the journey, not the destination. That said, if a specific subplot isn't resolved immediately, expect them to come up sometime down the road.

Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots calls this "Voyage and Return".

Tropes Are Flexible, and this one is more flexible than most. (It is one of The Seven Basic Plots, after all.)

And so on.

If multiple people are brought along for the ride, expect "Are We There Yet?" to be asked quite often.

For other uses of the phrase "there and back again", see the disambiguation page.

Examples of "There and Back" Story include:

Anime and Manga

Fan Works

  • The Drunkard's Walk fanfic cycle is clearly intended to be a "There and Back" Story -- but hasn't yet reached the point where the protagonist actually returns home.

Film

  • The baseline premise of Mad Max: Fury Road fits this trope, with the starting point being the citadel and the destination being the "Green Place"; it also mixes in many elements of The Big Race.
  • The 1965 film The Great Race is about a road race that takes the cast from New York to Paris.
  • Labyrinth: Sarah's ill-considered words force her into a journey through the Goblin King's labyrinth. The trip back is much easier.
  • The Devil Wears Prada is a more metaphorical version of "There and Back". The heroine enters a new world (her new job at the magazine), where she finds her normal behavior patterns won't work - she successfully adapts, but discovers that the job is making her a bad person and quits.
  • Inception shows the joyful exploration of the dreamworlds in flashbacks of the fifty years Cobb and Mal spent in limbo, and Cobb is certainly a different man at the end of the movie than in the beginning.
    • Don't forget the training of Ariadne where she got to romp around in Cobb's dreams, an adventure that produced the now iconic image of a city being folded in half.
  • The Where the Wild Things Are movie is a good modern example, with Max running away and then returning home.

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • Tin Man, which is based on The Wizard of Oz... only in that show, the ending differs.

Video Games

  • Even NetHack, for all its sparseness in plot, fits the bill in a somewhat subverted fashion. The details (which don't figure very heavily into gameplay on their own) are as follows.
    • Based on the guidebook and the introductory paragraph upon starting a game, the implication is that you (the player character) have been chosen by fate to eventually find the Amulet of Yendor, and set off as an adventurer after completing your role's basic training. After wandering far from home, you are haunted by dreams of treasure-hunting - at which point you get wind of the Dungeons of Doom and the many treasures it holds (including the Amulet), remaining hesitant about the odds of you surviving such a trek until you finally commit to the decision and make the long trek to the Dungeons. And so the fun begins: you are now There - can you make it Back?
    • "There" is the Mazes of Menace, the collective name for the multi-branched dungeon that can reach a depth of anywhere between 40-50 levels if not more. Assuming you survive long enough, you'll eventually hear a telepathic call from your quest leader and be told to seek out a magic portal. The portal takes you Back - back to your homeland, where you then must retrieve your quest artifact (along with a separate item) from your nemesis. Should you survive the encounter and successfully make it back to your quest leader, you then resume pursuing your main objective with their blessing. From there... it's all up to you.

Western Animation

  • Dora the Explorer does this Once an Episode, with Map detailing the path Dora and Boots will take. The path always includes two primary landmarks prior to the destination itself, and at least a couple of subplots (often involving one of Dora's friends) occur that requires their assistance before they can continue.
    • The spinoff series Go, Diego, Go! operates much the same way, with Click acting as the guide, and Diego saves any endangered animals he meets along the way.
  • Teen Titans Go! episode "Road Trip" (which provides the page image) has Cyborg egging the other Titans into going on a road trip to... wherever. It's about the journey, after all. Subverted at the end of the episode when the "back" never happens - the other Titans refuse to repeat the experience and instead build a new B-shaped tower right at their destination.