The Quest

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Knight in Shining Armor, on one[1]

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, 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 Redshirt Army).

Compare the Hero's Journey. The page on the New Media medium called Quests can be found here.

Examples of The Quest include:

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
  • 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

  • Elf Quest
  • 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




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 chained to a bed and scheduled to die if the team doesn't find her.
  • 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.



  • 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. In later Europe many legends were based around knights going in search of holy objects or to save a kingdom or a damsel or something to that effect. I'm not to familiar with myths of other cultures, but I know other mythologies relied heavily on it as well.



Web Original

  • 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.
  1. Not the horse, you idiot