Three celebrated quest stories

In the distant land of Mordor, says Gandalf, the old wizard, there is a mighty volcanic mountain. Your task, he tells Frodo, the young hero, is to journey to that far-off place, carrying a priceless ring, and cast it into the Cracks of Doom.

When Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey look at the parchment map the young hero Jim Hawkins has found in a dead man's chest, they see that it reveals the place on a far-off desert island where a fabulous priate treasure is buried. They at once agree that they must sail in search of it.

When Odysseus embarks with his men after the sack of Troy, his only desire is to return home to his far-off island kingdom of Ithaca and his beloved wife Penelope.


There is some priceless goal, a treasure, a promised land, something of infinite value, worth any effort to achieve.

From the moment the hero learns of his prize, the need to set out on the long hazardous journey to reach it becomes the most important thing to him in the world.

Whatever perils and diversion lie in the wait on the way, the story is shaped by that one overriding imperative; and the story remains unresolved until the objective has been finally, triumphantly secured.

National Treasure

The Quest in Role-Playing Games

The quest provides a basic plot in role-playing games.

A quest in a role-playing game may begin with an announcement that the heroes must assemble some artifact, which has been broken into several pieces, each of which has a challenge the heroes must overcome. The carefully designed quest may allow the heroes to shine and show the qualities that make them heroic.

A Few Examples

The Aeneid, Divine Comedy, Pilgrim's Progress, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Watership Down, King Solomon's Mines. The basic quest story unfolds through a series of stages:

1. The Call-Life has become oppressive and intolerable, and the hero recognizes that he can only rectify matters by making a long, difficult journey. He is given supernatural or visionary direction as to the distant, life-renewing goal he must aim for.

2. The Journey-The hero and his companions set out across hostile terrain, encountering a series of life-threatening ordeals. These include horrific monsters to be overcome; temptations to be resisted; and, probably the need to travel between two equally deadly 'opposites'.

These each end with a thrilling escape, and the ordeals alternate with periods of respite, when the hero and companions receive hospitality, help or advice, often from 'wise old men' or 'beautiful young women'. During this stage the hero may also have to make a journey through the underworld, where he temporarily transcends the death and comes into helpful contact with spirits from the past, who give him guidance as to how to reach his goal.

3. Arrival and Frustration-The hero arrives within sight of his goal. But he is far from having reached the end of his story, because now, on the edge of the goal, he sees a new and terrible series of obstacles looming up between him and his prize, which have to be overcome before it can be fully and completely secured.

4. The Final Ordeals-The hero has to undergo a last series of tests (often three in number) to prove that he is truly worthy of the prize. This culminates in a last great battle or ordeal which may be the most threatening of all.

5. The Goal-After a last thrilling escape from death, the kingdom, the Princess or the life-transforming treasure are finally won, with an assurance of renewed life stretching indefinitely into the future.

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