chapter  4
24 Pages

The Quest

WithFrederick Turner

Every epic begins with a question mark. When the literary study of epic confined itself to the European epic tradition, it was common to cite the beginning in medias res as a defining feature of epic. A quest, of course, requires a journey. It need scarcely be pointed out that every single epic in the world canon involves a great journey. The sociology and sociobiology of the migrations is itself very interesting. One important key to understanding the migrations is adolescence. Many social species—dolphins, langurs, baboons, and chimpanzees, for instance—go through a significant behavioral metamorphosis during the transition into sexual maturity, leading them to separate from their kin group and seek mates elsewhere. The most obvious—and most dismissed—form of obstacle the hero faces is the monster. Epic borrows from fairy tale many of the appurtenances of the heroic quest: magical helpers, magical weapons, tests or trials, potions and elixirs, and talismans.