Joesph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces explains quest in great detail, and may well be worth your look. According to Campbell, in myth and stories the monomyth or hero's journey follows a basic pattern. Campbell describes 17 stages or steps that can be broken down into three main sections:
- The "Departure" which deals with the hero's adventure before the quest (and often involves some form of initial denial and the meeting of a mentor or guide);
- The "Initiation" dealing with the hero's adventures and journeys while following the quest; and
- The "Return" where the hero has faced his or her quest and returns with knowledge, wealth, and/or power gained on the journey.
In 1997, Muse Magazine (The Smithsonian Institute's young adult magazine) published an article, "Star Wars: It's Just Another Myth" by Mary Henderson (now a book Star Wars: The Magic of Myth). In the article, Henderson condensed and delineated Campbell's steps while illustrating how Star Wars, the King Arthur story, the story of Perseus, and Tolkien's Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit all follow Campbell's steps. The article provides a wonderful template for young readers and writers to follow when evaluating and creating their own quests and adventures.
Here is Henderson's template of heroes' quests as found in the article:
- The quest is to...
- The hero (discovers) he/she's the son/daughter of...
- But he/she was raised by....
- The call to adventure comes when...
- The wise and helpful guide is...
- The magic talisman is...
- The hero undergoes ordeals and difficulties when he/she...
- The hero performs daring deeds when she/he...
- The hero returns home to...
- In the end she/he...
Aside from being engrossing and fun to read, watch, or play, quests serve very important roles in children's education.
- Literature - is full of quests. Knowing the templates or 'essentials' of quests make them easier to recognize, understand and follow. Understanding a quest's basic 'ingredients' also makes it easier for kids to create and write their own.
- History - leaders and nations must face quests and obstacles in their growth to maturity and power. Familiarity with quests and heroes makes studying history more familiar and more interesting, which in turn, adds depth and additional memory associations.
- Life's Lessons - fortunately or unfortunately kids face numerous obstacles in their daily lives. They are often "called to action", often seek mentors or guides, and face challenges and daunting tasks (be they intellectual, social, or physical). As they develop and grow from the world of childhood to that of adulthood - the rules often change and are often not what was expected. Having heroes(and templates) to learn from and about, can only help them find comfort while meeting and mastering their own personal quests.
- Discuss the obstacles and quandaries heroes must face - be they Moses, Jesus, Luke Skywalker, Perseus, Harry Potter, Matilda, Bilbo Baggins, etc.
- Create your own myths from this template - write, act, relate stories of heroes.
- Brainstorm other possible solutions and paths for famous quests. Discuss the 'paths not taken'.
- Compare the fate and journeys of religious figures to those of modern, historical figures and of literary figures. Evaluate the similarities and differences in their quests. Discuss the lessons learned and values exhibited.
Dealing with Dragons (ages 6+) by Patricia Wrede - about Cimorene a princess who is tired of learning etiquette and wants to learn about math and the world.
Johnny Tremain (ages 9+) by Esther Forbes - a story of Johnny a silversmith apprentice who suffers a terrible injury and must find his true path. Along the way the finds himself involved with the Sons of Liberty, Paul Revere, the Adams cousins (Sam and John), John Hancock, and others.
I Kill Giants (ages 10+) by Joe Kelly - a story about a girl who must kill the giants in her life. The reader, intitially, is unsure whether there are real giants or metaphors. I won't ruin it for you as this is a MUST READ book for kids grade 5+.
The Book of Three (ages 8+) by Lloyd Alexander (the first of The Chronicles of Prydain series) about a boy, taran, ward of a prophetic pig who reluctantly must guard the pig and fight the evil following the pig in order to save all he holds dear.
The Giver (ages 10+) by Lois Lowry - about Jonas who lives in a dystopian society and must (reluctantly) learn to be the next Giver.
Ender's Game (ages 10+) by Orson Scott Card about eight-year-old gifted Ender who is reluctantly recruited by his government for s special space/defense school.
A Wrinkle in Time (ages 9+) by Madeleine L'Engle about Meg Murry who (reluctantly) is transported through a tesseract (a fifth dimensional wrinkle in time) with her younger brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin O'Keefe to rescue her (scientist) father from evil forces holding him captive on another planet.
Inkheart (ages 8+) by Cornelia Funke - about Meggie and her father who must (reluctantly) read characters out of books
Pink and Say (ages 5+) by Patricia Polacco about two boys fighting for the Union - one black one white - who must find a way to stay alive and save their families during the Civil War.
In closing, for those seeking quests for 'older' and more 'mature' audiences, one of my favorite quests was Monty Python's Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Here is a brilliant excerpt I hope you enjoy (the quality of the YouTube clip isn't great, but it is good enough and well worth the view):
These are just a few suggestions. Thank you for your time and visit - I hope to see you here next week. In the meantime... Please leave your own favorite quests in the comments.
Have a great week.