Quest Archetype

What is a Quest Archetype?

A quest is a journey, and a quest archetype is a type of journey that is told in a storyline with a plot, a hero, his journey, obstacles, victory, and its meanings. Such stories abound in folk literature. Every folk literature has some quest archetype stories, but the difference lies in the purposes and the heroes. Interestingly, the quest archetype examples from across the globe have almost the same stages, features, and even elements.

Purpose of a Quest Archetype Storyline

The question archetype storylines or plots have certain specific purposes. Although these purposes may be different from culture to culture and context to context, some of the common and universal purposes are as follows.

  1. Search of a treasure
  2. Search of a love
  3. Search of life
  4. Search of identity
  5. Desire for fame
  6. Desire for salvation

Elements of a Quest Archetype

A quest archetype plot has certain elements. Although these elements differ from culture to culture and context to context, some of them are universal. These universal elements are as follows.

  1. A Hero
  2. Obstacles
  3. The Hero’s supporters, allies, comrades
  4. Long journey
  5. Antagonists
  6. Return
  7. Transformation

Types of a Quest Archetype

There are four major types of quest archetypes. The first one is classical, in which a hero goes on a long journey, overcomes his opponents, surmounts obstacles, and returns home. This is called his homeward journey based on his homesickness. The second one is a quest in which the hero goes on a long journey, finds the treasure, and brings it back to his people. The third is the puzzle quest which presents the hero in a situation where he does not understand what is right and what is wrong but takes certain steps to accomplish the mission. The last one is the rescue quest in which the hero rescues his beloved or a certain character, taking various risks on the way.

Example of a Quest Archetype Characters in Storylines in Literature

Example #1

Aeneas in Aeneid by Virgil

When Aeneas goes on expeditions and expresses his concern to start his homeward journey after he feels homesick, it becomes his urgent desire and also a quest archetype as he wants to reach home, which is lost. Troy is actually lost in the beginning of the epic and Aeneas’s major quest to find home stays unfulfilled. That is why he settles in Rome and lays the foundation of the Roman nation, his ultimate nation. He is a good quest archetype.

Example #2

Oedipus in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Although Oedipus does not seem to be on any quest, his main quest of finding his own identity is the quest archetype example in his character. He constantly tries to find out who he is despite the discouragement coming from Tiresias as well as his wife, Jocasta. However, he continues until he finds himself the same person who has married his mother and killed his father. This is, perhaps, the best quest archetype example in a character who is also a classic hero archetype.

Example #3

Odysseus in The Odyssey by Homer

Although Odysseus is also a classical hero type, a young man having a family and a son behind, yet his quests to find out something new and then the final quest to reclaim his state shows him presenting the best quest archetype character. His quest, in the beginning, rests on his expeditions to find something new and more. Later, it turns toward a homeward journey and still later to the reclamation of his home and his homeland. That is why it is also an excellent example of a quest archetype character.

Example #4

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

Although it does not seem that Dorothy is on a specific quest, her final quest to go home is like that of Aeneas and Odysseus. Several other characters in the novel are also on the quest, such as the scarecrow who wants to have a brain and the tin man who wants to have a heart. Even the lion wants to have courage. All these characters show their quest for something. Therefore, almost all the archetypes are the archetypes of a quest.