The Hero’s Journey and Other Things

January 30, 2010 at 5:50 am (Structure, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


I’ve been thinking about a comment I received to my post on thinking outside the box about the number of fantasy books that do deal with the hero’s journey, either directly or indirectly. Largely these books are epic tales and involve a quest of some sort and our hero goes from naive and weak to brave and wise and strong, usually aided by companions and some form of mentor. And these books are great reads – though the farm boy thing has been done to death at this stage and not every wise mentor has to talk in riddles.

Anyway, I took a look through my collection of fantasy fiction and looked for examples of other stories that I’ve read. Automatically my David Eddings, Traci Harding, Ian Irvine, Terry Brooks collections were put out of mind. Ian Irvine may not deal specifically with the hero’s journey (it is kind of hard to tell at times who the hero of the story is supposed to be) but there are enough similarities that I’m putting it in this category for now. David Eddings earlier works deal with a farm boy who gets lead on a journey to save the world guided by companions and while his later works have some slight variations to the protagonist the basic quest and development remains more or less the same. So, who does that leave me with?

1. Barbara Hambly – Sorcerer’s Ward. I own a few of Hambly’s novels but Sorcerer’s Ward is my favourite. It is kind of a romance/mystery that just happens to involve a Mage as the one trying to solve the murder of her sister (before it happens) who is being thwarted by the witch finders of her world. There is some character development (as there really needs to be for a character to be really good) but Kyra starts out in this book a fairly competent and determined person and the guidance she receives from others is minimal.

2. Camille Bacon-Smith (I hope I got that right I can’t find the book again right now) – Eye of the Daemon. Another more mystery oriented book, mostly because the main characters (one half daemon and two daemons) run a detective agency. Throw in crosses and double crosses, multiple dimensions and the possible end of the world and you have a very interesting story.

3. Terry Pratchett – The Discworld books. For everyone one of these that sends a character on a quest there are at least three that don’t and deal with the every day drama of living in a very strange world.

I found many more examples but the pattern was quite apparent. The big names in epic fantasy do seem to focus on the hero’s journey and I think that is because it is what most of us expect from a fantasy. However there are a lot of sub-genres of fantasy and there are a lot of different stories that can be told. The same is probably true of any genre.

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1 Comment

  1. Jemi Fraser said,

    I’ve never read Hambly or Bacon-Smith. I adored Pratchett’s stuff when I was a teen. Haven’t read any of his stuff in ages – I’ll have to grab one again 🙂

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