Quest

"Soria Moria" by Theodor Kittelsen: a hero glimpses the end of his quest.

A quest is a journey toward a specific mission or a goal. The word serves as a plot device in mythology and fiction: a difficult journey towards a goal, often symbolic or allegorical. Tales of quests figure prominently in the folklore of every nation[1] and ethnic culture. In literature, the object of a quest requires great exertion on the part of the hero, who must overcome many obstacles, typically including much travel. The aspect of travel allows the storyteller to showcase exotic locations and cultures (an objective of the narrative, not of the character).[2] The object of a quest may also have supernatural properties, often leading the protagonist into other worlds and dimensions. The moral of a quest tale often centers on the changed character of the hero.

Quest objects

A Knight at the Crossroads by Viktor Vasnetsov

The hero normally aims to obtain something or someone by the quest, and with this object to return home.[3] The object can be something new, that fulfills a lack in his life, or something that was stolen away from him or someone with authority to dispatch him.[4]

Sometimes the hero has no desire to return; Sir Galahad's quest for the Holy Grail is to find it, not return with it. A return may, indeed, be impossible: Aeneas quests for a homeland, having lost Troy at the beginning of Virgil's Aeneid, and he does not return to Troy to re-found it but settles in Italy (to become an ancestor of the Romans).

If the hero does return after the culmination of the quest, he may face false heroes who attempt to pass themselves off as him,[5] or his initial response may be a rejection of that return, as Joseph Campbell describes in his critical analysis of quest literature, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

If someone dispatches the hero on a quest, the overt reason may be false, with the dispatcher actually sending him on the difficult quest in hopes of his death in the attempt, or in order to remove him from the scene for a time, just as if the claim were sincere, except that the tale usually ends with the dispatcher being unmasked and punished.[6] Stories with such false quest-objects include the legends of Jason and Perseus, the fairy tales The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What, and the story of Beren and Lúthien in J. R. R. Tolkien's Silmarillion.

The quest object may, indeed, function only as a convenient reason for the hero's journey. Such objects are termed MacGuffins. When a hero is on a quest for several objects that are only a convenient reason for his journey, they are termed plot coupons.

Other Languages
العربية: بحث (مغامرة)
čeština: Quest
dansk: Quest
Deutsch: Quest
فارسی: پویش
galego: Aventura
italiano: Cerca
українська: Квест (змагання)