[DWJ] short complete quest fantasies

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Sun Jun 21 04:28:22 EDT 2009

My two cents:
1. often the first book in a series or trilogy aheres most closely to the
portal/quest formula, sequels tend to have less complete patterns
2. movie adaptations of books tend to be more formulaic than the books
3. the better the book, the more it strays off formula, or deliberately
subverts a formula. So if you're looking for a book to perfectly demonstrate
a formula, you might actually prefer looking at mediocre books... I say go
for "Eragon".

With that in mind, here are some books that definitely reflect the formula,
even though most of them are too good to stick to it consistently: "The Lion
the Witch and the Wardrobe",  "The Wizard of Oz", "The Hobbit", "Peter and
Wendy", "The Water Babies", "The Neverending Story", "James and the Giant
Peach", "The Phantom Tollbooth", "Haroun and the Sea of Stories", "So You'd
Like to be a Wizard"...

One book which could have served you perfectly had it been in print or
obtainable is "The Amazing Land of Wew" by John G. Kaufer, an old book from
the 1950's. Searching for it on the internet I found several places where I
myself had written about it, over a decade ago. Boy is it creepy reading and
having no recollection of having written what I once wrote...

-----Original Message-----
From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net]On Behalf Of
deborah.dwj at suberic.net
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 4:51 PM
To: dwj at suberic.net
Subject: [DWJ] short complete quest fantasies

I'm calling on the brilliant list hive mind for help with my
fantasy syllabus. I'd really like to assign my students one
entire epic quest fantasy from beginning to end, in which a Boy
(who is potentially a girl) leaves his humble beginnings, gathers
together a troop of Companions, hits every place on the Map, and
defeats the Dark Lord. I'd like to assign that entire thing in
one week, and realistically I can't ask them to read more than
three books in one week unless they are very brief (i.e.
picturebooks, easy readers, or early chapter books). But I'm
finding that most of the complete quest fantasy series I can
think of are pretty long. Can you folks come up with any decent
quests that are three books or less? One book would be even
better. :-)

Here's what I've come up with and rejected so far:

* Prydain: five books
* Pellinor: four very long books
* Eragon: actually, this is perfect, but it's bad, and I don't
   want to make them read it
* Dark Lord of Derkholm: I do assign this one, but one of the
   reasons I would like them to read an entire quest fantasy is so
   they understand what Dark Lord is parodying
* The Hobbit: I assign this one as well, but it's not really the
   same thing. It's a precursor, really.

There are lots of fantasy trilogies that aren't high fantasy
quests (e.g. Abhorsen, His Dark Materials, Borribles, any Tamora
Pierce). And there are some single books which come close to
getting across some of the ideas. I've thought of Wizard of
Earthsea, but that book is already a response to the classic
quest fantasy, so it doesn't work as an introduction. The Hero
and the Crown kind of works, I suppose, but it's too much a solo

*sigh* I know what I want them to have read before they ever come
into the class: the Belgariad or at any rate the Lord of the
Rings. It's surprising how little decent straightforward quest
fantasy there is in children's lit.

Any ideas?


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