[DWJ] short complete quest fantasies

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Sun Jun 21 05:45:55 EDT 2009

Farah wrote:
> I have also written a *lot* on quest fantasies generally, and many of
>those recommended so far here do not fit my definition or that of most
>fantasy critics--they lack the epic, they lack the structure or they lack
>world shattering significance. A quest fantasy is not the same thing as
>Geoffrey Trease termed a Treasure Hunt. I'd say The Wizard of Oz is a lot
>closer to the Treasure Hunt model.

In regards to the books I just listed, I believe Farah has a fair point in
that most of them are not epic or earth-shattering. "Epic quest" is not a
good term for them, though I'm not sure "Treasure Hunt" is either - I'll
have to read Geoffrey Trease before I can comment on that. I've been calling
them, in my mind, "there and back again books": an idiosyncratic term but
one that helps me keep straight some of the insights I've been collecting
about this group of books that do have a lot in common. They are clearly
related to the portal/quest books as you define them in your Rhetorics book,
Farah, but I think the books I've been thinking about are a narrow subset of
the wider category you defined... As for Deborah's request, I still think
"Eragon" is a good choice, even though I agree it is not a good book. But
there is a lot to be learned from derivative books, in which often the
formulas and conventions are all the clearer for lack of originality
obscuring them.

As for the Wizard of Oz, one of my all time favorite books and one I've
argued about with Farah before: I think it's an interesting case in which
the story can be read as a metaphor for spiritual growth and self discovery,
but Dorothy herself doesn't grow much as she is pretty much together right
from the begining of the book. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion develop
more, as characters, than Dorothy does, but even they prefer the Wizard's
easy solutions to true spiritual growth, at least up to the point where the
Wizard leaves with his balloon. Then comes the added bit of the book which
isn't in the movie, in which each on of the companions finds his kingdom and
purpose in life, but it's all rather superficially done. And yet there is
clearly something spiritual about the book, as can be seen by how many
people connect to the story on a deep personal level. The Hollywood version
I acutely dislike for the message "I'll never go looking further than my own
back yard": this is growth?!

More information about the Dwj mailing list