Submitted by musack on

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

This month, in preparation for long summer days that are tailor-made for adventure and exploration, we’ll be exploring the genre of Adventure fiction. While many people think adventure stories are mostly for kids, there are a lot of books and movies in this genre that will satisfy adult tastes as well.

Adventure stories are one of the earliest forms of written fiction. In fact, Beowulf, one of the oldest pieces of fiction written in English, is an adventure that was composed during the Middle Ages. Many medieval stories and romances, such as the tales of King Arthur, consist of a series of adventures as well, as do many mythological stories. Adventures are a form of the “hero’s journey,” which is a universal story about the psychological growth of a character. Oftentimes, adventure stories result in self-discovery for the protagonist; the characters can learn much about themselves through the trials and tribulations they face.

Adventure tales describe a remarkable or unexpected journey, quest, experience, or event that a person participates in, often as a result of chance. This element of chance is a key element of the genre; the character is often brought to the adventure by chance, and chance tends to play a large role in the episodes of the story. Adventures can include risky situations, physical danger, narrow escapes, brave deeds, exotic people and places, and problems that characters will have to solve through intelligence, imagination, and skill. Adventure novels typically have fast-paced, action-packed plot lines; the pace of the plot is at least as important as character development and setting in such novels. However, some adventure stories about epic journeys or tales, such as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series or Homer’s The Odyssey, may have slightly slower plot lines, culminating with a thrilling climax or a series of climactic events.

Protagonists/heroes in adventure stories often face life-and-death scenarios that test their willingness to sacrifice their own lives, if need be, for the sake of the greater good. Antagonists in this genre tend to be extremely evil and there are clearly defined good guys and bad guys. This makes it easy to root for the hero, despite any flaws he/she may have. In the past, the majority of adventure genre protagonists (and writers) have been male, but that trend is changing. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth are excellent examples.

Adventure stories often overlap with other genres of fiction to include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, westerns, spy, crime and historical fiction. Adventure fiction takes the setting and premise of these other genres, but the fast-paced plot of an adventure focuses on the actions of the hero within the setting. Adventure tends to be a form of escapist literature, allowing the reader to escape everyday life into exciting stories about strange, faraway lands, long hidden secrets and voyages of discovery. 

Visit one of our branches to find an adventure that will feed your imagination!