In the distant land of Mordor, says Gandalf, the old wizard, there is a mighty volcanic mountain. Your task, he tells Frodo, the young hero, is to journey to that far-off place, carrying a priceless ring, and cast it into the Cracks of Doom. When Squire Trelawney and Dr Livesey look at the parchment map the young hero Jim Hawkins has found in a dead man’s chest, they see that it reveals the place on a far-off desert island where a fabulous pirate treasure is buried. They at once agree that they must sail in search of it. When Odysseus embarks with his men after the sack of Troy, his only desire is to return home to his far-off island kingdom of Ithaca and his beloved wife Penelope.
No type of story is more instantly recognisable to us than a Quest. Far away, we learn, there is some priceless goal, worth any effort to achieve: a treasure; a promised land; something of infinite value. From the moment the hero learns of this prize, the need to set out on the long hazardous journey to reach it becomes the most important thing to him in the world. Whatever perils and diversions lie in wait on the way, the story is shaped by that one overriding imperative; and the story remains unresolved until the objective has bee finally, triumphantly secured.
- Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker