An adventure story could be, for example, the protagonist traveling around the world or battling their inner demons. Usually, in an adventure story, the protagonist going to have help in the form of a friend or partner. They might have to rescue someone or something they care about and contend with an opposing force that wants to stymie their good intentions.
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Definition of Adventure Story
An adventure story is a genre of literature that features a protagonist going on an adventure of some kind. It is often considered to be escapist literature due to the fact that the stories sometimes take place in exotic, interesting, and dangerous locations. The stories transport readers to interesting locations and ensure that they feel as though they, too, are accompanying the protagonist on the quest.
Examples of Adventure Stories in Literature
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is a series of incredibly popular adventure novels (with The Hobbit being in the same realm). The three books, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, follow an epic quest to defeat evil. The protagonist, Frodo Baggins, has to carry a precious but terrible item into the heart of danger while his companions do what they can to ensure he makes it to the end of his journey. The difference between good and evil in these novels couldn’t be starker. Here is a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring:
The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
This is one of the many thoughtful and beautiful quotes that are scattered throughout the novel that defines the good and evil in Middle Earth.
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of Jules Verne’s most popular novels. The book, which was first published in 1864, follows Professor Otto Lidenbrock, who believes that there are volcanic tubes leading to the center of the earth. He, and his nephew, rappel into a volcano and travel deeper and deeper into the earth, encountering many dangers. Here is a quote from this adventure novel:
To look at the height of Snäfell it seemed impossible to reach the summit. But after an hours’ fatigue and athletic exercise, a sort of staircase suddenly appeared in the midst of the vast carpet of snow lying on the croup of the volcano, and this greatly simplified our ascent.
Here, the narrator is describing the effort it took to climb to the top of Snäfell, the Icelandic volcano into which the main characters are going to enter.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
In this adventure novel, Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story of the protagonist, Jim Hawkins, and antagonist, Captain Flint. Jim is looking for Flint’s treasure. The adventure to find the treasure hits a rough patch when Jim overhears Long John Silver’s plan for mutiny. He is a member of Flint’s crew, as are several others on board the ship. Jim and the loyal sailors craft a plan that eventually rests in Jim and the other good characters, leaving the mutineers on the island. Here is a quote from the book:
It was Silver’s voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiostiy, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone.
In this passage, Jim is overhearing Silver’s plan and realizing the importance of the role he now has to play. The book was originally serialized in Young Folks, a literary magazine for young readers, from 1881 to 1882. It has since become incredibly popular and is one of the most commonly adapted novels in all of English literature.
Explore Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.
Examples of Adventure Stories in Film
Indiana Jones series
The Indiana Jones series of films are great examples of adventure stories in film. The protagonist, Indiana Jones, is a professor of archaeology and all-around adventurer who constantly finds himself racing against the forces of evil to retrieve world-altering artifacts like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Here is a quote from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
You and I are very much alike. Archaeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.
Here, the antagonist, Belloq, is attempting to define the similarities between himself and Indiana.
Why Do Writers Write Adventure Stories?
Writers write adventure stories when they want to tell exciting and interesting stories. These might involve other places and people that the writer finds engaging or entirely different worlds. Adventure stories are filled with plot elements that most readers will be familiar with, like conflict and a clear climax. These stories can follow many paths, meaning that writers can explore a great deal through the basic format. For many, this is an exciting genre to engage with.
“Adventure” refers to a journey the protagonist goes on. It doesn’t have to be a geographical journey. It could be one in their mind as they attempt to overcome something.
An adventure story follows a protagonist as they attempt to achieve something. This could be something tangible, like sailing around the world, or something intangible, like overcoming their drug addiction.
An adventure story should include a protagonist and antagonist and a goal the former wants to achieve. There should be convincing dangers, incredible sights, and maybe fight sequences depending on the content.
An example is a group of people attempting to dive to the bottom of the ocean or a single person going on a journey to retrieve memories and understand their past.
An adventure is engaging and exciting. It should keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Related Literary Terms
- Authorial Intrusion: occurs when the writer breaks the wall of their work and addresses the reader. This can happen in any genre.
- Bildungsroman: a literary genre that focuses on coming-of-age stories, following a character’s progression towards adulthood.
- Canon: a collection of materials that are considered to represent a specific period or genre.
- Comedy: a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
- Drama: a mode of storytelling that uses dialogue and performance. It’s one of several important literary genres that authors engage with.
- Fantasy: a literary genre that includes talking animals, magic, and other worlds. It includes plots that couldn’t take place in the real world.
- Genre: a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.
- Listen: Elements of Adventure Stories
- Watch: Adventure Novel Genre Introduction
- Watch: What makes a hero?