Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Could I Get an Epic Quest with That?

As might have been mentioned a couple times (or ad nauseam perhaps), I love books, stories, lyrics, anything that takes me on a journey. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and loving every minute of it. My To Be Read pile fills up a shelf and I keep on buying more (in case those books get lonely, of course). Kelley Armstrong (The Summoning and The Awakening) is responsible for some recent reading glee, and I’ve got my eye on (and a coupon at the ready for) Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender (who also has a fun blog).

All the books I love include an epic quest, ranging from snagging that One Ring and destroying it and Big Bad Sauron in the process (while consuming Elvish waybread naturally) to overcoming all the angst and hardship of the teen years in order to risk falling in love. Epic quests don’t require dragons or fantasy dark dimensions; they live within a story any time a character pushes for something necessary to their authentic self.

So, this got me thinking (as the events in Haiti have) about what epic quests would fulfill my authentic self. Certainly, seizing time to write and edit stories counts, as does working as hard as I can in my professional life to always do my best. My life has included some epic quests: rock climbing, foreign travel, teaching middle school, and most recently open-water swimming. But since the Haiti earthquake, my inner planning machine has been stewing, leaving a slightly muddled me to pick up the pieces. The question now is how to discover a new epic quest, one that links to the needs of my authentic self (not exactly an exact science). There are plenty of opportunities out there to make the first steps on this journey, and I’m considering them carefully, knowing that once the right one pipes up, I’ll know. In the mean time, I feel a bit like a portion of my brain is attending to other matters (not exactly a new thing, since my fictional writing worlds are at play in my mind most of the time). I’ll keep you posted on what journeys I find.

In a little epic-story-related news, I have to mention something I think is spectacular. NASA, responsible for some pretty epic quests in the past, has carried out an exceptional mission to Mars. And though the Mars rover Spirit is now stuck in the sand, the amazing craftsmanship of the rover has allowed data to continue to be captured and transmitted back to Earth. Spirit was built to survive for just 90 days after landing on Mars... in January 2004... yep, still going (well, not going anywhere now, but still functioning). What a marvelous show for NASA! They do know how to excite the imagination.

And that brings up a powerful point about epic quests, not just in fiction, but in real life. Volunteering with the homeless is an epic quest. Sitting through baseball games all day on a Saturday so that your kid knows how much you care is an epic quest. Taking the time to make a meaningful moment with a spouse is an epic quest. It really doesn’t take a trip to Mars, just the intention to deliberately live each moment and continue the forward motion of your life.

Quote for the Day from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."


Brian said...

All epic quests are better with puppets... :)

Julie said...

Or Muppets!

I'd love to see Gonzo go after the One Ring! :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I'm originally from NM, and Death Comes to the Archbishop was required reading in school. Yay, Willa Cather!

Kasie West said...

Great post, as always, Jules (eh, see, I used it. I feel so cool now). My epic quests range in scale depending on the day. Yesterday it felt like an epic quest just to make dinner. And I conquered it, btw. All my kids got seconds (which in and of itself is quite a feat). Some days my quest is to leave the house. (it's scary out there). But as long as every day I have a goal, I feel some form of success.

Jemi Fraser said...

I agree - Gonzo & the one Ring - or maybe Animal. He'd take down Sauron in a heartbeat :)

I love epic quests too!

Julie said...

Hi Caroline,

I've had my copy of Death Comes for the Archbishop since I visited Santa Fe (Loretto Chapel specifically) many years ago. I've never read it before, but it's part of my classics project for this year and my it's-been-on-my-shelf-for-years-read-it-already project. Glad to hear you liked it.

I'm pining for New Mexico skies lately. There is simply no place on Earth as beautiful to me. :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I'm super biased but totally agree. New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment.

Julie said...


Look at you. Using the nickname. I'll teach you that secret handshake later. :)

You and I are very similar with daily goals and such. In order to be happy, I have to be moving forward in some way (or every way). I would like to suggest a new epic quest for you: Make me dinner, too. Those kids are old enough to fend for themselves. Right? :)

Julie said...


I thought about Animal, but I just didn't want to have to read a thousand-page-ish book with dialogue like, "Rar rarr Rar Rarrr Rarrrr." And the Elvish poetry. Not quite Animal's forte. :) And Gonzo is so earnest, like a hobbit.

Although I will say, the next Ultimate Fighting Championship fight should be Gollum versus Animal. I'd pay to see that!

Thanks for the comment, as always!

Frankie said...

I love it when you talk Tolkien to me!

I was gonna say, Animal should be the new Shelob (or maybe the Scooter-orcs could ride Animal/wargs!) but I'm going to tailor my response pointedly at my target:

Animal = Strider

Think about it. Aragorn says NOTHING that can't be conveyed with a properly inflected "AaaaAAHHH!!!!" Old 'Arry is the muscle most of the time (another fine Animal trait) and the best part: The hair already matches!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Epic quests and Lord of the Rings - could there ever be a better post topic than that?! :-)

DebraLSchubert said...

I love the Quote for the Day - nothing could be closer to the truth!

Some days, it's an epic quest just to wake up. Others, it's an epic quest to write thousands of words. Every day - and the most satisfying and fulfilling of all - is an epic quest to love those closest to me (felines included!).

Hugs, always, to you, my dear friend. ;-)

Julie said...


Your obvious jealousy of the wonder of Strider/Aragon is clearly something you need to work through. Perhaps meditation. Finger painting. Sumo Wrestling. The intervention is here and now. Get help. And then maybe after watching/reading the entire Lord of the Rings again, you will finally see what all the rest of us already have: Aragorn is the light, the way, almost everything worth dreaming about in a non-Elvish man. But I do love me some Elves, too. :)

And Animal and Gimli have the same hair, so that's a much better match up. And Beaker as Gollum, I think, even though he can't really say, "My precious."

And Miss Piggy cannot under any circumstances play Galadriel or Arwen... maybe Eowyn... maybe. :)

Julie said...


I don't know how the two topics found each other (and the Muppets), but I'm loving this. And during some house cleaning lately, I've been enjoying watching the extended versions of the movies. They are definitely one of the best adaptations of beloved books ever.

Thanks for the comment!

Julie said...


That's the marvelous thing about epic quests, small or large, they are all about moving forward and enjoying life. And I'm very proud of your recent epic quests!

Kathy said...

Can one of my epics be taking JennieMae to dog training tomorrow :) ?

Julie said...

Kathy (A.K.A. Mom),

Since it's taken you eight months to get to this point, ABSOLUTELY. I hope you and your smart (occasionally frenetic) border collie have an epically fun first lesson!

Kathy said...

hummmmmmm; we did!

痛苦 said...
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