What is an Epic?


What is an Epic?

In literature, an epic is a long narrative poem about an epic hero and the hero’s journey.

Characteristics of Epics

• Physically impressive hero of national importance.

• Huge setting involving much of the known world, and possibly the land of the dead.

• A quest taken in search of something of value.

• Evidence of supernatural forces (the gods) at work.

• Glorification of the hero at the end (he wins, always!!!)

Epic Hero

Someone who has superhuman strength and confidence.

Emerge victorious from very difficult and scary situations.

Usually embody the ideals of a culture that are admirable.

Epic Setting

Setting= where a story takes place…epic setting…

Epic setting is where the journey takes place, usually more than one place for example:

Fantastic exotic lands

Involves more than one nation, or country

Epic Plot

Plot- events in a story…so epic plot is…

Events that involve a long journey full of complications for example:

Strange creatures

Large scale events

Treacherous land

Divine intervention

Epic Themes

Theme= message of the story, so epic theme is…

Reflects a universal concern for example:


Fate of a nation




Life and death


This is a character, situation, or image that is very recognizable in our culture.

MENTOR— teacher or counselor to the initiate; often are father or mother figures to the hero or heroine.

THE HERO—mother is sometimes a virgin, circumstances of birth are unusual, some attempt is made at birth to kill him; raised by foster parents, returns to his kingdom to right wrongs, marries a princess, becomes king

THE INITIATE— young heroes or heroines who go through training; usually innocent and wear white

Character Archetypes


—evil incarnate; offers worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the hero in exchange for possession of the soul


loyal companions willing to face any number of dangers to be together


—somewhat like servants to the hero who are heroic themselves; their duty is to protect the hero and reflect the nobility of the hero; they are expendable


—figure banished from a social group for some crime against his fellow man (could be falsely accused of a crime or could choose to banish himself from guilt)


—sensuous beauty; brings about the hero’s downfall because he is physically attracted to her

Situational Archetypes


—to save the kingdom, to win the fair lady, to identify himself so that he may assume his rightful position, the hero must perform some nearly superhuman deed.



—Obviously the battle between two primal forces. Mankind shows eternal optimism in the continual portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great odds.


An epithet is a small descriptive phrase used to characterize a person or thing.

For example, an epithet for the singer Prince would be “the author formally known as prince”

What kind of epithet could we write for


Epic Similes

Epic simile is a comparison using the words like or as but it goes on for several lines in literature. It could go on for as long as 20 lines.


It is a reference to a famous person, place, thing, or event.

This is a reference to something that you

(should) already know.

AKA – inside jokes for educated people.

Shrek is full of them…can you find at least 2 in the first 3 minutes of the movie?


• Story that uses fantasy to express ideas about life that cannot be expressed in realistic terms.

• Myths focus on the relationship between humans and the unknown or spiritual realm.

Oral Tradition

• The story was passed down by word of mouth. The author, Homer, collected and organized the stories into the famous epic of the


and the


, which we are about to start.

• Homer lived in 800 B.C. and was probably blind.

The Odyssey’s Background Info:

• The Trojan War has been over for ten years.

• Odysseus is being held on an island by


• Telemachus, Odysseus

’ son, is at home in

Ithaca, in Greece, trying to fend off men who want to marry his mother, and rob him of his inheritance.

• Odysseus is searching for balance, for inner peace.