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An illustration by Edmund Dulac of a horse flying through the air.
Edmund Dulac
from Arabian Nights (1907)

 


The Adventure Genre

  • Adventure stories are dominated by action.
  • They involve danger, risk, and excitement.
  • If the action is presented humorously, as in Twain’s Adventure’s of Tom Sawyer or Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle series, the danger is muted.
  • The action is fast-paced.
  • Adventure stories are sometimes set in exotic or distant places as in Kipling’s Kim (India), Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (Africa), or Ballantyne’s Coral Island  (the south Pacific).
  • Events in an adventure story are more remarkable and extraordinary than in everyday life.
  • The protagonist in adventure stories has traditionally been male, but that is changing.
  • The protagonist can be of extraordinary stature.
  • In the best stories, adventures change the hero.
  • Empire-building is frequently associated with earlier adventure stories.

Subtypes

Magic adventure

  • The adventures take place in a magic realm.
  • Magic adventure stories are characterized by more extraordinary events than classic adventure tales since the story is not confined to reality. 

Robinsonade 

  • The protagonist must learn to survive alone on a desert island.
  • The protagonist has a limited number of resources and begins life on the island by taking an inventory of these.
  • He or she builds a shelter.
  • The protagonist usually builds a boat and tries to leave the island. The first attempt is often unsuccessful.
  • He or she builds a fire to signal for help.
  • When the protagonist is finally able to leave the island, he or she is ambivalent about returning to society. 

Survival 

  • This type of story usually resembles the Robinsonade tale but the setting is not an island.

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Sea adventure 

  • The protagonist sails to a strange or unknown place.
  • This type of adventure is associated with pirates, shipwrecks, storms at sea, and treasure hunting.

Resources on adventure stories

 

Armstrong, Judith. “In Defence of Adventure Stories.” Children’s Literature in Education 13, no. 3 (1982): 115-21.

 

Butts, Dennis. “The Adventure Story.” In Stories and Society: Children's Literature in a Social Context, edited by Dennis Butts, 65–83. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1992.

 

Fisher, Margery. The Bright Face of Danger. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986.

 

Green, Martin. Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.

 

Green, Martin. Seven Types of Adventure Tale: An Etiology of a Major Genre. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania University Press, 1991.

 

Hanlon, Tina L. “The Descendants of Robinson Crusoe in North American Children’s Literature.” In The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature, edited by Ann Lawson Lucas, 61-69. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

 

Jones, Dudley, and Tony Watkins, eds. A Necessary Fantasy? The Heroic Figure in Popular Children's Fiction. New York: Garland, 2000.

 

Moss, Anita. “Captain Marryat and Sea Adventure.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 8, no. 3 (1983): 13-16.

Norton, Donna E. and Saundra E. Norton. “Fantasy, Adventure and Real People.” In Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children’s Literature. Boston: Pearson, 2011, 53-57.