What Is an Epic Tale?

Thousands of years ago in Ancient Greece, the blind poet Homer wandered from place to place telling tales of heroic warriors, mythical beasts and powerful gods. His classic poems, passed down by mouth through generations, set the standard for the epic tale -- lengthy narratives using poetic forms to tell of the exploits of a great hero. While traditional epic tales are told as poems, the genre has been expanded to include novels, films, plays and even video games.

Elements of the Epic

Based on the example of Homer's works, epics traditionally use elevated language and poetic form to tell of heroes who represent the values of their nation. The hero traditionally encounters significant conflicts along a journey of some sort, accomplishing tasks that affect their entire civilization. The hero's actions usually have a deeper meaning or message about life.

Examples of Epics

The earliest known epic poem is "The Epic of Gilgamesh," from Ancient Sumeria. Homer's works, the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," established the genre, which was continued by Virgil's "The Æneid" and Dante's "The Divine Comedy." Modern epic tales include J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and films such as "Avatar."