Adventure novel

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An adventure novel is an extensive form of literature that focuses on the depiction of dangerous events and experiences that must be passed by the heroes of poetry . A main character or a group of characters can appear as such.


Adventure literature is as old as literature itself. Although it did not always appear under the term “adventure novel”, but also as a myth , epic or fairy tale , adventure stories enthused their audiences at all times and in every culture. Adventure literature can be traced back to antiquity , even to the ancient Orient : Works such as the Gilgamesh epic emerged in Babylonian literature, and Homer created the Odyssey (approx. 8th / 7th centuries BC) in the Dark Ages of Greece .). In both works, the protagonists have to pass a series of adventures.

Other forerunners of modern adventure novels are the medieval Arthurian and chivalric novels in general with the element of the aventiure , the Amadis novel , the so-called minstrel sepic and the folk books of the 16th century. Figures such as Arthur , Sindbad , Fortunatus or Amadis appear in them. The picaresque novel , which has become popular in Spain since the 16th century, is also one of the predominant types of the early adventure novel. Here the main character is himself a rogue who is seen as "different" or "exotic". The first adventure novel in German, Der adventurliche Simplicissimus (1668) by HJC von Grimmelshausen , is also written in this manner .

In the 18th century, based on Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, the sub-genre of the Robinsonade emerged , and adventure literature also appeared in the form of travel , lies, horror and robber novels .

A large number of adventurous literature emerged from the 19th century, with particular attention being paid to the names Eugène Sue ( The Secrets of Paris , 1842 and 1843), Alexandre Dumas ( The Count of Monte Christo , 1844 and 1845), Friedrich Gerstäcker ( The Regulators in Arkansas , 1846), Karl May ( The Prodigal Son or The Prince of Misery , 1884–1886) or Jules Verne ( Mathias Sandorf ), who were able to have a lasting impact on today's adventure novel. These were propagated as serial novels in newspapers and in particularly in Romanheft series published.

Jules Verne transported his protagonists into a world of technical innovations and adventures, Karl May traveled as a fictional first-person narrator to the Orient and the American West and thus shaped the Wild West novel . Less known than these two authors, but widely read during their lifetime, were the French author Gustave Aimard and the Italian Emilio Salgari .

In the 20th century B. Traven , who knew how to combine adventure and socially critical aspects, achieved a certain fame. The French author Henri Charrière also received a lot of attention with his autobiography Papillon .

With different thematic complexes and narrative styles, adventure literature has been transformed again and again in modern times without losing its charm.

The adventure novel originally belonged to high literature, was quickly found in all literary areas, both in children's and youth literature, as well as in entertainment and trivial literature. This is also the reason why a wide variety of works are classified in this area.


The basic principle of an adventure novel is that a hero breaks out of his everyday world into a strange, dangerous world in which he has to master all kinds of problems and tasks at risk of his life. The goal of his journey is usually to save a person or his own world from which he has set out. As a rule, an adventure novel is told from the point of view of the hero, who embodies the good and often fights against dark forces or evil and ultimately wins. He is often accompanied by one or more people.

In terms of style, adventure novels can be described as literature written in simple, descriptive language. Often individual stories that are not or barely connected are linked to one another. Often small episodes or narratives are built into the plot, which focuses on the current events in a direct and vivid way.

Overlapping with other genres

Many literary genres use or borrow elements from adventure literature.

Bodice Ripper novels, for example, are trivial romance novels with a historicizing plot, which very often use elements of adventure literature (westerns, knights, pirate stories, etc.) to further support the erotic suspense , which is the core of the narrative, through external tension.


  • OF Best: Adventure. Blissful dream from escape and from afar. History and interpretation. Frankfurt am Main, 1980.
  • V. Klotz: Adventure novels: Sue, Dumas, Ferry, Retcliffe, May, Verne. Munich, 1979.
  • Maurizio Poggio: Adventure novel: change of place.
  • Aleta-A. von Holzen: “A Pirate's Life For Me!” From “The Black Pirate” to “Pirates of the Caribbean” - adventure concepts in pirate films . SSI, Zurich 2007, pp. 12–68 / 89–114, ISBN 978-3-9521172-4-8 .
  • Wolfgang Bittner : The Adventure in Literature . In: Wolfgang Bittner: Writing, Reading, Traveling . Oberhausen 2006, pp. 53-60, ISBN 978-3-89896-253-7 .

Web links

Wikisource: Adventure  Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Adventure novel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

See also