Traditionally an epic refers to a genre of poetry, known as epic poetry. More recently the genre has grown to encompass a broad range of media including the following: epic theatre, films, music, novels, television series, and video games, wherein the story has a theme of grandeur and heroism, just as in epic poetry. Scholars argue that the epic has long since become "disembedded" from its origins in oral poetry, appearing in successive narrative media throughout history.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, is the first recorded epic poem which has provided a plethora of narrative tropes which laid the foundation for the entire Western branch of the genre. The Old Testament borrows many themes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, these include: an epic flood story, a plant that grants immortality sabotaged by a serpent, and a wrestling match between the hero and a divine assailant among others. The Epic of Gilgamesh and The New Testament’s similarities include Jesus' and Gilgamesh’s death and resurrection story. Some anthropologists identify Jesus as an embodiment of the same mythical archetype.
Just as the Epic of Gilgamesh, was a blueprint for the Judeo-Chritian religion and many more prechritistian epic mythos and religions including those of Buddha, Krishna, Odysseus, Ra, Romulus, Dionysus, Zoroaste and Zarathustra, Horus, Osiris, Amenhotep Ill, Perseus, Mithra to name a few; the bible similarly extended its influence into existing Epic literature such as Arthurian mythos. As it exists in the modern day, The Legend of King Arthur has been interpreted to be loosely modeled upon the life of Jesus, however this was not always the case.
Arthurian literature had originally been based on pre-christian, Celtic folklore and may have been based on a 5th to 6th century British warrior who staved off invading Saxons. During the early christianization of the UK, the Church tolerated new converts observing their older, pagan traditions. However, as the church in the UK grew in power, events taking place in Europe such as The Crusades, inspired authors to reshape the traditional legends with christian undertones. For example, the French author Robert de Boron translated the legend into French in 1155, he conceived iconic additions to the story such as the Sword in the Stone, and expanded upon the lore surrounding the Round Table where Author had 12 knight just as Jesus has twelve disciples.
Specific echelons of pop culture draw from a variety of epic narrative tropes this may preclude to genres such as Heroic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Space Opera, Fantasy adventure, high fantasy and Political fantasy; and just as the Epic of Gilgamesh influenced the Judeo-Chritian religion and the Judeo-Chritian influence the Arthurian mythos. For example Frank Herberts, Dune saga inspired the Star Wars trilogy and the Jodoverse.
There are many genres of epic (exclusive of epic poetry): epic fantasy describes works of fantasy, such as in J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Epic fantasy has been described as containing three elements: it must be a trilogy or longer, its time-span must encompass years or more, and it must contain a large back-story or universe setting in which the story takes place. Epic fantasy is not limited to the Western tradition: for example, Arabic epic literature includes One Thousand and One Nights; and Indian epic poetry includes Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The female epic examined ways in which female authors have adapted the masculine epic tradition to express their own heroic visions. There are chivalric epics from the Middle Ages, national epics, and pan-national epics. The real-life stories of heroic figures have also been referred to as being epic; examples include Ernest Shackleton's exploration adventures in Antarctica.
- Derek M. Buker (2002). "The Long and Longer of It: Epic Fantasy". The Science Fiction and Fantasy Readers' Advisory. ALA Editions. p. 118.
- John Grant & John Clute. "Arabian fantasy". The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.
- Timothy Corrigan (2012). The Film Experience: An Introduction. Macmillan. p. 329.
- "SparkNotes: The Epic of Gilgamesh: Tablet VI". www.sparknotes.com. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
- "Gilgamesh and the Bible". www.bibleodyssey.org. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
- "King Arthur". Biography. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
- Books, Edfu. "King Arthur Was the Biblical Jesus". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
- Constantine Santas (2008). "Table of Contents". The Epic in Film: From Myth to Blockbuster. Rowman & Littlefield. p. v.
- Robert Burgoyne (2011). The Epic Film. Taylor & Francis.
- Schweizer, Bernard (2006). Approaches to the Anglo and American Female Epic, 1621–1982. Aldershot: Ashgate.
- Raymond Briggs (1969). Shackleton's Epic Voyage; Lennard Bickel (2001) Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic; Frank Arthur Worsley (1931), Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure