Home » Books: Defining the Epic

It is a collection of impossible pages, weighted to imagery and importance. You hold them, careful, as if afraid they will somehow be too much for you to understand. They intimidate, those pages. They overwhelm with their refusal to end. The word count captured within them is almost as staggering as the sudden demand for you to read it. You are faced with an aptly named epic and are uncertain if you will be able to finish it.

You can. It is, after all, just an extended verse.

The notion of the epic is daunting to many. It conjures worries of indecipherable rhymes and difficult symbolism. It is considered to be more than a poem, with a stigma attached that brands it not for the casual reader. Because of this even the most enthusiastic supporters of books can choose to overlook it. They believe it will be too complicated to enjoy.

Such a belief is incorrect, however.

The epic is not a tedious series of meters and blank verse. It is instead a celebration of history. Defined simply, it details a heroic feat, reflecting the daring deeds of a cultural icon, and is structured uniquely: it typically begins within the middle of its conflict and offers lengthy characterizations and speeches, as well as taking place within multiple locations; including the various versions of Heaven and Hell. It is more akin to traditional literature than the more expected poems. It tells a story.

The epic began as an alternative to simply offering legends orally. While that method was popular, it also ensured that the tales never remained the same. Details could be omitted and personal opinions could be injected within. This lacked consistency. Writing therefore became the better choice, with fables preserved as they were originally intended.

And those fables still exist within the books left today. An epic is more than a mere poem. It is instead a perfect representation of the past. It should not overwhelm; it should instead inspire.

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