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Is there a name for the plot archetype in which the hero goes on a quest, only to realize in the end that he had the objective with him to start with? Is this a recognized archetype?

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Another possible place to ask is Writers. Check their FAQ first though. Thanks. – MετάEd Feb 17 '13 at 23:41
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The people at TV Tropes call it It Was With You All Along.

Is this a recognized archetype?

Well, I recognised it. I'd more often refer to it as a trope, to distinguish from archetypal figures (characters, places, and objects), and to distance what I say from an interpretation restricted to Jungian psychology, but it's both correct to argue it's an archetype, and also there are other meanings of trope (even just restricted to the narrative arts), so a good case could be made in favour of preferring either word.

There's no universally recognised set of archetypes (even if you agree with Joseph Campbell's theory about "the hero with a thousand faces", it doesn't preclude other archetypes outside of those he discusses; it's meant to discuss the impact of one particular epic structure, rather than comprehensively cover all stories). They are not classified as species are by biologists.

This one is very common, and so people will often recognise it if you were to talk about it. The phrase "it was with you all along" is also well-known (unlike some of the more opaque names that site uses), so it could serve well as a name for it.

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Wile this isn't really an archetype, this seems to be the closest I can get. Thanks! – Vishnu Feb 24 '13 at 18:04

I call this a Dorothy Moment, as in "all this time, you had the power to…" (a reference to The Wizard of Oz).

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This doesn't answer the OP's question. The moment in that story alluded to here is an appropriate example, but it's not archetypical. The name of the archetype is probably "epiphany" or "revelation", or "{epiphanic/revelatory} moment" – user21497 Feb 18 '13 at 5:36
The odd thing about The Wizard of Oz—both the book and the movie—is that, while she and her companions (except Toto) are all on quests for something they lack but most desire, only Dorothy achieves hers through the Find It in Yourself model. Each of the other three achieves his desired object (brains, a heart, courage) through the wizard's intervention (in the book, with pins, needles, and bran; a transplanted "loving heart"; and a green liquid that becomes courage "when it's inside you") or validation (in the movie, with a diploma, a testimonial, and a medal). Now there's a mixed message! – Sven Yargs Feb 21 '13 at 20:47

Another way of looking at it is that the quest of the hero is more about self-actualization than about finding something outside himself. I call this type of quest a Galahad Quest. There's more to it all, of course. But that's the starting point.

In a Galahad quest the hero is on a personal search. His adventure will likely involve aiding the ruler of an ailing land. But there need not be a direct connection between the hero's own quest and the problem with the "king" and the land.

But the short answer is, yes it is a recognizable trope or motif.

(I've written more extensively about this in The Scribbler's Guide to the Land of Myth.)

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Galahad did not have the Grail all along, though. Such personal search stories are certainly a superset of the type the querent is asking about, though. – Jon Hanna Feb 21 '13 at 11:54
That's just rewording what I said. Yes, stories where the hero carries the object with him are a subset of a particular type of quest. – Sarah Beach Feb 26 '13 at 16:10
But how does it answer the question? – Jon Hanna Feb 27 '13 at 10:39

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