Story Theme: Journey Story or Quest

The Journey Story or Quest was a popular story theme at certain points in Jinty and in other titles. Indeed, at some points in 1976, it would have been possible to be reading an issue of Jinty which included three or even arguably four journey stories in the same week’s comic (see 24 April 1976 for an example). It’s a story framework which allows the creators to vary the setting and characters as much as they like, and to experiment with a range of local touches if desired (Scottish kilts, Welsh mountains, or European stereotypes could be brought in depending on the story). Within a Quest theme the dramatic tension is kept up, too – the protagonist is always thinking of the thing that keeps them on the journey – the danger they are avoiding or the goal they are trying to reach.

The journey story is of course focused around a lengthy journey, but it is also something of a quest, as the protagonist has someone she needs to find or something she needs to do before she can stop journeying. She does not just head out for the fun of it or to see the sights; there is some motivating reason for her to keep moving. Apart from the journey element, the other themes of the story can be fairly varied: there are journey stories in Jinty which are rooted in science fiction, humour, love of aninals, and more.

Core examples

Song of the Fir Tree” (1975-76). This story has siblings Solveig and Per traveling across Europe after they are released from the concentration camp they were held in during WWII. They travel from Germany to Norway under their own steam, constantly having to keep one step ahead of their enemy Grendelsen (though at the same time, unknown to them, their father is chasing after them also).

This was the first journey story printed in Jinty. Clear precursors outside of British girls comics are “I Am David” and “The Silver Sword”, both of which feature long journeys and have child protagonists dealing with the aftermath of WWII.

Fran of the Floods” (1976). After her home town is overwhelmed in flooding, Fran Scott travels the length of an apocalyptic Britain to see if her sister is alive and well in Scotland. This popular and well-remembered journey story is one of survival against the odds and courage in the face of barbaric behaviour on the part of other survivors.

Bound for Botany Bay” (1976). Betsy Tanner is transported to Australia; in addition to the lengthy sea journey, once she gets to Botany Bay she runs off and travels across dangerous countryside, eventually finding her father who was sentenced to transportation earlier on.

For Peter’s Sake!” (1976). Set in the 1930s, Carrie Lomax has a brother who is seriously ill. Her grandmother’s pram has rocked many babies back to good health in a seemingly miraculous way and she hopes that it will do the same for little Peter. However, Carrie and the pram are in Scotland and the rest of her family is in London, and she needs to push the pram all the way back to him on foot.

The Darkening Journey” (1977). Thumper has been separated from his owner Julie, who is moving house with her family, across Britain to the west country. To add to the pathos, both of them are going slowly blind: Julie because she needs an operation to cure her, and Thumper because of an accident at the time they were separated. Together with his friend Beaky, a clever talking rook, he travels towards the setting sun to see if he can be reunited with his beloved owner.

Race For A Fortune” (1977-78). This is a humourous take on the journey story: Katie McNabb must race her snobby cousins in a journey to inherit her skinflint great-uncle Ebeneezer’s money. The one who reaches Ebeneezer’s home village of Yuckiemuckle first, starting out from the south of England with no money to help them, will win the race and the terms of the will. Katie and her cousins battle it out, each overtaking the other at various points on their travels.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (1978-79). This is the longest, most epic of all the journey stories in Jinty (indeed so long is it, at 36 episodes, that to date I have quailed before the mighty task of writing a story post for it!). Dorothy and Max are an orphaned brother-sister pair who run away from the state care they are put into when their mother is killed. Inspired by the Wizard of Oz song, they travel from the south of England all the way to Scotland, hoping to find happiness at a care home called Rainbow’s End.

Edge cases and uncertainties

The core stories listed above all feature epic, dangerous, and long journeys as a central aspect of the story. There are other stories in Jinty which feature travelling on the part of the protagonists, but without it being such a central part of the plot.

Then There Were 3…” (1976). This is more of a mystery story: ten girls hire a narrowboat and travel on the water for some time, but the plot primarily focuses on the mystery of what is behind the occurrences that spook the girls. Is it something supernatural in origin, or is it down to a purely human villainy?

“The Big Cat” (1976-77) When her grandmother dies and she is evicted from the gypsy camp she lives in, Ruth travels with the big cat Ayesha that the story is named after. We do not currently have a story post about this to confirm if this is more of a journey story, or a fugitive story where the protagonist runs away and spends time in hiding rather than in travelling towards a clear goal.

Not to be confused with…

There are plenty of stories that include an element of journeying or travelling, such as those ones where the main character runs away: for instance Jinty‘s first issue includes the story “A Dream for Yvonne“, where Yvonne runs away from the circus to become a ballerina. She does not travel throughout the story unceasingly until she reaches her goal, though: she runs away multiple times, loses her memory, is threatened by jealous rivals, and is eventually accepted by both her family and the ballet school. The journeying is not the main point of the story, but rather her challenge lies in how to be accepted by family and friends.

Likewise in many stories there is a dramatic finale where the protagonist runs away either to elicit sympathy or to enact some specific deed: Gail in “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and Lee in “Daddy’s Darling” are two such examples from Jinty‘s early days. I am not counting these either, as the main focus of the story is again not on the journey itself, which is pretty limited in the span of story time that it takes up.

Fugitive stories may overlap considerably with the journey story, but again the key question in my mind is whether the fugitive keeps running, or mostly hides away somewhere. “Always Together…” (1974-75) has an orphaned family (well, almost – read the story summary for more detail) who run away from the welfare state mechanisms which are threatening to split them up. They do not keep running continuously, but instead camp out in a few locations and fend for themselves throughout the bulk of the story.

There are a few stories with castaways (“Desert Island Daisy“, “Girl The World Forgot“): if you are going to be cast away on a desert island you can hardly avoid having travelled, somewhere along the lines! But the focus is then on the predicament of the main character, not on a prolonged journey. The same goes for “Alice In A Strange Land” which has a transatlantic plane journey at beginning and end of the story, and a dramatic crash landing in an early episode, but which does not focus on those elements in the core plot.

Elsewhere…

Journey-themed stories were of course not confined to the pages of Jinty, though the April 1976 spike in popularity of these stories is perhaps only seen in this title. The following stories are not meant to be a complete list of journey stories, but just to give a flavour of the prevalence and the variety of them across both IPC and DC Thomson. (Many thanks to Mistyfan for providing scans of the below and other stories, and also to Lorrbot and the Girls Comics of Yesterday site, which I checked for mention of journey stories.)

  • Glen, A Dog on a Lonely Quest (Tammy, 1971)
  • Janet and her Travellin’ Javelin (Debbie, 1974)
  • Towne in the Country (Tammy, 1976-77)
  • The Ride-Away Randalls (Debbie, 1978)
  • The Wandering Starrs (Bunty, 1978-79)
  • One Girl and Her Dog (Tammy, 1978-79)
  • Jumbo and Jet (Tracy, 1981)
  • Jet’s Incredible Journey (Suzy, 1986)

Other thoughts

This post is already rather long, but I have more thoughts about the theme. Another post will follow, discussing aspects of how journey stories actually worked in more detail, looking at some of the stories mentioned above.

12 thoughts on “Story Theme: Journey Story or Quest

  1. Another thing about journey serials is that the episodes it takes before the protagonist starts the journey can vary. In Travellin’ Javelin and Jumbo and Jet for example, the protagonists were off by the end of the first episode. In others, such as “For Peter’s Sake!” a few episodes are devoted to buildup before the journey begins. I haven’t read “Somewhere over the Rainbow” for a while, but as I recall, it took a number of episodes before the protagonists actually started their journey. The earliest episodes were devoted to the death of the mother, the children ending up in welfare, and being fostered by a very unsuitable woman before the children decide they’ve had enough of welfare and set out to find Rainbow’s End.

    1. Yes, indeed. Likewise, Fran of the Floods doesn’t have her setting off for quite a few episodes, while in The Darkening Journey, they head off right away.

  2. There are fugitive elements in some journey stories. Welfare is a common enemy the children are trying to hide from as they make their journeys. Sometimes it’s something more sinister, such as Nazis. Even if it is not a fugitive story there can sometimes be an enemy dogging the protagonist as she makes her journey, as in “Jumbo and Jet” and “Race for a Fortune”. Makes the journey a whole lot more exciting, doesn’t it?

    Oh, I just remembered another journey story, “One Girl and Her Dog” from Tammy. Kim Robinson and her dopey dog Rumpus are on their way to London to collect an inheritance. After dumb Rumpus eats the train tickets they have to make their way on foot. But a relative is out to stop them because he wants the inheritance, and has brought in hired help. It’s a story in the humorous line, with many of the hijinks coming from Rumpus.

    1. Have you got a date for when that story was printed in Tammy? I’ll add it to the list above but it would be good to put a year on it, as with the others.

      1. “One Girl and Her Dog” started somewhere around November 1978. It finished 27 January 1979, but for some weeks it was not running.

        I have remembered another Capaldi journey story that also appeared in Tammy: “Towne in the Country”. It ran 24/7/76-30/4/77. The odd thing is, it did not start as a journey story. It started off with the exploits of Val Towne and her veterinarian father in a period rural setting. It was “All Creatures Great and Small” meets “Cathy’s Casebook”, and for quite a while it was run that way.

        Then all of a sudden it takes a complete change of direction and becomes a journey story. The reason is that Mr Towne goes on expedition in Africa, but Val is not going to sit and wait for him. I can’t quite remember, but I think she gets alarmed when he becomes overdue or something. Anyway, she is going to find him, so her own journey to Africa begins, and she applies a lot of the vet skills she learned from Dad along the way. She also befriends a girl whose attitude to animals is very different from hers because she was raised by a hunting father and therefore regards animals as game. They make a very odd pair because the ways they view animals is so different. It takes a while for them to become real friends.

        I find the change in story direction quite jarring. I think Tammy would have been wiser to just end “Towne in the Country” and then start Val’s journey story in a Towne sequel.

  3. More journey serials from DCT
    The Journey of Inga, Mandy, 1971 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2011/08/the-journey-of-inga/
    The Quest of Abigail Hazard, Debbie 1976 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/12/the-quest-of-abigail-hazard/
    Sandra’s Search, Bunty 1984, http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/02/sandras-search/
    The Perilous Journey of Polly Fletcher, Debbie, 1976 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2011/08/the-perilous-journey-of-polly-fletcher/
    The Quest of Anna Midnight, Mandy, 1971, http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2015/03/the-quest-of-anna-midnight/
    Carrie’s Quest, Bunty 1982, http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/02/carries-quest/
    The Quest of Katie Courage, Suzy 1982, http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2011/08/the-quest-of-katie-courage/
    Little Miss Music, Tracy 1980 (this one is in a grey area) http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/09/little-miss-music/
    The Long Trek, Judy 1978, http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/12/the-long-trek/
    Stocktons Stick Together, Judy 1966 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/10/stocktons-stick-together/
    Lucy on the Long Road Home, Suzy 1984 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2016/09/lucy-on-the-long-road-home-1984/
    The Runaway Rodgers, Judy 1970 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2017/11/the-runaway-rodgers/
    Dark Days for the Hungry Hopes and sequel, The Voyage of the Hungry Hopes, Debbie 1976 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/12/the-voyage-of-the-hungry-hopes-the-hungry-hopes-in-the-new-world/
    The Voyage of the Dairymaid, Judy 1962 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2014/08/the-voyage-of-the-dairymaid/
    Mark of the Witch, Bunty 1966 http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2019/01/mark-of-the-witch-1965/

    1. Thanks for that long list! Definitely a popular and prevalent theme for stories… I shan’t add that whole long list to the post, people will need to look at this comment (but I’d already added the other two Tammy stories which you mentioned above).

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