Fantasy Love Stories

Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the next two weeks. I’ve been given a project to complete, on top of everything else I’m doing right now, and in order to complete it on time, I’m working whenever I can – until late into the night. I’m getting four or five hours of sleep a night, which is not good for me.

So for the next two weeks I’m going to be posting sporadically, and my posts may not be all that interesting. I apologize in advance . . .

Today, I’m going to post about something that came out online just today: my slideshow on the top ten fantasy love stories for Huffington Post. Here’s the introduction:

When you’re in love, it feels as though you’re living in a fairy tale. The prince or princess of your dreams has chosen you, and you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together, happily ever after, in a castle on a hill with singing furniture and animals that do all the cleaning. Right?

Of course, real life never works out that way (show me a mouse that does dishes, for example). But fantasy does tell us some important underlying truths about the experience of being in love. There’s a reason that romance has always had a fantasy element. (Think of Odysseus falling in love with the sorceress Circe, who turned his men into swine, or Oberon and Titania deciding the fates of lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Mr. Rochester asking Jane Eyre if she is one of the fairies). Romance is a sort of magic: it changes our perception of the world, making us believe that we’ve found the person we are meant to be with, that the two of us are truly one. It can fill us with an ecstatic sense of joy and make us feel as though the furniture could sing – if we just listened closely enough. But fantasy also shows us some darker truths about love. The modern popularity of paranormal romance has its roots in fairy tales about women marrying bears, and bulls, and other beasts, which reveal that the one we love is not, in fact, a version of ourselves, but another being – one we can never know completely. Love can overcome those differences, but they are still differences. Fairy tales also reveal that love is difficult: sometimes you have to climb a glass mountain in iron shoes or confront a bloodthirsty ogress. I think some of the truest and most important stories about love are fantasy stories, which show us both love’s power and its complexity.

Here are my choices for the top 10 fantasy love stories, both ancient and modern. Fair warning: none of them involves sparkly vampires!

I’m going to give you my top ten here, but in order to read why I’ve selected them, you’ll have to go over to the Huffington Post slideshow! So, without further ado, the top ten! (In my mind, I ranked them 10 to 1, but the slideshow allows you to rank them yourself.)

10. The Myth of Eros and Psyche
9. Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire in The Time Traveler’s Wife
8. Richard St. Vier and Alec Campion in Swordspoint
7. The Ballad of Tam Lin and Janet
6. Tristran and Yvaine in Stardust
5. Morgon and Raederle in The Riddle-Master Trilogy
4. The Legend of Tristan and Iseult
3. Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings
2. The Fairy Tale of Beauty and the Beast
1. Westley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Do you agree with my choices? Disagree? I’m interested in finding out . . .

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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6 Responses to Fantasy Love Stories

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    Pyramus and Thisbe ❢

  2. Adam says:

    I’m happy to see Riddle-Master made the list. Those are such great, underrated books. And a complex love story. If I were going to add one to that list it would be Ged & Tenar from LeGuin’s Earthsea books (particularly Tehanu). Theirs is a relationship between two older people who are not quite what they once were, but are also more.

  3. I’ve got a little list: Hungry Hearts, by Francine Prose; Traveling actors (one of my favorite things)
    Yiddish theatre, playing The Dybbuk, a demon lover who invades the secretly married leading lady. Published in 1983. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones, reverse beauty and beast, Water For Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel, Mexico, delayed love, magic food. I collect Tam Lin stories and I will have to find Jane Yolen’s version. I have:Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean, Thomas The Rhymer, by Ellen Kushner, Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip and Fire And Hemlock by Diana Wynn. All different and wondrous. Thank you for this topic. Long live The Thorn And The Blossom. And more stories to come.

  4. Fred Ross says:

    Aside from 8, 6, and 5, which I haven’t read and can’t comment on, that seems a reasonable list, though I would agree that Howl’s Moving Castle probably deserves a place on it. The Princess Bride rarely gets brought up in my circle as a love story. Typically it’s held up as one of the finest swordfighting films ever made.

    Phyllis’s comment about collecting Tam Lin stories is interesting. When I was performing a song of the legend, I remember feeling an obsessive urge to do the same, and I’ve seen it in the few others of my acquaintance who spent time with some version of it. It’s as though the rhetoric of Beowulf were masked for May Day with the Song of Taliesin. What is the abyss in it, I wonder?

    • That is quite a beautiful summation of Tam Lin, Fred Ross. Beowulf masked for May
      Day with the Song of Taleisin…abyss?,,,A lot of ancient echoes inhabit dreams and
      the waking mind, when it comes to myth. Brrr, and oh, ah, aaaah.

  5. debraji says:

    I would add Prince Lir and the Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn.

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