Posted by: Jodi | February 14, 2011

Timeless Literary Love Stories

There is nothing in the world like a timeless love story. For this most romantic of days let’s celebrate some of the best that history has to offer.

2004 Donato Giancola

  1. Lancelot and Guinevere (Arturian Legend) In Arthurian legend this story ranks as one of the best known tragic love stories.  Sir Lancelot falls deeply in love with King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere.  There love grew over time as Guinevere refused the handsome Lancelot’s advances but found herself growing more and more fond of him. Eventually, she allows her passion to overcome her reason and they became secret lovers.  Sir Agravain and Sir Modred, King Arthur’s nephew, led a band of 12 knights to Guinevere’s chamber where they burst in upon the lovers.  Sir Lancelot fought free, but poor Guinevere was seized, condemned to burn to death for her adultery.  Sir Lancelot returns several days later to rescue his beloved Guinevere from the fire. The affair divided the Knights of the Round Table and weakened Arthur’s kingdom. Lancelot ended his days as a lowly hermit and Guinevere became a nun at Amesbury where she died.
  2. Tristan and Isolde (Celtic Folklore)  This tragic love story has been told and retold through various stories and manuscripts. Also taking place during the reign of King Arthur, Isolde of Ireland was the daughter of the King of Ireland and was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. King Mark sent his nephew, Tristan, to Ireland to escort Isolde back to Cornwall. During the voyage, Isolde and Tristan fell forever in love. Isolde did marry Mark of Cornwall, but still loved Tristan. The love affair continued after the marriage. When King Mark finally learned of the affair, he forgave Isolde, but Tristan was banned from Cornwall and went to Brittany. There he met Iseult of Brittany. He was attracted to her because of the similarity of her name to his true love and was married, but did not consummate the marriage because of his love for the “true” Isolde. After falling ill, he sent for Isolde in hopes that she would be able to cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship’s sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not agree. Iseult, seeing the white sails, lied to Tristan and told him that the sails were black. He died of grief before Isolde could reach him. Isolde died soon after of a broken heart.
  3. Pyramus and Thisbe (Roman Mythology) Pyramus was the most handsome man and was childhood friend of Thisbe, the fairest maiden in Babylonia.  They lived in neighboring homes growing up and fell in love with each other.  Their parents strongly opposed the marriage.  One night just before the crack of dawn, they agreed to secretly meet near a mulberry tree in the nearby field.  Thisbe arrived there first, but she wasn’t alone.  A lion approached the nearby spring for a drink with bloody jaws.  Thisbe panicked and ran to hide, dropping her veil along the way.  The lion picked up the veil in his bloody jaws.  When Pyramus reaches the mulberry tree, he sees Thisbe’s veil in the jaws of the lion and is devastated.  In his grief, he pierces his chest with his own sword. When the danger is gone Thisbe leaves her hiding place to find her lover lying with a sword in his heart.  Shattered, she takes the sword and kills herself.
  4. Wesley and Buttercup (The Princess Bride, William Goldman 1973) And finally we reach one of my favorites, The Princess Bride.  During the time where Wesley worked for the lovely Buttercup he fell deeply in love with her.  Unable to tell her he instead would always reply to her requests with the phrase, “as you wish.”  Buttercup discovers this love and realizes that she loves him in return.  He leaves to seek his fortune so he can return to marry her and during his travels is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts.  Buttercup is devastated but refuses to believe that he is dead.  Prince Humperdink discovers Buttercup and decides the he wants her all to himself.  She is kidnapped and rescued by a masked hero who she later learns is her beloved Wesley.  Prince Humperdink finds them and takes Buttercup back and sends Wesley to be tortured. With the help of his friends he gets free himself and is able to steal her back and ride off into the sunset.

Do you have a favorite love story? Please share in the comments!

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Responses

  1. One of my favorites is Beren and Luthien, from Tolkien: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beren_and_luthien

    It’s interesting that on his gravestone, Tolkien refers to himself as Beren and to his wife as Luthien.

    • @captaindoman – I was going to include them until I realized that doing justice to their story would be the death of me!

  2. Elizabeth Gilbert and Felipe!
    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/eat-pray-love-tie-the-knot/

    Happy Valentine’s Day

    • @nrhatch – I still need to see/read that one! I will soon, promise.

  3. […] Love Today (Married with Luggage) * In Search of Definition (Reflections from a Cloudy Mirror) * Timeless Literary Love Stories (My Literary […]

  4. King Kong and Ann Darrow.

    Wait, that one didn’t end happily, did it?

    • @OA – They would be in good company then, almost all classic love stories end in tragedy. Although with King Kong I think it was more of a one sided relationship.

      • Maybe if he had been more keen on brushing his teeth, it might have worked.

  5. At the top of the list of dysfunctional (thus interesting to read about) relationships, Heathcliff and Cathy!

    • @MichaelK – I still have yet to read Wuthering Heights. This is where not having a literature based/English major comes back to haunt me.

  6. helllo 🙂 my name is stephanie

  7. you cool


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