Don't forget to vote for your top Literary Love couples before Valentines Day!
"No, this trick won't work...How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?" ~Albert Einstein
Being the most hopeless of hopeless romantics, choosing just a select few of my favourite literary couples was always going to be difficult. My favourite of Austen’s couples are most certainly Anne Eliot and Captain Wentworth (yes, because of that letter, but also because, as a couple, they’re decidedly more grave and cautious than the younger, bright and bushytailed ones that are usually Austen’s protagonists of choice). On the other hand, my favourite couple of the fierce, tumultuous and just plain mad romance is most certainly, without a doubt, Cathy and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights (in my opinion, Jane Eyre’s romance simply does not compare to the dirt and grit of this Gothic masterpiece! But that’s just me)...
But, if I'm forced to choose - my most favourite type of romantic couple must be in the first flush of love, where the characters rarely know for sure what love is yet, and they daren’t ask anyone about it. So with this in mind, it would be a crime not to acknowledge Will and Lyra of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
If you haven’t read the trilogy His Dark Materials (you MUST), we’re not introduced to Will until the second book in the series, The Subtle Knife. Coming from two completely different worlds and meeting in a third one, Will and Lyra are pre-teen, but they have to grow up quick. Lyra is the perfect sparkly and headstrong complement to Will’s quiet and deliberate lifeforce.
[Spoilers incoming!] Their distinct friendship develops into something more, to the complete surprise of both of them, but alas, like a certain other pair of star-cross’d lovers, Lyra and Will are required to sacrifice their own needs for a greater good.
"I'll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we'll cling together so tight that nothing and no one'll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you... We'll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams... And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they'll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we'll be joined so tight..."
Their final bittersweet goodbye very nearly killed me, but such literary love still inspires people to seek out THE bench where the two pledge to visit each other (situated in the Botanic Gardens at Oxford). Pretty story - while I was searching for a picture of said bench, I came across a blog entry detailing two girls’ trip to the particular Botanic Gardens, and, the girls having followed the book’s specific directions, switched anxiously from foot to foot waiting for a random guy to quit hogging the bench so the diehard female fans could take photos. He was just SITTING there, which prompted one of the girls to impatiently ask him whether he knew it was a very SPECIAL bench. The random guy said that yes, he knew it was Will’s and Lyra’s bench. And that he was waiting for his girlfriend so he could propose to her at said bench.
[Sidenote ---- If anyone ever meets my boyfriend, tell him that I will now accept nothing less than a marriage proposal at THE bench, or under the Northern Lights. I promise I will act surprised when he produces the plane tickets... ----]
My other favourite literary couple will probably surprise some of you, particularly those who have only been exposed to the Disney version, but I find Wendy’s unrequited love for Peter Pan to be sadly, almost absurdly romantic. J.M. Barrie’s play and subsequent book Peter and Wendy lends much more weight to Wendy’s feelings for Peter, beyond those of the sisterly companion Disney portrays Wendy to be. Where Tinkerbell is the sexual female prototype, and Princess Tigerlily is the wife with the dowry, Wendy is the side of the woman Peter wants most. Alas for Wendy, what he wants most is a mother.
Peter is the ultimate player, the bachelor who wants all play and no work. The ending to Peter and Wendy is profoundly sad, particularly to hopeless romantic girls like me who always waited for their own mischievous boy to flap in through the bedroom window, kitted out in Robin Hood-green. A few years after her adventures in Neverland, Wendy is standing in a new frock by the window, waiting for Peter to whisk her away to do his spring cleaning. But Peter is too busy on his many NEW adventures to come collect her, and he forgets. Wendy grows up, but she never forgets Peter Pan.
He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still had all his first teeth.Aggh. My heart breaks for Wendy, her mother before her, and the daughters that come after her, who will all fall for Peter’s childish charms... but a reader’s pity is reserved for Peter too. A boy who will never experience a first, or last crush. All because he’s afraid to grow up.
He was a little boy, and she was grown up. She huddled by the fire not daring to move, helpless and guilty, a big woman.
' Hullo, Wendy,' he said, not noticing any difference, for he was thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first.
' Hullo, Peter,' she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying ' Woman, woman, let go of me.'
Now THAT’S what I call unrequited love.