Book Meme 2012
Question 4: Best love story
Oh ho ho! A wide-open field. There are many kinds of “love stories.” The Greek language has more than one word for the myriad of feelings we encompass with the word “love.” I already have a habit of cheating in this meme, and so far I feel justified in doing so. True to form, I will rank my choices for best love stories according to categories.
These categories are: Romantic Love, Platonic Love, Unconditional Love, and an Honorable Mention (see? I’m cheating again.)
This one is the easiest for me to choose. There are many love stories that I find compelling, but the ones that tend to touch me most without irritating my low-tolerance for “mush” are the stories of Jane Austen, nestled in her satire and human understanding.
Of these, Persuasion stands out from the rest.
If you do not like spoilers, skip to the next category now, though if you don’t know the overall theme of this book, I will be very much surprised.
The relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is one of suppressed passion. More than that, though, it is a story of enduring and mature love. Where most love stories begin with two characters meeting and growing to love, this story begins years later, when the love shared has been lost, seemingly beyond recovery.
Love is a beautiful thing, but it is faithfulness and endurance that make it a rare and precious beauty. To me, love without faithfulness is like a flower that quickly wilts, becoming ugly. Faithful love is like a tree, whose beauty lasts for as long as it has life. It awes, shelters, and delights even beyond the lives of men. It may have its bad moments, when it drops a limb, or covers your car in pollen, but then the course of true love never did run smooth.
There are many contenders for this award, but I have cheated enough for one post, so I will force myself to choose.
Curdie and Lina from The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald.
I cannot defend this choice against all others. I can only say that I return to it time and time again, and at last I find that it must be my choice. Some spoilers will follow.
Curdie is a miner, and Lina is a monster. This is the description MacDonald gives of Lina:
“She had a very short body, and very long legs made like an elephant’s, so that in lying down she kneeled with both pairs. Her tail, which dragged on the floor behind her, was twice as long and quite as thick as her body. Her head was something between that of a polar bear and a snake. Her eyes were dark green, with a yellow light in them. Her under teeth came up like a fringe of icicles, only very white, outside of her upper lip. Her throat looked as if the hair had been plucked off. it showed a skin white and smooth. “
It is obvious that this is not going to be a case of love at first sight. Curdie feels, for Lina, a mix of fear and pity, and Lina, it seems, feels mostly fear. Being a beast, she never speaks, but they learn to communicate without the need for words. Between the miner and the monster a strong bond of trust and friendship develops to the point where both put their lives in danger to protect the other.
I have always found this relationship compelling and beautiful. Among the friendships I have seen in my literary travels, it is the dearest to me.
This is a tough choice as well. I have wrestled with myself over the question of what counts as “unconditional.” Sam and Frodo came to mind, but as deep as their love is, there is reason behind it. I find that unconditional love must exist against all likelyhood, and what is more, it must be one-sided, at least for a time.
With this consideration, I choose the love Psyche has for Orual, from Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. The story is about many things, but the contrast between selfish and unconditional love is a strong theme throughout.
You should take spoilers as a given by now.
At first, the love between Orual and Psyche is not unconditional. It is quite natural and sisterly. In Orual, it quickly becomes obsessive and possessive, and once Psyche is taken by the god of the mountain, the underlying selfishness in Orual’s love overcomes her.
Unconditional love shows itself when Orual forces her sister to choose between Orual’s life and betraying Psyche’s divine lover. Psyche loves her sister even though the ugly aspects of Orual’s feelings are revealed. She loves Orual for Oural, knowing that she can expect no such love in return.
This story would shatter my heart if Orual never came to understand the difference between selfish and unconditional love. Thank you, Lewis, for revealing hope for Orual, for we are all need unconditional love.
Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad, from Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
These guys are quite a mix. There is some unconditional love involved because Toad is, quite frankly, a mess, but the others stick by him. There is a “bromance” between them all that mirrors many real-life friendships. It is a quiet (save in the case of Toad), unassuming love that ties them loosely, but strongly, together. In short, I feel that this story shows philos at its finest, and it is that friendship that gives me such enjoyment in reading the stories.