Very ominous endings

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.)

Romantic Love:

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.

Platonic Love:

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.

Unconditional Love:

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.

Honorable Mention:

 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.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

26 responses to “Very ominous endings

  • Colleen

    This has been fun.

  • Urania

    I really like your categories for this post. It’s true that there are lots of other kinds of love besides the romantic kind we usually think of, and I’m glad you’ve featured some of them. Can I take it as a give that you’ve read Lewis’s Four Loves? I really liked that book. It’s a delightful meditation on the ways we love others. I think the friendship chapter was my favorite. “Oh, you too? I thought I was the only one.”

    You peeps are only going to get one answer from me this week, I’m afraid. I’m super impressed with myself for keeping up with my posting schedule these last few weeks, because I am busy, busy, but I wrote my post last night! I just don’t have time for more than one entry. Which is probably a good think or I’d go on and on…

    • jubilare

      Alas, I have not, but I intend to. There are several of Lewis’s nonfiction works that I need to read.

      Trust me, I know exactly what you mean. I wrote this yesterday, and barely had enough time to do so. It is a topic that I could expound on for ages. I am currently taking care of many animals for someone who runs a rescue, plus working, plus a myriad of other things. Me need rest!

      • Urania

        I saw your comment over on Terpsichore’s post and wanted to put in another plug for The Four Loves. (For some reason, our blog doesn’t allow replies to a third post in a string of posts. Oh, WordPress…) But anyway, Lewis talks about exactly what you mentioned, that human loves, such as eros in this context, can only find their divinely intended place when we stop making them our gods. It’s a fun, easy-to-read book. Add it to your list. ;)

  • Melpomene

    YES! Anne and Wentworth are certainly among my favorites of all time.

    And I admit that I had hoped for some cheating in this category. (I will be cheating slightly, but in a different way.) There is more to Love than romance! “The Four Loves” is a wonderful and fascinating read, and I need to go back and reread it . . . hmm. Yet another Summer project. Drat.

    Yea, though the end of semester approacheth, the Lord giveth time for mental rest and enjoyment.

  • palecorbie

    Should I continue to be afraid of The Princess and Curdie? I loved the first book as a child and didn’t know there was another, but I worry it won’t be as good, that I won’t be able to read a children’s book properly now, and because I’ve heard rumours it’s one of those “and they all went to heaven!” endings and that would just kill one of my childhood’s bright spots right dead…

    Psyche never seemed to have any personality/self to possess selfish love with, to me, but I suppose that’s Greekish allegory for you.

    • jubilare

      The book does continue past the lives of the main characters, though it does not follow them beyond the grave. It follows what happens to their city.
      I encountered both books around the same time, and loved them both. I still love them both, but for different reasons. Thinking about it, though, I would err on the side of caution in your case. The first book is much freer and more airy. The second is darker and deals more directly with questions of good and evil.

      To me, she did not have much personality until the valley. It was there that her individuality seems to have awakened. Until that time she always followed her sister’s lead, and I think that being unwilling to accept the change in Psyche was a major factor in the rift that opened between them. We see Psyche through Orual’s eyes, and Orual sees her more as perfection than as a person.

  • David

    I also like how you’ve divided them into types of love. I didn’t do that myself because I think it only would have made it harder for me to choose! As it is, the only one of your choices I know is Psyche and Orual, from a book very much in need of a reread. You’re right, though — Psyche’s love does become unconditional, beautifully so, and provides some hope for Orual, though perhaps not guaranteed redemption.

    I can’t wait to read the two Princess books by MacDonald, now that I own them unabridged! But there’s so much else to read, too…(like Wind in the Willows also waiting patiently on my shelf for its turn…)

    And yes, Austen. One day I’ll read her. One day. Promise.

    • jubilare

      You did not grow up on Wind in the Willows? You poor lamb!

      Ah, read her only if you wish to, not for your friends. :)

      • David

        Nope, I didn’t, though I think I saw the Disney animated version once or twice as a very young child.

        Oh I do want to read Austen, I really do. I’m fascinated by what people say about how perceptive she is regarding human interactions…and of course the general romantic nature of it all appeals to me, since she apparently does it so well. I don’t know if she’ll become a favorite author or anything, but I do want to give her a try. Even Lewis spoke highly of her.

        • jubilare

          That makes me kind of sad! I don’t know what the book will be like to one coming at it later in life, but when I first read it, or rather had it read to me, it was quite magical.

          I didn’t know that Lewis spoke highly of her. She’s very nuanced, though. I am of the opinion that she well deserves her lasting reputation.

  • Motley Crew | jubilare

    […] 4. Very Ominous Endings […]

  • Cue Music | jubilare

    […] 4. Very Ominous Endings […]

  • Verbage | jubilare

    […] 4. Very Ominous Endings […]

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