-excerpted from Gryphon's Heir by D.R. Ranshaw
It was Valentine’s Day yesterday, of course. Ah, l’amour, he thought dreamily. And, in thinking thus, I was reminded of Rhiss, the protagonist of my novel Gryphon’s Heir, and Lowri, who is... well, Lowri is, as Rhiss notes, a “perplexing but utterly enchanting mix of strength and vulnerability.” As you might discern, Rhiss is quite taken with Lowri... and she with him. (By the way, the image I've included above is of a loving spoon, a tradition unique to Wales and therefore doubly appropriate with this particular post's theme.)
This led me to reflect on literary couples. Over a dozen others came swiftly to mind, from the sublime to the ridiculous to the creepy, but I’ll limit my reflections to five I find interesting:
Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Lizzie Bennett was, I think, a feminist of sorts long before feminism existed, and her dynamic take on life is countered by the sullen, immensely wealthy Mr. Darcy, who comes across as an arrogant prig for most of the story. We discover much later that his arrogance is actually painful shyness and social ineptness. (I could relate when I was a young man, although not to his wealth). And we’re weepily glad when all the misconceptions are sorted out and love... true wuv... wins out and this couple are united in marriage.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in The Scottish Play (aka Macbeth) by Shakespeare: I didn’t say they were all happy literary couples, I said they were memorable. Every time I teach Macbeth, I find myself wondering: what on earth did these two see in each other? I realize that marriages at that time were often purely political, with neither bride nor groom sometimes having much say regarding choice of spouse, but... we’re talking about a woman who’s all in favour of dashing a baby’s brains out if it would bring her power, and a husband who, aside from observing that maybe his wife shouldn’t have kids, is perfectly prepared to go along with her murderous plans. Yikes. By the time they separately meet their deaths --- Macbeth’s dully shocked reaction to her suicide is one of the great Shakespearean monologues --- we’re more than ready to see the end of this psychopathic couple.
Yuri Zhivago and Lara in Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: Yuri and Lara have one slight problem: he’s already happily married to someone else when they meet and fall in love. So, while on one hand, it’s easy to dismiss him as just another philandering jerk who wants to have his cake and eat it, too, I think there’s more to it. Set against the sweeping backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolutions, Yuri and Lara don’t give in to their feelings until they’ve both been through enough hell to last more than several lifetimes. He’s an ordinary man swept up in great events, and he really wants none of it; he just wants to live his life with the woman he loves. And it doesn’t end well for either of them.
Arthur and Guinevere in a bunch of stories/poems/novels by Chretien de Troyes, Malory et al over 1000 years or so: you have to feel sorry for these two (three, if you include Lancelot). They’re deeply honourable people who really, really care for each other and want to do the right thing by each other. But, he sighed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it? And Arthur knows he has to be king before husband, which is just not a good recipe for a happy marriage... and so this doesn’t end well, either... although we’re left with a glimmer of hope for them in some undetermined future...
Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I’m kinda cheating on this one because, while I periodically rant about film makers having the effrontery to change authors’ words, the plain truth is the film Aragorn/Arwen romance is much more interesting/passionate than the book one. Part of this, as I’ve also noted before, is that Tolkien’s female characters are painfully wooden. (The Eowyn/Faramir romance, for example, reads in the book like something lifted from the King James Version of the Bible, and is just about as exciting.) Arwen is prepared to give up immortality in her love for Aragorn, which is a fairly major sacrifice, and Aragorn is initially unwilling to allow her to do that. But unlike most of these couples, things end well for them --- although strangely, Tolkien, an ardent Christian, seems to imply that their deaths will sunder them forever.
Have you got a favourite literary couple? I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on this one, because I’ve only barely scratched the surface here...