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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Listed: Star-crossed Lovers

I went to see West Side Story this weekend at the Stratford Festival (will blog about that tomorrow, methinks, as have not had time to yet!). As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This of course, got me to thinking on star-crossed lovers. According to Wikipedia, star-crossed lovers are

a pair of lovers whose relationship is said to be doomed from the start. The phrase is astrological in origin, stemming from the belief that the positions of the stars ruled over people’s fates. To describe a relationship as “star-crossed” is to say that it is “thwarted by a malign star”, or that the stars are working against the relationship.

On one hand, I hate the thought of star-crossed lovers. I think it’s because there is a lot of the “oh it’s sooooooooooo romantic!” associated with the concept of star-crossed lovers even though it’s got the whole “domed from the start” bit going on for it. On the other hand, there are some star-crossed lovers whose stories I positively love.

So this week, I want to focus on some of the star-crossed lovers out there in fiction whose love is doomed from the start – some of whom I love, some of whom I hate.

  1. Guinevere and Lancelot from Arthurian Legend. Okay, yes, I hate this couple, but they are very much a pair of star-crossed lovers. Doomed from the beginning, seeing as she’s married to his best friend. Stupid.
  2. Winnie and Jesse from Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. Originally Published 1975. I haven’t read this in a long time, so I don’t remember how it is in the book, but in the 2002 movie there was definitely a hint of romance between the two, but alas, when one person is immortal and the other is not, then there’s no way the love could be anything but doomed.
  3. Tristan and Iseult from Celtic Legend. Quite possibly influenced the story of Guinevere and Lancelot – the classic knight falls in love with the princess he’s escorting to her bridegroom story. For some reason, I don’t find this as annoying as the Lancelot and Guinevere story, but perhaps that is because it’s not as popular and there aren’t so many people swooning over how “romantic” it is.
  4. Wendy and Peter Pan from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Originally Published 1911. Yeah, they’re a bit young (typically assumed to be between 10 and 15 on both accounts), but there was always a bit of chemistry between them – if they were older when they met, it would’ve been love. And when one party doesn’t want to grow up, but the other does, of course it’s doomed.
  5. Paris and Helen of Troy Greek Mythology. (Grr I hate this one too. Makes me angry. Paris is dumb.) You know when the greek goddesses get involved, there’s bound to be A LOT of trouble, and falling in love with the most beautiful woman in the world when she is married to another man, and then kidnapping/seducing her, WELL. How could things possibly EVER end well?
  6. Brutus and Cornelia from Sara Douglass’s The Troy Game. Originally appear in Hades’ Daughter, originally published 2002. These two spend three lifetimes trying to make their love work, but things NEVER work out properly for them.
  7. Catherine and Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Originally Published 1847. You know: “Bella and Edward’s favourite book.” URGH. There’s a reason their love was doomed from the start – Heathcliff is NOT COOL.
  8. Dean and Emily from L.M. Montgomery’s Emily books. Originally appear in Emily of New Moon, originally published 1923. (This is SO suited to go after the listing of Catherine and Heathcliffe, seeing as Dean is apparently based on him.) He is old enough to be her father, and yet there is an undeniable connection between the two of them. (I am happy she ended up with Teddy though!)
  9. Ennis and Jack from Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain. Originally Published 1997. Two gay cowboys who both have wives and families and only see each other once a year on camping trips. In a time and society when same sex relationships were not looked well upon, where both men refuse to admit that they are gay, there is no surprise that this relationship is doomed from the beginning.
  10. Cyrano and Roxanne from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Originally Premiered 1897. A man who doubts his ability to be loved because of his big nose writes the words that cause his love to fall in love with another man. She doesn’t realize until right before his death that he is the one who wrote the words that caused her to fall in love all those years back.

What other star-crossed lovers have you read about in books?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:14 am September 14, 2009.
Category: Listed

  • Shannon Patterson

    You forgot about the following people:
    – Captain Jack and the actual Captain Jack from Torchwood – you know, the one he stole his identity from.
    – Captain Jack an Ianto from Torchwood – you know, one’s immortal and the other’s not. That’s not going to work well.
    – all vampires everywhere
    – the Doctor and Rose because eww.

  • Joana

    Good list, I see a couple on there that definitely fit the “awwwww it’s soooo romantic” category that always makes me gag and cringe.

    I’m not a big fan of Wuthering Heights, in fact I kind of hate the book and never understood the appeal of it, but I will (grudgingly) accept that it is a literary classic. That said, I will never understand how publishers thought it was a good idea to redo the covers for that book into a Twilight-theme and stick “Edward and Bella’s favorite book” on it.

    I will always laugh when I remember all of the teenyboppers I saw standing in line with the book. All were eager to get home and read it too. *snickers* Such unsuspecting sheep.

  • Court

    Joana – Yeah, totally hated Wuthering Heights too. I do feel a little bit badly for those little teenies not knowing what kind of book they’re getting into.

  • Sam

    Twilight, Breaking Dawn, New moon etc. they are star crossed lovers, until the end, sort of, one is a vampire, amazing and immortal and the other is an average clumsy human…

  • Chrissy

    Court —
    Sadly, most tweens/teens don’t realize what book they are getting into when they read Twilight either. :/