Fairytale love doesn’t exist, except on a page or screen. That’s what people say anyway. Love is supposed to be this glorious, massive thing that sends people crazy, puts butterflies in their stomach and even makes someone kill someone else. It’s the most famous kind of love – even more so than family love, I would say – and it’s the kind of love that people strive for.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re five years old discovering fairytales for the first time, or eighty years old looking for someone to spend your final days with. The idea of falling for someone who is your everything, a person who is your happily ever after, is a big deal.
Many people fall in love and experience the butterflies and the head over heels feeling of being with someone special. But for some people it’s just a dream, an unobtainable dream meant only for those in fiction.
Fictional love has been in existence for years, even back in the days when romance wasn’t as important as marrying the right person who has the right standing in the community. You just have to look at classics like Pride and Prejudice to see that the idea of love hasn’t really changed, but the conventions of relationships have. Once upon a time we may have married someone for convenience or if you were unlucky enough to get pregnant outside of wedlock. Even Jane Austen dreamed of that special someone, though, that person who makes your heart flutter. If she didn’t, then she wouldn’t have created one of the world’s best romances.
I think the thing that sets fairytale love apart from other kinds of fictional love is the idea that a person, or a couple, can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t work like that and nor should it. Without the difficult, unhappy times, we don’t appreciate the good moments in our lives. Fairytale romances would surely be very boring if we looked past the happily ever after these couples supposedly have.
The idea of fairytale love, for me, goes back to Disney. They produced animated film after animated film dedicated to a story where good conquers evil, the knight in shining armour saves the damsel in distress, they get married and then they all live happily ever after. We never get to see the happily ever after, the inevitable turmoil and difficulty that some of these relationships would have faced in the real world, and perhaps that’s half the charm.
From Snow White, to Belle, to Aurora, to Meg, to Mulan and more recently, Rapunzel. These women have all experienced the one true passion that in the real world is something very different. That doesn’t stop people dreaming, it doesn’t change the fact that little girls still love the idea of being a Disney princess and women still dream of meeting that perfect person.
In fiction, romance and love are such important themes whether they’re the main storyline or a facet of a deeper, more developed story of pain, suffering and heartache. Without relationships – romantic or otherwise – fiction would be as flat as a pancake. It would be boring and thoughtless. Relationships are as important in fiction as they are in real life. If you don’t have people to spend time with, or to communicate with, then life is inevitably a little less significant, or even worthwhile, than if you’re surrounded by people who you care about and spend time with. It’s the same in fiction. If characters don’t interact, then you just have a story about a person sat in a room on their own with very little reason for their story being told.
Including themes of love and romance, the reader or viewer is able to experience a relationship, whether it’s like ones in their own lives or not. Love must be as special in the real world as in the fictional world, because how else can so many stories exist about that knee weakening feeling?
The difference, I think, is the happily ever after. That moment after the story ends when somebody didn’t wash the dishes, or take out the dustbins, or the romance has dwindled because real life has got in the way.
Everyone likes the idea of perfection, a world where the little things don’t matter and the world isn’t flawed. But love is flawed, as is the world, and every relationship will go through difficult times. That doesn’t mean we should stop writing about fairytale romances. Even if those fairytale romances are mixed into a story of betrayal, murder, death and destruction. As long as two people fall in love, regardless of what happens to them, and there’s the hint of a possibility of a happy ending, then that’s enough. That small dash of hope that maybe you can have that fairytale ending too. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find someone to love you the way that Darcy loves Elizabeth and Charming loves Snow White, and a happily ever after is waiting for you.