This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about Valentine’s Day, but since I’ve always been a bit of a cynic about a commercial holiday which demands that lovers be nice to each other for one day (thus allowing them to be perfectly horrible to each other for the next three hundred and sixty-four days in the year), I’ve decided to make this Top Ten Tuesday list all about my favourite examples of non-romantic love in fiction. The following relationships are not without their struggles and complications, but I think they all show that non-romantic love can be just as messy, affectionate – and ultimately uplifting – as romantic love.
My Top Ten Non-Romantic Loves in Fiction
- Harry, Ron, and Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter is a series which privileges the love between friends and family over romantic love. And although there are many possible friendships I could talk about here, this trio is at the heart of the series. The friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione is frequently tested, and never more so than in the seventh book, but what emerges as the series draws to its end is the way that the three friends support each other, and how their personalities complement each other. One of my favourite moments in Deathly Hallows is when Ron returns to Harry and Hermione, chastened by the thought that Dumbledore knew all along he would abandon them; when Ron admits this, Harry quickly replies, “No, he must have known you would always want to come back”. It’s a quote which just sums up these three perfectly, I think.
- Elinor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: There are a lot of excellent sisterly relationships in Austen, whether they’re friendly or not, but I think the mutual support and love between these two sisters – who are, after all, complete opposites – is the best thing about this book. Despite their differences, Marianne and Elinor care deeply for each other, and learn from one another (although, admittedly, Elinor probably does a bit more teaching than learning of the two).
- David Copperfield and Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Dickens’ novels are also full of good (and bad) family relationships and friendships. But Betsey Trotwood remains one of my favourite characters, who finds herself won over by her young great-nephew’s plight, despite her initial dismissal of him, and her dislike of boys and men generally.
- Addie and Meryl from The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine: I was a huge fan of Gail Carson Levine when I was younger, and although it all began with Ella Enchanted, The Two Princesses of Bamarre quickly became one of my favourite books, because I just loved the relationship between the two sisters. Like Elinor and Marianne, Addie and Meryl are nothing alike; but when Meryl catches a deadly disease, Addie must overcome her fearful and retiring nature, setting out on a quest to find the cure in time to save her sister’s life.
- Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett: Terry Pratchett’s witches are brilliant. We’re told that “Witches are not by nature gregarious […] and they certainly don’t have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have” (Wyrd Sisters). Highly individualistic and tough-minded, witches generally tend to clash when there’s too many of them in the same room. But although Granny frequently calls Nanny an ‘old baggage’, and Nanny gets annoyed whenever Granny ruins her fun, when the going gets tough, these two have got each other’s backs. They’re united when it counts, and their frequent squabbling actually seems to be a way of expressing affection.
- Mrs Bennet and her daughters from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Depending on how you read her, Mrs Bennet is either a self-centred, mercenary schemer or a frivolous, empty-headed Regency lady with too much time on her hands. Yet although Mrs Bennet is clearly the object of fun in Austen’s novel, I’m tempted to think that her desperate desire to marry off her daughters stems from a real affection for them. Mrs Bennet wants to see her daughters married comfortably; in fact, she’s the only person in the novel who thinks seriously about how dangerous the girls’ future might be if they don’t have well-off husbands. You could say that she’s actually a very caring mother, in her own, very… special way.
- Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole from the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis: I’m sure many people see the potential for romance in the future of these characters, but I prefer to take a more innocent approach. Eustace and Jill are reluctant allies, thrown together on a quest, and throughout their adventures, and their friendship with Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle, they build mutual trust and respect.
- Cassandra and Mr Mortmain from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: This is not, perhaps, my favourite father-daughter story of all time, but when I was compiling this list it leapt into my mind. Mr Mortmain is the self-absorbed author of a famous work of fiction, but is struggling with writer’s block, and has isolated himself from his family and from the outside world. One of my favourite parts of the book (and film) is when his daughter Cassandra takes matters into her own hands, and locks him in a tower to force him to write. It’s here that they re-forge their relationship, in a moment that is also key in Cassandra’s development towards adulthood.
- Katniss and Prim from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I’m a sucker for a good story about sisters, as you can probably tell, and The Hunger Games is one of my favourites from the past few years. Katniss is literally willing to die for her sister, and although she spends most of the series apart from Prim, their affection for one another remains strong – as does Katniss’ protective instinct.
- Fezzik and Inigo from The Princess Bride by William Goldman: I’m probably cheating with this one a little, since I read the book so long ago, and my memory of it is overshadowed by the movie, but I love the friendship between Fezzik the giant and Inigo, the fencing Spaniard on a revenge mission. These two have their own history, their own in-jokes, and their own private games. They’re just a great match.
What are your favourite non-romantic love stories? What kinds of stories do you prefer?
You can find more Top Ten Tuesday here.