Now when I first read this question, I naturally assumed it was asking about a favourite ‘romantic’ literary couple. This is likely why I was so stumped. I am not a ‘girly girl’, never read romance or romantic fiction and while I love Jane Austen and the Brontes, it was less for the romance than for the complicated period pieces that they wove. With Austen, the manners, the wit, the banter, the plucky heroine overcoming and winning the day. With a Bronte, it was the mystery, the intrigue, the melancholy and the despair. Gothic angst at it’s finest, whether Heathcliff and Cathy or Jane and Rochester. But as satisfying as say, Lizzie and Darcy are as a couple, none of these would I consider my favourites. I couldn’t just pick one and be done.
No, I’m much more cerebral than that. Friendship was always what fascinated me, or more appropriately, partnership. Phileas Fogg and Passepartout or Aubrey and Maturin – those are the relationships that intrigued me to no end, so naturally, my very first instinct was Holmes and Watson. Funny, I know. I’m not a shipper (which is very popular these days), but I have always loved their relationship. Theirs is a friendship that goes beyond a good cup of tea and a mystery. There’s a mutual dependence that Doyle only touched on, but ultimately carried through his entire series. Not really an arc, it was just there in every story. Holmes, with his brilliant mind and Bohemian lifestyle, needed Watson to ground him, decipher him, humanize him (and not just for the reader. I believe for the character.) Same for Watson, a sharp and capable man in his own right, drawn to the brilliance just a star or two above him, needing to understand, to know, to reach, to grow. They have always been, and likely will always be, my favourite literary couple, and I will never tire of their stories.
That said, if I sat and tried to think about the question as indeed a romantic couple, who would they be??? I have such a lifetime of reading that to single them out would be tricky and I spent a great deal of time pondering the notion. I liked D’Artagnan and Constance. I liked Peter Pan and Wendy. I disliked Hermione and Ron, disliked Lancelot and Guinevere, disliked Gatsby and Daisy. Really, I think I must have deliberately avoided books with romantic plotlines like the plague because I disliked most of the pairings. I never thought too deeply about why.
As I have always said, Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of al-Rassan is probably my favourite novel and the relationship of characters Jehane and Ammar captivated me. Upon taking this deeper, Jehane and Ammar may well have been prototypes for Fallon and Kerris, and suddenly, things began to twig for me. I had stumbled upon a theme.
Fallon and Kerris, Ivy and Sebastien, even at a stretch, Aryss and Stormfall. The same relational dynamic was displayed. Why, I asked myself. Where did this theme start?
Then it hit me. Tarzan and Jane.
I was a big Burroughs buff in my youth (along with Wells, Verne, et al) and being a zoologist, the notion of a man not only living but thriving in the wild thrilled me. He was raw, natural and elemental, understanding things that were beyond the experience of civilized society. Now add Jane, a product of her environment but better, with an open mind, a thirst for knowledge and a desire for more than what society had set out for her. Just like Fallon, just like Ivy. The wild man of the elements? Kerris and Sebastien. Intellect drawn to instinct, and vice versa like the yin-yang symbol I so love.
It’s always there if I keep digging. Phileas Fogg wants more, Passepartout makes it happen. Holmes is the lighthouse, Watson the sandbar he is built upon. Cathy is the aristocracy, Heathcliff the anarchy. Stormfall at war in his life with the sticks. And so it goes. Whether it’s romantic, filial, or philosophical, my favourite couple is the coupling of opposites and how they ultimately bring harmony to a story and sometimes a happy ending.
Whew. That was tough! I should have just said Black Beauty and Ginger over a cup of tea. But I thank the person who asked this question. It really helped me put a spotlight on some of my own personal themes and tropes and I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this for weeks to come.
So I challenge you to think about who your favourite literary couples are, and why? Drop me a note once you’ve thought it through!