Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pondering the Deeper Meanings of Romantic Fiction

By Glenys O'Connell
If you're reading this, the chances are good that, like me, you're a fan of romance books in one or more of their many forms. But have you ever really thought about what these romantic stories mean to you? I've been thinking about this a bit recently – yes, my mind does tends to wander off at these strange tangents.

The conclusion I came to is that romantic fiction actually fills some very basic needs for us. For example, no matter what your age, gender, creed, ethnic group or sexual orientation, the odds are pretty good that you want to be loved and to love in return. A simple, basic human need.

In romantic fiction, our heroines  long for a soul mate, for someone in sync with her thoughts, feelings and desires. No matter how modern and competent a woman may be, she looks for someone who will be her protector, who will guard her in that vulnerable time when her children are young. Our heroes seek to have that part of themselves fulfilled, too. The Ying & Yang, if you like – that want to be a hero to that special someone whose very touch makes them dream of a forever kind of relationship. Even if that thought has terrified them before!

We all have a deep need to be the centre of someone's universe, someone who will be faithful exclusively to us. It's called true and lasting love, and that's what we find in romantic fiction.

But humans aren't the only creatures on the planet who feel this need. There are many species that mate for life, who live in communities where exclusive couple relationships are the norm.

Those included in that list may surprise you. After all, who would have thought termites were romantic beings at heart? And Gibbons – well, you might not fancy them, but believe me, there's a special someone for each of them, too. That great Canadian icon, the Beaver? Yep, he and she dream of a long life together in their cosy lodge. Black vultures certainly aren't on the list of the most attractive critters, either, but they, too, long for a committed relationship with a significant other. And you'd go a long way to find a more committed pair than the Alpha wolf and his Alpha mate.

Lots of people dislike crows – through the ages they've been accused of everything from witchcraft to feasting on dead bodies on battle fields. They've been killed mercilessly; in some countries their pathetic corpses have been hung on the fences of farm fields in the belief that this would warn other crows away.

Not so – crows mate for life, but they also have a wider family and community life. When a crow dies, his family and friends join his mate by the body and mourn his loss. Imagine their pain when they see their friends and loved ones killed so pointlessly.

Some of these animal and bird lovers have a special place in our hearts. My favourites, the Canada Geese (I've talked about my feelings for them before in this blog!) take on one partner only, for life.

And perhaps the most famous of all is the swan, a handsome bird, protected by the British Crown and in many jurisdictions - although it was once considered a feast fit for kings!

There's a wonderful song about two swans, and there are versions by John McDermott and by Christy Moore. I warn you – it's a real tear jerker! My DH sings it and it's guaranteed to have our two daughters in tears almost before the opening notes have sounded.

Here is an excerpt; you can read the rest by either John McDermott or Christy Moore – that's if you want a really good weep!

…a dark day in November With the searing cold that starts Stalked the hunter with his bow And put an arrow through her heart
"Husband come to my side And let your feathers warm my pain For I feel I will not spend Another day with you again"
And the cold winds blow He was brave but he laid low By her body in the Isle of Mist I saw her give him one last cold kiss One last cold kiss
Now swans like people Talk of only one in this life take Though they brought him 20 ladies He would take no other bride.......

Now, I’d love to hear your comments about why you read romance, and what gives you the most satisfaction in their fictional relations.


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Glenys,
What a interesting blog. I especially felt moved by the swan. I knew they mated for life because recently over here some vicious thug killed a swan with a rock, and the male swan even tried to sit on the egg his "wife" had been protecting. Unfortunatley the egg didn't hatch, but the wild life officials were trying to find him another swan girlfriend.



Jannine Gallant said...

I'm a sucker for Happily Ever After. There's nothing worse (for me) than reading a book and having a bad ending for one of the main characters. Life has enough heartache and problems. I don't need to spend my spare time getting another dose of "reality!"

glenys said...

Margaret - where do these thugs come from? A while ago a group of 'children' stoned a clutch of cignets to death for fun in a village near here. The parent swans, who'd been brought in as a villiage beautiful addition, eventually had to be taken away for their own safety. Thanks for your comments!

glenys said...

Jannine - thanks for coming by! I agree, a happy ending is really important, and especailly so in any of the romance categories. Anything else is simply not satisfying! I think we all need to believe in happy endings, in our own lives, too.