The best love stories are the ones that are tragic. While all of us love a candyfloss romance that ends happily, we agree that tragic love stories have a beauty that happy ending fairytales just don’t. While fairytales are magical and make us smile, it is the tales of unrequited love that really touch a chord in our hearts. There’s something poignant about pining for a lost love, a romance that was not to be, a story left incomplete.
Our repertoire is full of love stories that did not work out. Our lovers have endured everything ranging from evil society to disapproving parents, misunderstandings to circumstances. Some have weathered the storm, but the ones we remember most fondly are the ones who didn’t make it to their happy ending. So here is a list of the top ten couples from literature, cinema and real life, whose love stories did not work out. Their love will go on.
10- Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca
Casablanca is an iconic movie, but its portrayal of the love story between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, playing Rick and Ilsa respectively, has been awarded a cult status. Their love is passionate, but tragic. The very nature of their love drives them apart. It’s superficial and shallow, but that does not mean it is without true emotions. They can’t be together, but at least they’ll always have Paris. Casablanca is just another reminder that not all love stories have happy endings.
9- Jo and Laurie from Little Women
Love is friendship, they say. Friendships that turn into love are always our favourite. But it’s especially sad when these friendships do not, or can not, work out into something more. In Lousia May Alcott’s Little Women, we all rooted for Laurie. Sadly, it was not to be. His boyish affection, and later, love, for Jo go unreciprocated. Headstrong and ambitious Jo looks upon Laurie as a brother, while he is deeply in love with her wild spirit. He settles for the pretty and dainty Amy in the end, but this is one tragic love story that affected all readers deeply.
8- Sohni and Mahiwal
This is one of the most famous romances of India. A folklore of Punjab, the love story of Sohni and Mahiwal is one that could still be relevant today. Sohni, a beautiful girl of the Kumhar community, is not allowed to marry her lover Mahiwal, for he is an outsider to their community. Unhappy and trapped in her own marriage, she floats on an earthen pot across the river every night to meet Mahiwal. When one night her sister in law replaces her pot with one of unbaked clay, which dissolves in water, Sohni dies drowning in the river.
7- Gatsby and Daisy
What is more romantic, and more tragic, than the love story of a rags to riches man who achieves wealth and fame in order to attract the woman he has loved for years. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic- The Great Gatsby- is the story of millionaire Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the charming, mysterious and married Daisy Buchanan. This love story has all the ingredients for a perfect entertainment- a rich man, his beautiful love interest, extra marital affairs, a tragic accident and sacrifice. Set against the backdrop of the American Jazz age and all its splendour, the Great Gatsby is a novel that has made it to the list of some of the most famous love stories that did not work out.
6- Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is considered to be one of the greatest and most important unrequited love stories of literature. Written in 1845, this is again the timeless classic saga of class and status keeping lovers apart. Heathcliff’s lack of education and manners do not allow for him to marry Cathy, who loves him too. When Cathy marries Edgar, what follows is years of revenge, complicated family lines and bitterness.
5- Tristan and Isolde
Tristan and Isolde is a musical opera by Richard Wagner, is inspire by the 12th century love story of Tristan and Iseult. Considered to be one of the most influential love stories of all times, it details the travails of a princess who falls in love with the nephew of the king she is promised to. They are separated, and years of weeping over each other ensue. When Tristan is wounded (different versions hold different takes on how he is wounded) Isolde is the only one who can cure him. Unfortunately, Tristan dies thinking that Isolde has betrayed him, and she dies crying over his corpse. Truly a tragic love story.
4- Devdas and Paro
This famous Bengali novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya is the darling of Bollywood. It has been adapted and again for the big screen, so much so that in India, unrequited love is just about synonymous with Devdas and Paro. Devdas, the son of a rich family, returns to India with hopes of marrying his childhood sweetheart Parvati, or Paro. Parvati’s family, however, is lower in status than that of Devdas’. What follows is his tragic descent to alcoholism and dance houses, and ultimate death. This story also contains the subplot of another unrequited love- that of Chandramukhi and Devdas. Devdas dies on Paro’s doorstep, without the two ever meeting. It is then small wonder that Devdas is considered one of the most iconic love stories that didn’t work out.
3- Jack and Rose from Titanic
Every one of us has grown up loving Titanic. The love story of Jack and Rose plays out the same old cliché- the free spirited poor boy and the betrothed rich girl who fall in love. Set against the splendour of the ‘unsinkable’ and gorgeous Titanic, this love story is all the more tragic because only Jack dies. And he dies while trying to save Rose in the sinking of the Titanic. Rose lives on, and keeps Jack alive in her memory. I believe that their love will go on, because this love story has taught me that not all love stories need to have a happy ending in order to be beautiful.
2- Heer Ranjha
Waris Shah’s epic poem of unrequited love- Heer Ranjha- has acquired a cult status in Indian consciousness. This is the story of a beautiful woman- Heer- who is forced to marry someone she does not love, and Ranjha- her lover who becomes an ascetic. When Heer’s family poisons her food and she dies, Ranjha eats the same poisoned food in his grief over her death. In death, therefore, they are united. Their memorial still stands in Heer’s village of Jhang, and is frequented by lovers across the country.
1- Romeo and Juliet
When you say ‘unrequited love’, 99.99% of people around the world will think of Romeo and Juliet. One of the world’s most famous tragedies, written by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet is the story of two lovers from rival families of Verona. These star crossed lovers, as they have gone down in history, belong to noble families who are sworn enemies of each other. They kill themselves over each other, knowing that they can never be together, one with poison and the other with a dagger. With their death, their families end their old feud. Their young and cursed love makes Romeo and Juliet the number one on the list of love stories that did not work out. One can only hope they meet in Heaven.