Saturday, April 20, 2024

R is for Reincarnation romance (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


This trope features a pair of lovers that are reborn (sometimes over and over again) and always find each other. The idea is that they are meant for each other over several lifetimes.


In cultures where reincarnation is part of the belief system, stories like this do exist.


The quiet girl (Tibetan folktale)

Three men court a girl, but she refuses the first two, and seems uninterested in marriage. When the youngest man meets an old woman on his way to visit the girl, the woman tells him her secret. The girl has been reborn again and again, alongside her husband, in the form of various animals, but their families always died in tragedy. Armed with this knowledge, the young man manages to win her heart. It is left up to interpretation whether he is actually her husband reborn again, but they do live happily.

The weaverbird princess (Thai folktale)

A variant of the previous story. A weaverbird couple loses their chicks, and the wife blames the husband. In their next lives they are reborn as humans. The wife is a princess who is promised to marry whomever can make her talk. Her husband shows up as a prince and manages to make her talk with his stories. Later, an evil mentor steals the prince's body and puts his own soul into it, but the couple maganes to find a way to set things right.

There is also a Hmong version of this same story, except in that one the husband is actually to blame. Also, the couple goes through a series of missed opportunities when they are not reborn in compatible bodies.

Midir and Étaín (Irish legend)

Probably the most famous reincarnation romance in Europe. When Midir (an immortal Sidhe prince) sets his first wife apart for Étaín, the ex-wife curses the woman to be turned into a fly and blown away by the wind. Étaín eventually lands in the cup of a chief's wife, and swallowed. The wife then gives birth to a girl, who is Étaín reborn. When she grows up, she is married to a king, but Midir manages to find her and win her back.

Indra as a cat (Legend from India)

At a wild party in the heavens Indra offens a visiting Brahman, and the Brahman curses him to die and be reborn as a cat in a hunter's house. His wife searches for him, and manages to convince the Brahman to tell her where her husband is. When she finds him, she prays to the goddess Káliká, who agrees to ease the curse: she puts cat-husband and wife to a deep sleep until the term of the 12-year rebirth is over. (Very Sleeping Beauty. But who wouldn't want a 12-year nap with their cat?)

Reincarnation also features into the famous love story of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!


  1. In The Quiet Girl it seems as if the man wants to save the girl from the repeated tragedy the families always incur. However, I will assume, unbeknownst to him, he's her past husband once again. That's the thing with reincarnation, you don't remember the past, so can't learn from it!

  2. A fly in a teacup gets swallowed then impregnates the drinker. Fantastic stuff! truly fantastic.

  3. I like the open-ended question of whether or not they really are the reincarnation, or whether believing it is enough to make the true love work...

  4. Interesting trope, with Hawk Man no1 on my list :-)

    Ronel visiting for R: My Languishing TBR: R