Wednesday, April 24, 2024

U is for Unrequited love (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.


Where there is romance, there is usually unrequited love (that sometimes goes beyond the bounds of what is acceptable). It's either part of a love triangle, or exists by itself.


Folklore is full of love stories that don't end well, and feelings that are not returned. But honestly, a lot of these come from villains, or other unsavory characters - or, in a lot of cases, the scorned lover ends up dead.


Ivar Ingimundarsson (Icelandic legend)

A talented young musician from Iceland travels to the royal court of Norway, leaving a girl he fancies behind. He promises to return to marry her. From Norway, he sends his brother to her with a message - but the brother decides to marry her instead. When Ivar finds out, he sinks into deep depression. His friend the king tries to cheer him up in all kinds of ways - but in the end, patient listening is what does the trick.

Girolles and Agathe (French romance)

I like this medieval story because in the end, the scorned suitor graciously accepts his defeat. It's about a squire in love with a lady, but her father doesn't approve of the match. When she is to be married to someone else, both suitors show up, and the squire prepares a set of riddles to win the lady. In the end, the lovers are united, and the other gentleman concludes a woman who doesn't love him would not have been a good match anyway.

The minaret of Mausum Shah (Legend from Pakistan)

A Muslim man falls in love with a Hindu woman, but she doesn't like him, and neither of them is willing to convert anyway. Still, he keeps on courting her. Finally she demands that he builds a minaret to prove his love for her. He does so, but when he fulfills his promise, she still refuses him, and mockingly tells him to jump off the tower. He does - but a divine hand catches him and saves his life. Realizing his love was misguided, he becomes an anchorite, and leads a holy life.

There are also versions of the legend of the Lady of Stavoren where she sends out a lovestruck suitor to bring her the most precious thing in the world. When he brings grain, and she mocks him, he realized his mistake, and leaves her for good.

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. A good lesson in that French story. If she didn't love him, move on. Microsoft Copilot had a nice retelling, and this post is one of the links!

  2. Unrequited love can be so sad, tragic in fact, especially when the object of love becomes a tormentor. Just tell the guy or girl to take a hike (politely) instead of playing with them and mocking them. That's just cruel.


  3. We have this sort of tale in our legends too.
    Locksley at George's GP World

  4. Definitely sensible and healthy to realize that someone who doesn't love you isn't worth pining for. Not always easy, though!