Friday, April 26, 2024

W is for Widows and Widowers (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.


A widow or widower finding love again after suffering the great loss of their first spouse is also a common trope in romance stories. It deals with grief, loss, healing, vulnerability, and second chances.

(Image above is from the Australian TV show Love me, which I highly recommend.)


When one thinks of classic fairy tales, second marriages is not what usually comes to mind. But in the wider tradition of folklore, widows and widowers do find love again sometimes (and not just in the form os jealous stepmothers).


The widow of Ephesus (Roman legend)

This story had a long life from ancient times (Petronius' Satyricon) all the way through the Middle Ages. It deals with a widow grieving for her husband, who slowly falls in love with one of the cemetery guards. When the guard fails at guarding the body of a crucified criminal, and is about to be executed for neglecting his duties, the widow volunteers the body of her own husband to save his life. Over the course of history, this story was often touted out as an example of the inconsistency of women, but it also has a reading where it is about saying yes to life and second chances.

The beggar and the kind boy (Hungarian folktale)

The hero of this one is a kind-hearted boy that helps and old beggar, and in exchange wins the ability to transform into the shape of three different animals. When the king needs a fast messenger to warn his daughter (the widow queen of a neighboring kingdom) of an impending attack, the boy takes on the task. During his visit, he falls in love with the queen, and leaves her a feather, a fish scale, and a piece of rabbit fur from his transformations. Later he is almost destroyed by a jealous soldier, but eventually he manages to reunite with his beloved queen.

Qamar Al-Zamaan (Lebanese folktale)

This one is actually a quite beautiful two-part folktale I have mentioned earlier (under C). In the second part, jealous women have the hero Qamar's wife and childrne killed, and he has to go through a long journey of grief. He sets out into the world to find healing, meets a barner and befriends him, finds a home in the barber's house with his kind mother who has also suffered grief, and eventually falls in love with the princess who lives next door. 

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. It's nice to see some stories where the widow/widower finds love again without it being to give children a "new" parent. These are for the happiness of the adult. The Roman legend is kind of icky, with the dead husband's body. She didn't fall in love with the guard so quickly the body wasn't a bit worse for wear I would guess!

  2. I'm always in favor of coming through grief and finding second chances!

  3. It's a sweet trope, evil step-mothers aside.

    Ronel visiting for W: My Languishing TBR: W