Thursday, 9 June 2016

I'm Sorry, But the Love Triangle is a Zombie.

"Love is boring. Lovers even more so." - Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki

You hear it all the time. "Not another love triangle."  "It was good, apart from the love triangle." "Why does every story need a love triangle?" And, I'm not going to disagree. Frankly, love triangles seem to have become a box-ticking cliche in YA fiction. That's not to say that they cannot be done well. They can. 

(When they're not just bunged in because YA, that is.)

Well said. Unfortunately, love triangles are like zombies. They just don't seem capable of dying, or even going into temporary hibernation on Avalon to wait for their second coming.
You can find love triangles in...

Arthurian Mythology 

Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot is probably the most famous love triangle of all time. Not to mention Guinevere/Lancelot/Elaine, and Mark/Isolde/Tristan, which came before both of the above and is thought to have been adopted into Arthurian legend. All three of these end in death and, one of them at least, is reguarly blamed for the fall of an entire kingdom.

Classical Mythology 

  • Menelaus/Helen/Paris is probably the most famous. It ended in the Trojan war. That's right, thousands died over a love triangle. And you thought implying that Bella should've ended up with Jacob was a bad idea...
  • Agamemnon/Clytemnestra/Aegisthus, and Clytemnestra/Agamemnon/Cassandra. Ended in murder. Also, it might never have happened if Agamemnon hadn't left to fight in the Trojan war. Nice going, Paris and Helen.
  • Hephastus/Aphrodite/Ares
  • Apollo/Hyacinthus/Zephyr. Ended in murder.
  • And so on and so forth... Pretty much all of them ended the same way. In tragedy. The Ancient Greeks hated happy endings.
Norse Mythology

Sigyn/Loki/Angrboda. Interestingly, the affair produces monstrous children (though that may have something to do with the parents being frost giants, this being mythology, and Loki being the father than anything else). The children from the affair are also the ones who get to survive (until Ragnarok, at least).

Gothic Fiction

Usually two or more per novel. After all, jealousy and revenge are such good excuses for committing terrible wrongs. There's Heathcliff/Catherine/Edgar, and Linton/Cathy/Hareton in Wuthering Heights. The Monk has Matilda/Ambrosio/Antonia, and Lorenzo/Antonio/Ambrosio. Of course, this is Gothic fiction, so it's better for your stomach if you don't trace any of their family trees.

Most Classics

Jane/Rochester/Blanche, and Rochester/Jane/St. John in Jane Eyre, one in pretty much every Austen novel, and let's not even get started on Shakespeare...

Actual History 

Unfortunately, this trope is based on real life. Mark Anthony/Cleopatra/Julius Caesar ended in death, and Catherine of Aragon/Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn started with divorce and ended with execution.

To sum up, this trope has survived the fall of Camelot, the Trojan war, Ragnarok, the sheer ickiness of Gothic love triangles, Austen novels, and millenia of real-life royals. It is not going to die simply because it's hit a snag. Sooner or later, it'll fall out of fashion and return to being a what it once was - a motive, pure and simple. A way for writers to foster jealousy and breed suspiscion. A way to topple kingdoms, and make good men turn their coats. Not just a way to drive a wedge between brothers.

The love triangle may seem like it's on its last legs, but it will undoubtedly rise again. Probably twenty times more powerful.

(Lord, help us.)

 What's the best love triangle you've ever read? What's the worst?