When you're in love, it feels as though you're living in a fairy tale. The prince or princess of your dreams has chosen you, and you're going to spend the rest of your lives together, happily ever after, in a castle on a hill with singing furniture and animals that do all the cleaning. Right?
Of course, real life never works out that way (show me a mouse that does dishes, for example). But fantasy does tell us some important underlying truths about the experience of being in love. There's a reason that romance has always had a fantasy element. (Think of Odysseus falling in love with the sorceress Circe, who turned his men into swine, or Oberon and Titania deciding the fates of lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Mr. Rochester asking Jane Eyre if she is one of the fairies). Romance is a sort of magic: it changes our perception of the world, making us believe that we've found the person we are meant to be with, that the two of us are truly one. It can fill us with an ecstatic sense of joy and make us feel as though the furniture could sing -- if we just listened closely enough. But fantasy also shows us some darker truths about love. The modern popularity of paranormal romance has its roots in fairytales about women marrying bears, and bulls, and other beasts, which reveal that the one we love is not, in fact, a version of ourselves, but another being -- one we can never know completely. Love can overcome those differences, but they are still differences. Fairytales also reveal that love is difficult: sometimes you have to climb a glass mountain in iron shoes or confront a bloodthirsty ogress. I think some of the truest and most important stories about love are fantasy stories, which show us both love's power and its complexity.
Here are my choices for the top 10 fantasy love stories, both ancient and modern. Fair warning: none of them involves sparkly vampires!
Theodora Goss is the author of the recently released novella "The Thorn and the Blossom" from Quirk Books. She is a World Fantasy Award winner and has been repeatedly showcased in the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror series.