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Forbidden love has been a favourite plot device of many storytellers. Especially in days gone by.

forbidden love pic

The ultimate story of forbidden love has to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We all know it: for some daft reason that no-one remembers the Capulets and Montagues are at odds; Romeo and Juliet fall in love even while knowing they shouldn’t; they try and fail to be together; she fakes being dead; he kills himself in grief and she follows suit.

Okay, so perhaps there’s more to the story to make it so lasting. Various retellings – mostly in movies – have come and gone.

In Titanic, Rose and Jack are separated by class. Yet he saves her in every way a person can be saved. And though he dies (spoiler alert) she loves him even beyond death. Every time we see Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio, we can’t help but remember them as they were in the movie.

Jack and Rose from Titanic

West Side Story is a musical where being in rival gangs of different ethnic backgrounds in New York City cause Tony to die and Maria to grieve. Alright, Tony hasn’t been an active member of the Jets for a while but he is still seen as one of them. And Maria’s brother is the leader of the Sharks. Continuing this foray into forbidden territory is just asking for trouble. Which they got, of course.

Tony and Maria from West Side Story

Gnomeo and Juliet is the story of two gardens at odds. One garden only has gnomes wearing red and the other only gnomes in blue. Juliet is a red and Gnomeo is a blue. They meet in the dark, both camouflaged, and fall in love. And even as they know their love can only end in tragedy, they forge ahead. The story has Elton John songs to lift the overall mood as well as a conversation with the statue of Shakespeare about how the end should be. This animated version featuring the voice talents of Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine and others has a happy ending.

There are others, of course, but these three stand out because of their different approaches to the same story.


But forbidden love doesn’t just belong to Shakespeare. It pops up in folktales from all over the globe.


I have read many stories involving ghosts of lovers. They usually include a couple who is forbidden to be together and death either reuniting them or dooming them to forever search for one another. However, one love story written centuries ago in China during the T’ang Dynasty, has an unexpected supernatural twist that begs the question, “Does love truly conquer all?”

The story was called “Between Body and Soul”. A young couple yearns to be together, but the girl has been arranged to marry another. The young man leaves his homeland, heartbroken.

For the rest of this tragic tale, go to https://4girlsandaghost.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/an-ancient-tale-of-forbidden-love/


The Fairy and the Woodcutter is one of the most popular of all Korean folktales. Almost all children in Korea grow up reading a version of this love story. The story has three well-known versions that differ mainly in plot length.

To read a synopsis of the folktale – which features love, fairy magic and tragedy – go to http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Culture/view?articleId=120797




In the presentation about Forbidden Love in East Asian Love Stories, various stories are mentioned containing the element of forbidden love.

“The Bride on a Hazy Moonlit Night ” Folktales From Japan, episode 119.

Ginko Fairy

White Snake

Star Wife

Cowherd and Weaving Maid

Butterfly Lovers

Yingying’s Story

Tang Xuanzhong

Ondal and Pyonggeong


To see the presentation on the subject, go to https://prezi.com/r-gcv5b1jm7j/forbidden-love-in-east-asian-love-stories/


The Sad Story of the Yaoya’s Daughter is a Japanese folktale where two youths meet and fall in love. “They pledged themselves to each other for the space of many existences” even as they knew they were doing wrong. When her family finally has a house and moves away from the temple where her lover lives, she falls into a state of depression. And finally burns down her family’s house. Of course, she is then burned at the stake for her crime (burning the house down, not for being in love even though she did blame love for her foolishness).

love pic 1

In medieval romances, the most prominent story arc is Queen Guinevere’s love affair with King Arthur’s chief knight, Lancelot. In most modern versions though, Guinevere stays faithful to Arthur despite feelings she might have for Lancelot.

Lancelot, Guinevere and Arthur

The tale of Tristan and Isolde was made popular through French medieval poetry. It’s inspired by the Celtic legend of the Cornish knight and the Irish princess who accidentally ingest a love potion causing them to fall madly in love even though the princess is to marry the knight’s uncle. The potion’s effects lasts a lifetime.

Of course, there’s a movie too.

Interestingly enough, I haven’t found many tales of forbidden love in Western European, American or African folklore. It mostly centres in Eastern Europe and Asia.

The closest I got, was this list of illicit lovers. Though they don’t really have the charm of forbidden love.

  1. The Himphamp (Scandinavia).
  2. The Smith and the Priest (Germany).
  3. The Story of the Himphamp (Germany).
  4. Stupid Hans (Germany / Poland).
  5. The Tale of the Basin (England).
  6. Jack Horner and the Innkeeper’s Wife (England).
  7. Link to The Enchanted Piss-Pot (England). This link leads to the Folklife West Journal, no. 6, p. 7 (April 1, 2011), and opens in a new window.
  8. The Plaisham (Ireland).
  9. The Raja’s Son and the Kotwal’s Son (India).
  10. The Love of Ares and Aphrodite (Homer, The Odyssey).
  11. Vulcan, Mars, and Venus (Ovid, The Metamorphoses).
  12. Vulcan, Mars, and Venus (The Romance of the Rose).


love pic 3

According to Wikipedia, forbidden love may refer to several soap operas and movies – mostly from Eastern Europe and Asia. And, of course, a song by Madonna.

This is a subject still found in modern news. At least in South Africa… Forbidden love allegedly led to Cape Town dad’s murder is an article from News24 on the 21st of July 2016.

And if you google modern stories involving forbidden love, pages filled with links and titles pop up.

When I think of books featuring forbidden love, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead springs to mind.

Though Rose and Dimitri are both Damphir which doesn’t make this too illicit, they will both guard the last Dragomir: a duty which will need their undivided attention and loyalty. And, of course, there’s the little problem that Dimitri is 24 and Rose only 17. Just like the movie examples earlier, love does conquer all. Even when Dimitri becomes a monster and Rose has to hunt him… Okay, they do have a happy ending when magic and love heals all. A must-read if you like vampires of a different kind, action, adventure and the whole forbidden love element in your books.

old books filled with stories of forbidden love

Forbidden love is, of course, a great story element. Which had been weaved through the entire series of the Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth.

Instead of having this story run the usual boy-meets-girl routine, I have them already in love. And in quite a lot of danger if anyone were ever to find out. Of course, someone finds out about them in almost every instalment – and nothing happens.

Until now.

In the newest instalment of the Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth, Daphne’s fear of her secret being discovered comes true. Will she burn for treason as she’s been dreading since the series started? Will loving the wrong man be the end of her? Find out in The Beginning of the End.


“A beautiful woman stepped forward, glaring at those from the Onyx Labyrinth.

‘I am Zinhle, the High Queen’s Guardian. I’m here with my fellow High Court Guardians to look into a matter of worry to my queen.’

She paused, looking everyone in the eye. Daphne refused to flinch or cower beneath the scrutiny.

‘Be warned: this is an inquisition into rumoured forbidden love. Everyone present is either involved or has knowledge thereof.’

Complete silence met her. Daphne was almost afraid. Not too long ago images of being burnt at the stake had haunted her. Yet it had been some time since she and Brandon had broken off their relationship. Still, this Grey Guardian looked sure of her facts. And some things were punishable by death no matter how long ago the offence had occurred. Daphne swallowed; she couldn’t imagine how this Guardian knew of happenings in the Onyx Labyrinth.”

The Beginning of the End, Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth, Ronel Janse van Vuuren


I hope you enjoy reading the eighth tale in the series. Comments can be left here or on Wattpad – I always appreciate feedback. Any stories of forbidden love in folklore, folktales or fairy tales you’d like to share?

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