Bookworms love a good retelling. Some romantic ships, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, we will read or watch over and over, in every possible setting, without ever getting tired. Oftentimes, authors write retellings because there is something confusing about or missing from the original. For example, in Emma, many people think Mr. Knightley is too old and a chronic mansplainer, so modern retellings will “fix” this problem and make the romance more relatable to a modern audience. However, for some of these classic couples, they are so perfect in their original form that they need nothing to improve upon them. Here is a list of some of my favorite classic couples that need no retellings, and a few that I think should have one.
Don’t: Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables
These two have been my OTP for as long as I can remember. Everything about their relationship is goals. In the beginning, Anne vows to always hate Gilbert for teasing her about her red hair. He, on the other hand, is head over heels and spends years trying to get her to love him back. Eventually, she forgives him and they become friends, but it takes her years to realize that she cares for him romantically (she was the last to know). They’re both smart, driven, and ambitious, and their competition to get the best grade pushes them both to be better. Gilbert admires how smart Anne is and pushes her to be the best writer she can be. I’ve always loved their enemies-to-friends, then friends-to-lovers dynamic, and how mutually supportive they are.
Don’t: Westley and Buttercup from The Princess Bride
Featuring a romantic lead so charismatic, he would inspire a generation of little boys named after him, this classic couple is iconic for good reason. Westley, besides being charming and adorable, is also incredibly sacrificial, not just in the big ways, like saving Buttercup from Vizzini, and later Humperdinck, but in the small, everyday things. For him, “as you wish” means “I love you.” He puts Buttercup before himself, always. In return, Buttercup unflinchingly believes in him, in his love for her and his ability to save her. Their commitment to each other needs no fixing or updating.
Don’t: Eowyn and Faramir from Lord of the Rings
This relationship has always been so beautiful to me, because both Eowyn and Faramir are deeply hurt when they meet. Faramir has always felt overshadowed by his older brother Boromir, who is now dead, and Eowyn is mourning the death of her uncle and also feels rejected by Aragorn, the man she thought she loved who didn’t love her back. Both are witnessing epic death and destruction. Yet, in each other, they find comfort and healing and it’s beautiful. I’m personally just happy that my favorite LOTR character, Eowyn, finally found a man worthy of her badassery.
Don’t: Daisy and Gatsby in The Great Gatsby
Yes, I know what you’re going to say. Gatsby and Daisy are a hot mess. I would argue, though, that they need no retelling because the original novel accomplishes exactly what the author intended to do. This couple was always doomed, because Daisy is incredibly selfish and Gatsby has idealized her, so that in his mind, she is much greater than she really is. They also exemplify how an affair can wreck two peoples’ lives and the lives of everyone around them. F. Scott Fitzgerald captures both how gorgeous and tragic their story is with his stunning prose, and it still comes across clearly to audiences today. Romance doesn’t have to end happily to be beautiful.
Do: Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights
Speaking of hot messes, these two deserve that label more than anyone else. Since childhood, they have loved each other, but it’s an obsessive, unhealthy love. Instead of seeing themselves as two different people who complete each other, they see themselves as the same person. Even after Catherine marries someone else (itself problematic), Heathcliff continues to pursue her, and after she dies, he seeks revenge on her husband and even digs up her grave to look at her one last time. Despite the dysfunction, I think we can still learn lessons and this classic romance is still worthwhile, but the novel itself is dense, hard to read, and honestly drags at times. If this story were updated to a modern setting and voice, it could be fascinating—like a dark, disturbing trainwreck you can’t look away from.
Do: Amy and Laurie from Little Women
This ship has always been overlooked, understandably so. In the novel, Amy is selfish and bratty, and we don’t want her to end up with our precious Laurie. Greta Gerwig’s adaptation last year succeeded in making us sympathize with Amy and root for her romance with Laurie. Still, I felt their relationship was underdeveloped. I bought them as a couple, but I wanted to see more of the moments that made them fall in love. Why they love each other is never explained. This makes sense, because the movie has to explore the lives of all four sisters, especially Jo, but if Laurie and Amy were to have their own novel, I think their story could be fleshed out into something exceptional.
Bonus: Rosencratz and Guildenstern from Hamlet and Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead
Now, I could write a whole separate list about bromances. Classic and modern literature is filled with such iconic duos, but I would argue that Rosencratz and Guildenstern are the original bromance. We never see one without the other. They complete each other, in a totally healthy way, and their banter is top-notch. They’re witty, hilarious, and everything I would wish to be in a friendship.