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It was ‘Layla-Majnun’ and not ‘Laila-Majnu’!

We all have known, heard and talked about these epic love stories forever, but have we really bothered to find out where they all came from and who from?

Read here 5 Epic Love Stories with their origins, writers ,plots and their world famous adaptations!

#1. Layla & Majnun

Origin- It’s an Arabic folklore – a love story from the Middle East.

Writer- Nizami Ganjavii (1141 to 1209)

Nezāmi is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature who brought a colloquial and realistic style to the Persian epic.

Story

Layla was a beautiful girl born in a rich family. Being no less than a princess, she was expected to marry a wealthy boy and live in grandeur and splendor. But Layla fell in love with Qays (Majnun) and he too loved her dearly. Qays was a poet and belonged to the same tribe as Layla. He composed splendid love poems and dedicated them to his lady-love, telling in them his love for her and mentioning her name often. Qays’ friends knew about his affair with Layla and they often teased and made fun of his love. But such taunts had no effect on Qays. He was deeply in love with Layla and it was her thoughts alone that possessed his mind for all time.

But Qays was a poor lad. And when he asked for Layla’s hand in marriage, her father promptly refused him as he didn’t want her daughter to marry below her status. It would mean a scandal for Layla according to Arab traditions.

As fate would have it, the two lovers were banished from seeing each other. Soon after, Layla’s parents married her off to a wealthy man and she went on to live in a big mansion.

When Qays heard of her marriage he was heartbroken. He fled the tribe camp and wandered in the surrounding desert. His family eventually gave up on his return and left food for him in the wilderrness. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing Layla’s name in the sand with a stick. Day and night, he pined for her.

Layla was no better. Separated from Qays, she was shattered in mind, body and spirit. Not long afterwards, in 688 AD, she moved to Iraq with her husband, where she fell ill and died eventually.

When Qays’ friends came to know about Layla’s death, they went looking for him all over to give him the news. But they could not find him.

Not much later, their search for him came to an end. Qays was found dead in the wilderness near Layla’s grave. On a rock near the grave, he had carved three verses of poetry, which are the last three verses ascribed to him.

“I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla

And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses”

Qays went mad for his love; for this reason he came to be called “Majnu”, or “Majnun Layla”

Famous adaptation- In Indian hindi movie “Laila Majnu” (1976) directed by Harnam Singh Rawail and starring Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta.

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#2. Heer & Ranjha

Origins- It’s one of the four most popular tragic romances of the Punjab.(India)

Writer- Waris Shah

Waris was a Punjabi Sufi poet, renowned for his contribution to Punjabi literature and is also called Shakespeare of the Punjabi language because of his great poetic love story

Story

Heer was an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang, Punjab. Ranjha (first name Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jat of the Ranjha clan, was the youngest of four brothers and lived in the village ‘Takht Hazara‘ by the river Chenab. Being his father’s favorite son, unlike his brothers who had to toil in the lands, he led a life of ease playing the flute . After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha left home and eventually arrived in Heer’s village and fell in love with her. Heer offered Ranjha a job as caretaker of her father’s cattle. She became mesmerized by the way Ranjha played his flute and eventually fell in love with him. They met each other secretly for many years until they were caught by Heer’s jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer was then forced by her family and the local priest or ‘mullah‘ to marry another man called Saida Khera.

Ranjha wass heartbroken. He wandered the countryside alone, until eventually he met a ‘jogi’ (ascetic). After meeting Baba Gorakhnath, Ranjha became a jogi himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord, “Alakh Niranjan“, he wandered all over the Punjab, and eventually found the village where Heer now lived.

The two return to Heer’s village, where Heer’s parents agreed to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Heer’s jealous uncle Kaido poisoned her food so that the wedding doesn’t takes place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushed to aid Heer, but he was too late, as she already ate the poison and died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha took the poisoned Laddu (sweet) which Heer ate and dies by her side.

Famous adaptation: In Indian hindi movie “Heer Ranjha” (1970) directed by Chetan Anand starring Raaj Kumar and Priya Rajvansh.

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#3. Romeo & Juliet

Origins- Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Origins- Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562

Writer- William Shakespeare

Story

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.

The Montague (Romeo’s Family) and Capulet(Juliette’s family) families were feuding.

The Count of Paris approached Lord Capulet about marrying his daughter, Juliet, but he was wary of the request because she was only thirteen. Capulet asked the Count of Paris to wait another two years and invited him to attend a ball. Lady Capulet and Juliet’s nurse urged Juliet to accept Paris’ courtship.

During the ball, Benvolio (a cousin of Romeo) discovered Romeo’s one-sided infatuation for the fair Juliette.

After the ball, Romeo sneaked into the Capulet courtyard and overheard Juliet on her balcony vowing her love to him in spite of her family’s hatred for his family. Romeo made himself known to her and they agreed to be marry each other.

With the help of a friar, who hoped to reconcile the two families through their children’s union, they get secretly married the next day.

Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, annoyed that Romeo had crashed the Capulet ball, challenged him to a duel. Romeo, now considering Tybalt his kinsman, refused to fight. Romeo’s friend, Mercutio was offended by Tybalt’s insolence, as well as Romeo’s “vile submission” and accepted the duel on Romeo’s behalf. Mercutio was fatally wounded when Romeo attempted to break up the fight. Grief-stricken and wracked with guilt, Romeo confronted and killed Tybalt.

The Prince exiled Romeo from Verona and declared that if Romeo returns, he will be executed. Romeo secretly spends the night in Juliet’s chamber, where they made love for the first and last time, consummating their marriage. In the morning, he prepared to leave and kissed her one last time.

Lord Capulet, misinterpreted Juliet’s grief, agreed to marry her to Count Paris and threatened to disown her if she refuses. Juliette pleaded for the marriage to be delayed, but her mother rejected her.

Juliet visited Friar Laurence for help, and he offered her a drug that will put her into a death-like coma for forty-two hours. The Friar promised to send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan, so that he can rejoin her when she awakens. On the night before her wedding to the Count, Juliet takes the drug and, when discovered apparently dead, she is laid in the family crypt.

The messenger, however, failed to reach Romeo and, instead, he learned of Juliet’s apparent demise from his servant. Heartbroken, Romeo bought poison from an apothecary and drank it.

Juliet then awakened only to find her beloved Romeo dead. Unwilling to live without him, she stabbed herself with his dagger.

The feuding families and the Prince met at the tomb to find all three dead. The Friar recounted their story. The families were reconciled by their children’s deaths and agreed to end their violent feud.

Famous adaptation: Romeo + Juliet (1966) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

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#4. Pyramus and Thisbē


Origins- These are two characters of Roman mythology

Writer- Ovid

Ovid was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of poetry, the Heroides, Amores and Ars Amatoria, and of the Metamorphoses. His poetry greatly influenced European art and literature and remains as one of the most important sources of classical mythology.

Story

Pyramus and Thisbe was the story of two lovers in the city of Babylon who occupied connected houses/walls.

Pyramus was the most handsome man and was childhood friend of Thisbe, the fairest maiden in Babylonia. They both lived in neighboring homes and fell in love with each other as they grew up together. However, their parents were against them marrying each other.

Through a crack in one of the walls, they whispered their love for each other. One night while everyone was asleep, they decided to slip out of their homes and meet in the nearby fields near a mulberry tree. Thisbe reached there first. As she waited under the tree, she saw a lion coming near the spring close by to quench its thirst. Its jaws were bloody. When Thisbe saw this horrifying sight, she panicked and ran to hide in some

hollow rocks nearby. As she was running, she dropped her veil. The lion came near and picked up the veil in his bloody jaws. At that moment, Pyramus reached near the mulberry tree and saw Thisbe’s veil in the jaws of the lion. He was completely devastated. Shattered, he pierced his chest with his own sword. Unknown to what just happened; Thisbe was still hiding in the rocks due to the fear of the lion. When she came out after sometime, she saw what her lover did to himself. She was totally shattered when she saw the sword piercing right through her lover’s chest. She also took the sword and killed herself.

In the end, the gods listened to Thisbe’s lament, and forever changed the color of the mulberry fruits into the stained color to honor the forbidden love.

Famous Adaptation : In a “mock opera” by the German-born composer John Frederick Lampe (1745)

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#5. Orpheus & Eurydice

Origins- It is a tale from Greek mythology.

Writer- There is no single author for this story- it’s been told and passed for generations!

Story

Orpheus fell deeply in love with and married Eurydice, a beautiful fairy. They were very much in love and very happy together. Aristaeus, a Greek god of the land and agriculture, became quite fond of Eurydice, and actively pursued her.

While fleeing from Aristaeus, Eurydice ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her legs. Distraught, Orpheus played such sad songs and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. In his anxiety he forgot that both needed to be in the upper world, and he turned to look at her, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

Famous adaptation : In a Brazilian film Black Orpheus (1959) by French director Marcel Camus