Lessons In Love From Disney Characters Who Aren’t Princes Or Princesses


Here at Thought Catalog, we like to hold up the films of Disney and consider them with the same level of archetypal appreciation the ancients reserved for their myths. That’s because for many of us, Disney films are basically our Greek myths. They are our shared tales. Some of us watched them because we had a little sister, some of us were the little sister, some of us just watched because that’s what was on, whatever, the point is we watched. They’re lush stories populated with heroes, princesses, idealized situations and journeys to test the bold and stubborn. And, of course, there are all the songs. For so many reasons those Disney stories cling to us as the hours of our lives fly past.

Chelsea Fagan and Christopher Hudspeth have both killed it when it comes to talking Disney, offering all new angles to indulge in the ripe goodness. So I hope you’ll excuse me for offering a clumsier version, but bear with me as we wander off the beaten path and take a moment to peer past the princes and princesses and take a gander at some of the alternatives, the other great lovers and their romances. I thought we might check what other love lessons we were learning from the magical myths of Disney. (Try saying that three times fast).

First up, one of my favorites and a popular one in our culture:

1.  Peter Pan & Wendy

Their love story is an iconic relationship. One that’s fully entered our cultural lexicon. You know dudes who are Peter Pans. You may even know a few Wendys. She’s a girl not yet a woman, virginal and curious, equally stubborn, kinda proper and noticeably sheltered. Wendy never was my type. But I certainly relate to Peter Pan. And I warn you non-believers there are many of us out there. The Peter Pans of your world are attractive because, if Peter Pan is anything, he’s fun to be around. This is also how he remains eternally youthful. He chases fun. And thus, IRL Peters Pans will avoid responsibility and commitment like they were communicable diseases. Magnets for good times, they repel all non-fun situations (like a boring-but-necessary job).

Any guy who is a Peter Pan will likely exhibit a few core traits. They usually surround themselves with an under-performing group of friends and buddies that might best be described as The Lost Boys. He probably has at least one or two girls he’s casually romancing, like poor Princess Tiger Lily (it’s bad enough she’s such a racist depiction, but then she just gets teased with his affection). And lastly, a Peter Pan usually has one woman (or best-friend) in his life that will always stick by his side and jealously guard him. She may not have the benefit of magic pixie dust like Tinkerbell, but perhaps, like Tink she supplies him something else to help him fly, if you know what I mean. Whatever his drug, or the lifestyle of his choice, may be, this woman (or best-friend) will be right there with him, flying high. She doesn’t need him to change or grow. And neither does Peter Pan.

Sometimes it takes the stubbornness of a partner like Wendy to get a Peter Pan to grow up. To give him a reason. But before he might take her love seriously, Wendy must learn to fly. She has to trust and understand him, and get over her own fears and uptight weirdness. And inspired by her change, he’ll choose to change, and eventually a Wendy can bring her chosen Peter Pan into the adult world where people grow up and stop wearing green tights on a Tuesday. I feel for the Wendys of the world (male and female). And unfortunately, I understand the Peter Pans of the world. Adulthood is a tough sell for some of us. But the love of a good partner often sweetens the deal.

2. Eglantine Price & Dr. Emelius Browne


“Eglantine, Eglantine, Oh how you’ll shine,

 Your lot and my lot have got to combine

Eglantine, Eglantine, heart to the stars,

Destiny calls, the future is ours”

I figured this one’s a fun cheat since Bedknobs and Broomsticks is only a partially animated movie. But it’s such a rad love story of unassuming witch, old school awkward girl, Eglantine Price, and her equally befuddled, but cute, correspondence school magic instructor/ street-hustler, Dr. Emelius Browne. You gotta savor the flavor of their nerd love. Who doesn’t like it when two rare birds find each other? Doesn’t everyone hope to find their perfect complement?

Some people, like my favorite young witch, shut-in, and antisocial-superstar, Eglantine, are so specifically weird you wonder how they might ever find a partner. And yet, as we see in her case, sometimes circumstances conspire. Her white goth love story restores a little hope for all of us. Not that everyone needs a partner. You can surely just love this movie for its witchcraft.

You’ll notice Eglantine’s reluctant to love as well. At first she finds Dr. Browne boorish and unreliable, a washed-up waste; that is, until he displays some cunning and bravery in his modest way and shows her what he’s best at, bullshitting and ad-libbing with the eager, flexible mind of a street hustler on the grind. When the good doctor must referee the soccer game in order to distract the king long enough to get a chance to steal The Star of Astaroth, he runs a beautiful con, pays the physical price of a hero, and overcomes his selfishness and lying ways. He even starts to believe in the very magic he’s been peddling, and all because she believed in it, and thus, in him. But it all really comes together for them when they escape back to Jolly Olde England, and together must save her tiny village from invading Nazis using the army they cobble together from magically-endowed suits of armor, ancient weapons and other museum displays. They make some sweet magic together and kick Nazi ass. Which seems very romantic for a British couple.

If you think you’re one of those who may be a bit unique, so much so that dating doesn’t come easily, take faith in the fact you just need to find your Eglantine. She’s out there. When you meet her be sure to open up and sing her a silly song. Show her your boundless humanity and decency. Or, perhaps you’re the type who doesn’t know you’ve just been waiting to meet an Emelius Browne of your own. Since you never can be too sure about someone at first blush, try not to dismiss someone just because they don’t come in exactly the right package, don’t speak with the right and proper attitude, don’t know the right cultural references, and even if at first they don’t appear to be reliable or are trustworthy hands for you to place your heart. Give a person a little time to show you theirs. They may just be shy with such things. The key is that you enliven one another. You believe in one another. When you find someone with whom your heart matches, well, that’s when you can make some real substitutiary locomotion of your own.

3.  Lady & The Tramp


The spaghetti dinner. Sharing the one long piece of spaghetti. And their inevitable kiss. Sure, they had the benefit of eating with their faces rather than silverware, but seriously, how many times have you secretly wanted to live out that moment? Doesn’t matter if you’re Lady or the Tramp, we love such moments of romance. The coupling of Lady and the Tramp is a testament to the wonder and enchantment of a walk on the wild side and how one might find romance in the most unexpected places. Out of your comfort zone you’ll have a sudden need to find a new way to get comfortable, sometimes that gives love just enough time to slide in there and surprise you with someone you would’ve never considered.

Opposites attract. As much as we shun such lazy clichés, some have a timeless appeal. This is one of them. Each partner gets refreshed by the strangeness of the other one’s world or worldview. It’s part of the charm of travel romances. But it can be a part of your love life back home, if you let it be.

The Lady or the Tramp, the ones you never considered because they’re beneath you socially or economically, or you think they’re out of your league. But as the title for a recent documentary stated so well, the heart is a hungry hunter. We want what we want. If you crave someone who doesn’t make sense socially, a person who doesn’t “fit” with you or your worldview, to hell with what makes sense, we’re talking about love; share a plate of spaghetti with whomever you desire and let love blossom where it may.

4.  Robin Hood and Maid Marian


First time I saw Robin Hood, I told my little sister this was my favorite Disney film ever, and that for every two of her turns to pick a movie I’d just pick that one. And so it remains. May not be your favorite. But I go for a fun crime story. We all like to root for an under-dog, and in this case it’s an Errol Flynn-inspired fox who lives in the woods, goofs off most of his day, and occasionally robs the pathetically cruel Prince John. Now, that’s livin’. But more than just the outlaw lifestyle, which has so much obvious appeal, even as young boy, I also hoped one day I’d win a kiss from my own Maid Marian.

Their romance is another separation of the classes. Disney loves this thematic divide. She’s a lady of the castle, tied to royal life. He’s a forest-dwelling criminal with an over-abundant sense of social justice. Using them as my inspiration, in order to live out that romantic dynamic, in college I tried sleeping with a few Young Republicans. It’s not the same. As exhilarating as it seemed to be for them, the whole bad boy and princess thing didn’t really do it for me.

Watching Robin Hood one day, laughing and getting high with some friends in college, it dawned on me. I knew why. Maid Marian is a badass. That’s the appeal. She may be a lady in the streets, but you kinda guess she’s a freak in the sheets. And I don’t mean to imply that Madonna/Whore dynamic. I’m not talking about that. I see her as a portrait of an open confident woman who knows a broad spectrum. She’s all that and then some. She hangs with the boys in the woods, and she plays politics with the royals. And always her sympathies align with the disadvantaged. That’s another key to their love, at their core, Robin Hood and Maid Marian share the same sense of daring and social justice. They just do it differently.

She works from the inside, he lives outside. This dynamic often works beautifully. One partner might be some corporate lawyer while the other teaches adult school to those looking to get a leg up in life. I’ve seen it work with couples I know. If you’re looking for your Robin Hood, look for someone who shares your core values, even if outwardly you seem like natural opponents. One other note, Robin Hood pines for her, persistent to win her heart. And Maid Marian remains patient as she also pines for him. Sometimes, you gotta let time pass, at least until the good king gets back from the Crusades, so to speak.

Love is a curious thing. Disney draws love really well in bold strokes. They may not render the nuances of a realistic day-to-day love story, they may avoid story-lines with one-night stands, missed periods or a partner with a drug problem, but all those childhood archetypes still play on our hearts and our hopes like a giant emotional harp. A lot of us have a huge soft-spot for watching love played out by princes and princesses, dogs and foxes, frogs and fairies. If you’re feeling lonely or blue, if you’re wondering what to do, if you’re lover has gone and left you, maybe throw on some Disney films and feed your heart some silliness, hug up on the soft furry-face of animated love and entertain some childish wishes and perhaps dream of the love you desire or kiss off the one just ended. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and bump into someone new at your local Redbox.

[Secret Bonus: the full movie of Robin Hood (it’s off-center so it goes unnoticed on Youtube). But if you’re in an outlaw mood you can enjoy it here.]

Buy Zaron’s newest Thought Catalog Book here.