“Only a very special type of man can love one woman to the exclusion of everyone else. To the exclusion of everything else. To carry her memory across half the world and back again because of it, knowing that death is likely all that awaits him. A very special type of man indeed.”
– The Maisterspeaker, The Wolf of the North, by Duncan M. Hamilton
We learn the man’s name later, but at this point he is simply, “the Maisterspeaker,” and he is telling the story of one of his dearest friends and most stalwart comrades, a living legend to the people he is telling this story to. At this exact moment, he has touched on the subject of the woman whom his friend loved, the only one he ever loved. And, strangely, someone objects to this!
Now, at the very start of the story, a child objected to the idea that his hero had ever been chubby, weak, and bullied by the bigger boys. This does not fit the young boy’s image of a hero, after all, since heroes are so great and powerful, surely they could never have been something so human as he. But, ah, heroes are simply people, and they all had to grow up and become strong. The lesson there, of course, is that he can become strong too, just like his hero did.
In extreme contrast, the one objecting here is a grown man who doesn’t want the hero’s stature to be out of reach. Rather, he wants the hero of the story to be more like he, himself, wants to be. That is, he envisions this great warrior who is unburdened by such concepts as true love, marriage, and fidelity, as he slays men all day and lays with different women, any women he wants, every night. The man is, or wants to be, a womanizer, or even a rake, and he prefers the idea that the exalted heroes engage in exactly that, if only as a means to justify his own base desires and behavior.
But this hero is not that kind of man. He is a man who has loved only one woman, wholly, purely, and absolutely. She had his heart, and he never allowed any other to touch his heart or share his bed. He was hers. And when she died, or so it seemed (that goes into spoilers), he set himself on the path of taking justice for her death, by striking down the wicked men responsible for it, and for nearly killing him as well. Circumstances limited his immediate reach, and he had to flee before he could finish the job, intending to return later. That path took him across the ocean and into the heart of another land before he could make his way back, still holding to his intention, even knowing that death was likely all he would gain if he succeeded.
Oh, yes, he loved this woman, this one woman, so completely that he was willing to give everything for her, even when he knew he could get nothing in return for it.
Such is true love: faithful, enduring, and willing to sacrifice.
The world, in all its short-sighted desire, praises acts of lust over acts of love, acts of selfishness over acts of selflessness. It says that there is only the here and now, so enjoy it, by any means, and it mocks the sacrifices made in the name of love. When the world talks about romance, it talks about sex, sex, and more sex. Excitement of the moment is the rule, and pleasure is the goal, and so those who are more well-endowed, more creative, more successful in quantity and quality, or just plain easier to get with, these are the ones the world praises, and that is where the conversation stops. Quite literally, actually, as that is where couples who are too focused on the sex tend to end their conversation.
Now, I want to be clear, I am not here to knock sex. It is a wonderful thing when done properly, and there is no shame in the enjoyment of it.
However, there is more, so much more, to love than a mere, momentary thrill.
Love is a choice to be the best version of yourself for the person you love, and to support them in being their best self as well. Love is a promise to never hurt or betray or tear down the object of your affection. Love is affection, and devotion, and loyalty in all circumstances. Love is making thousands upon thousands of compromises, working together to create the balance of an undying partnership. Love is having each others’ backs, always. Love, especially romantic love, is giving one’s heart wholly to one person, excluding all others who might appeal in some lusty fashion, because one has entwined all of one’s desires to that single person. Love is doing all the big things and all the small things and everything in between. Love is respect and truth. Love is built slowly, day by day, for all of eternity.
To all the couples out there, I hope you have true love for one another. And to all those who are single, I hope you find true love in due time.
Happy Valentine’s Day!