Interspecies romances, or animal brides and bridegrooms, are a staple of fairy tales. Often, the animal object of affection is actually a human who has been transformed, and this animal guise unsurprisingly makes romance difficult.
Above: An interspecies courtship in Baroness d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat”
In “The She Bear” from Giambattista Basile’s 1634 collection of fairy tales, Il Pentamerone, the princess Preziosa transforms into a bear to avoid one bad romance—her father’s indecent proposal—only to find another problematic one—a prince who falls in love with her in bear form. The prince almost dies from lovesickness for the bear and so everyone agrees that the She Bear and the prince should marry. Luckily, before her marriage to the prince is consummated, she turns back into a girl, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Above: Siegfried and Odette die for love in Pacific Ballet Northwest’s production of Swan Lake
Falling in love with a human in animal form doesn’t always work out so happily. In Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake, Prince Siegfried falls in love with the cursed Swan Queen, Odette, but accidently gets engaged to her human doppelganger, Odile. Realizing that their interspecies romance will never be, and running out of options to break the swan curse, Odette and Siegfried decide to drown themselves so that they can be together in human form in heaven.
Above: Colin Farrell as David with his brother, who has been transformed into a dog, in The Lobster.
While animal transformations work to thwart romance in fairy tales, it is lack of romance that leads to animal transformations in Yorgos Lanthimos’s recent film The Lobster. At the start of the movie, we learn that the protagonist, David, will be turned into an animal of his choosing if he can’t find love within 45 days. This has already happened to David’s brother, who chose to become a Border Collie. David decides if he must become an animal he’ll become a lobster, reckoning that the lobster’s long lifespan will give him plenty of time to find a (species appropriate) romantic partner.