Read a hundred back cover blurbs of romance novels, and you’ll find a hundred different tropes, meet cutes, plot twists, and challenges to overcome—the list could go on. But all will/should have one thing in common: the path will ultimately lead to a happy ending.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Being the curious person that I am, I wondered where this well-known phrase originated. There appear to be two trains of thought regarding this, both appearing on Quora (www.quora.com). Gaku Sato says, “Variations appear in Boccaccio’s The Decameron from 1350s. It’s in Florentine Italian, and various similar forms are used repeatedly. So this is a very early use of the idea if not the precise formula. From the famous John Payne translation:
‘they continued happy together as long as they lived’
‘and lived happily with him all the rest of her life’
‘They lived afterwards very happily together.’
and many more.”
According to John Welch, “the first recorded use of ‘happily ever after’ occurs in a translation of a story by Giovanni Boccaccio’s in his Il Decamerone, (The Decameron) published in 1702. It ends with a marriage, described thus: ‘Paganino, hearing the news, married the widow, and as they were very well acquainted, so they lived very lovingly, and happily, ever after’.
Early in the 1800s two German brothers, Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm, collected and published more than 200 fairy tales. At about the same time a Dutchman, Hans Christian Andersen, was also writing similar stories. When translated into English these often began and ended with the formulaic: ‘Once upon a time…’ and ‘… and they [all] lived happily ever after’. (Whether that accurately reflects what was written in the original languages I can’t say.)”
PSA: A friendly reminder, what we read on the Internet may or may not be true. 😊
As a romance reader and writer, a happy ending is paramount. On the few occasions when I’ve finished a story and this isn’t the case, I have expressed my clear disappointment—kindly, of course—in a review. Even when there is another book in the series, each one needs to come to some sort of satisfying conclusion—for me.
I construct my books in an unconventional way. I write the beginning first, then the ending, and then let the characters figure out how to get there. In most cases, the ending contains a “grand gesture.” I want the happy ending to move my readers. I want them to laugh and cry!
Now, it’s your turn. I want to hear your thoughts about the HEA (happily ever after):
- How important is the HEA to you? Is a declaration of wanting to exclusively date or even an “I love you” sufficient?
- Should the HEA include a marriage proposal? A wedding? One widely used strategy is to end the book with an engagement and then an epilogue with the wedding. Do you like this combination?
- Another approach is ending the book with a wedding and an epilogue taking place anywhere from one to a few years later that gives the reader information about the couple’s family life—children, etc. Do you prefer this long-term wrap-up? Of course, if there is a next book in the series, oftentimes these details are revealed when the main characters from an earlier book make an appearance.
Leave a comment with your favorite kind of happy ending and/or tell me the best one you’ve ever read (title and author if you can remember), and you’ll be entered into a random drawing for my newest release, Sisters Ever After* (eBook for international readers, choice of print or eBook for US). Deadline to comment is 5PM MST on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
One more thing. While God’s design for love and marriage can offer a beautiful happy ending, it’s not the most important one. …HE is the real hope for that eternal happily-ever-after (quoted with permission from author Jennifer Rodewall). If you have not yet accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, I would love to walk you through the simple steps and pray with you. Send me an email at Erin@ESQwrites.com
* Did you see that EVER AFTER appears in the title? I guarantee it has a most happy ending.