The Four Loves

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"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things,

endures all things. Love never ends

Love is arguably the most important value of all. Everyone needs to love and be loved in return. This trope applies when a character's main motivation is to love, be loved or both.

Because "love" can apply in many situations and circumstances, for a better study of this trope, the concept of love will be divided into four different types as proposed by CS Lewis:

  • Storge (Affection/Family) - This is fondness through familiarity, especially among family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance.
  • Phileo (Friendship) - Friendship is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity.
  • Eros (Romance) - This is love in the sense of 'being in love'. (This is distinct from sexuality.) This kind of love longs for the emotional connection with the other person. According to C.S. Lewis, sexuality is called "Venus." It can be part of "Eros," but on its own, it is not one of the loves, just desire (not to be confused with Lust ).
  • Agape (Unconditional Love) - This is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. It is also a decision, not fueled by pure emotions (theoretically).

Also referenced as a minor note are loves for non-human things. Love for an animal is redirected to Storge according to CS Lewis, but love for nature and love for country are most noted as love for non-human things. Likings and preferences (for food, activities, etc) are also discussed especially as you can admire an object (like a painting for instance) just as you can admire a person.

It is notable that the descriptions are rough categories of types of love and not exclusive to each other. That is, more than one can appear between the same people. For instance, if Alice meets Bob at a Sci Fi convention and they continue to get together to talk about sci-fi, then they have Phileo. If Alice and Bob in the process become each others' Love Interests, they will also have Eros, but if they still get together to talk about sci-fi they still have Phileo. If they get married, live happily ever after, grow old together and like each others company simply because they are there, that is Storge. And if they make Heroic Sacrifices for each other, that is Agape.

Related to Like Brother and Sister and I Just Want to Have Friends. Agape is also a Super-Trope of Heroic Sacrifice.

Examples of The Four Loves include:

Storge[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • Fate Testarossa from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. She just want to be loved by her dearest mother who tortures her on regular basis because she hates how Fate (who is a clone) resembles her deceased daughter. She gets everything she wished, though: she gets a new family (the Harlaowns) and later becomes one of Vivio's two mommies with Nanoha. People even call the three of them "the Takamachi family".
  • Miyako Miyamura's goal in Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two. is this, ever since her parents' messy divorce that had them ignoring her completely.
  • All Shinji Ikari ever wanted was someone to love him. He wants to be loved by his father, and is constantly seeking for paternal approval.
  • Alois Trancy from Black Butler. An evil variation. It gets so bad that eventually he doesn't care whether it's Claude, and sells his soul to Hannah instead because she was pretty much the first person since Luca to earnestly say "I love you".
  • One of the rare examples from Soul Eater: Crona, while murdering his... her... their Magnificent Bitch mother Medusa, reprimands her for making them "let go of"--forget-- "the only person who really loved me", which would be Maka. Since there's nothing to really suggest that Maka is in love with Crona, and the fact that a hug from Medusa is what sparked their tirade, the implication is that they viewed Maka in this way.
  • In One Piece, the only bond second to The Power of Friendship is familial love, showcased earlier on in the case of Nami's family. This goes into play more powerfully around the Whitebeard crew, who even refer to each other as family with one badass father. Tragically, this is what ultimately leads to Ace's arrest and death.
  • This is the major motivation factor for the Jinnouichi family in Summer Wars, whom despite being rather extensive are very close to each other and feel a strong mutual connection to their matriarch Sakae. Also later applies to Kenji, whom the Jinnouichi come to treat as "part of the family."
  • CC once wanted nothing more then this trope. So she got a geass power that forced everyone she met to fall in love with her and shower her with affection, wich was great...for a day or two. It's the reason why CC is now a cold hearted Broken Bird.
  • Some of the Hime in My-HiME have their most important person chosen from this. Mai's first MIP is Takumi, whom she raised after the deaths of their parents, Nao's is her comatose mother, Mikoto's is her brother Reito, and Alyssa's is her father.
  • While Ennis from Baccano! understands love, she is unable to distinguish the difference between The Four Loves and thus straddles the line between Oblivious to Love and Asexuality.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Irredeemable: This is the Plutonian's motivation for being a superhero after spending years in several foster homes with people who were afraid of him. Despite being a respected champion, he's so obsessed with the negative comments and constant demands people give him that it drives him over the edge.


Fanfic[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the animated film version of Coraline, the heroine is dissatisfied with her family, feeling that they don't care enough for her. This apparently invites the attention of a monster who wishes to have a child to possess and obsess over to the point that she drives them to death... as it has already done to three other children.
  • Qui Gon Bryan Mills' daughter is abducted and sold into sexual slavery while on vacation in France in Taken. Bryan heads to France, finds the slavers, kicks France's butt halfway across Europe, and gets his daughter back.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Rana Sanga and his family in Belisarius Series. Lady Sanga is the epitome of this.
  • Honor Harrington and Nimitz. David Weber probably liked cats.
  • Harry Potter feels this way towards the Weasley family (excepting Ginny) as well as Hermione.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Blue Bloods, because the family that arrests together stays together.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy was willing to let the world burn to save her little sister, Dawn. They have a very good relationship throughout much of the series.
  • Firefly: Especially Simon and River.
    • Interviews suggest Inara is supposedly the "mother"-type to the rest of the crew (Your Mileage May Vary), but there's definitely some storge between Mal and Kaylee (though to a lesser extent than Simon/River mentioned above). Both Mal and Inara frequently address Kaylee as 妹妹 (meìmeì, the Mandarin word for "little sister").
  • Connor on Angel was driven by this, but having been raised from infancy to hate his biological father, had trouble accepting his love. "Cordelia" was eventually able to control him almost completely by taking advantage of his desire for a family.
  • Lennier and Delenn in Babylon 5; storge for both plus unrequited eros by Lennier.
  • The explanation for Kurt's schemes in Glee, basically comes out and says it in "Duets". See also Love Makes You Crazy.
    • Kurt and his dad's relationship is widely regarded as one of the best on TV.
  • Dylan Hunt and Rommie in Andromeda
  • iCarly: Carly and Spencer Shay, sister and brother.
  • Supernatural: Sammy and Dean are this.
  • Quark with almost everyone on Deep Space Nine.
  • Teri Bauer took a rape for her daughter in Season 1 of 24. The daughter that had been the cause of all the problems all episode. Yeah, her. She took a rape for her!
  • Merlin and Prince Arthur are thrown together against their will in the first episode of Merlin, but since then their close proximity and reliance on each other means that they're now practically joined at the hip.
    • The same could be said for the intertwining relationships between Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table. Merlin also shares this kind of relationship with Gaius, and Uther believes this is what his relationship with Morgana is like.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss' opera Elektra does not share her sister Elektra's thirst for revenge, and just wants to be a simple wife and mother—and this wish is what sustains Chrysothemis in her dark, fearful time as a prisoner. (Note: This is not her characterisation in the original Sophocles play.)


Phileo[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a major driving force for most of the girls is to protect each other. Especially Homura towards Madoka.
  • Take your pick at this with practically any good character in One Piece.
  • Any of the Shibusen partners in Soul Eater—not only toward their partners, but toward one another.
  • Yukino's most important person in My-HiME is her best friend Haruka, and in the manga, in which Haruka is also a HiME, Haruka has Yukino as her Key. Depending on how one chooses to view it, Natsuki's feelings for Shizuru could be this or Eros.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Danny and Reuven in The Chosen
  • Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings
  • The "four horsemen" in 1632.
  • Yashim and Palewski in the Yashim Series.
  • George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men. Their friendship, contrasted with the loneliness of the other characters, was the main theme of the book.
  • Ivan Vorputril and Miles Vorkosigan.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Xander and Willow have a very strong form of this.
  • Jon Lovitz of Saturday Night Live did an impression of Harvey Fierstein, the playwright of Torch Song Trilogy. The parody version of Fierstein had a variant of this as his Catch Phrase. "I just want to be loved. Is that so wrong?"
  • Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in Star Trek.
  • Carly and Sam in iCarly. Carly towards Freddie, although that could end up in Eros in the future.
  • From Merlin, Prince Arthur and Knights of the Round Table, all of whom are dedicated to the safety and well-being of Camelot. Merlin and Guinevere are Platonic Life Partners due to being Birds of a Feather and their mutual devotion to Arthur.
  • Skins loves this, and some particularly strong forms of it can be seen with Tony and Sid, and with Freddie and Cook - the latter of whom probably said "I love you" to each other more than they did to their actual mutual love interest, Effy.


Video Games[edit | hide]


Eros[edit | hide]

Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Dragonball Z, this is a big desire for Krillin, who ends up dating a very dumb girl called Maron. Fortunately, he finds love in the series' redeemed villain Android 18.
  • Sayaka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica can be said to have this for Kyousuke.
  • Some of the "most important people" for the HiME of My-HiME are based on romantic love. These include Mai's second MIP Yuuichi (who is also Shiho's); Akane's MIP Kazuya, Shizuru's object of affection, Natsuki, which may be reciprocated on Natsuki's part.
  • In Berserk, Casca reached the realization that her place was in Guts' heart, so that not only she could love him, but for Guts to love her as well. And the feeling is mutual.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Dork Tower, Matt McLimore's ongoing desire to be involved with someone repeatedly pushes him back to his ex-girlfriend, Kayleigh... even while his dream girl, Gilly the Perky Goth, hovers nearby.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Twilight, Bella Swan's main wish is to be loved by Edward Cullen.
    • The same goes for Jacob, but about Bella.
  • Tess from Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Too sad her husband cares more for her "chasity" than her actual personality and feelings.
  • Ayn Rand, in her novel Atlas Shrugged, deconstructs the trope as well as gender-flips it via the character of James Taggart. James wants to be loved, but not for anything he actually does. Rather, he wants to be loved for himself. Not for the benefits he might bring into the life of the person that loves him. Not for any of his virtues or good qualities. He says that he wants to be loved for himself. Ultimately, what he truly wants is to be loved for absolutely no reason at all; i.e., loved despite his own worthlessness.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Phoebe of Charmed made it her personal mission to find love during the last few seasons. In the end, she got a Cupid. Yay?
  • Sheridan and Delenn in Babylon 5.
  • Merlin sets this up for the inevitable and infamous Love Triangle, Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot.
    • Also present with Merlin/Freya, Gaius/Alice and Isolde/Tristan.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" shamelessly panders to this wish.
  • A Papa Roach song has this line in the chorus.
  • Queen's "Somebody to Love"
  • Arguably the reason why there are so many love songs in the first place.


Video Games[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Agape[edit | hide]

Anime & Manga[edit | hide]

  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kaworu Nagisa sacrificed himself in order to ensure Shinji's survival and that of humanity at large, despite the fact that Kaworu could have easily destroyed all mankind in a third impact for his kind to reign supreme. For his selfless love, Shinji (who was in desperate need of this kind of love) was heartbroken when he had to kill his friend.
    • While it is still hotly debated whether Rei Ayanami's feelings for Shinji are romantic or not, there is no doubt in the fact that they are movingly unconditional, perhaps making her the only person besides the afore mentioned Kaworu to care for him without expecting anything in return, to the point of doing a Heroic Sacrifice for his sake... twice. This is turned Up to Eleven in Rebuild, where he leaves town because of his personal anger at his father, cutting all ties to Rei to reasons unrelated to her, without as much as a goodbye... and Rei is still willing to blow herself up just so he never has to pilot his Mecha ever again...
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka herself can be said to have this toward the entire world.
  • While not explicitly stated or shown, the entire cast of Soul Eater could be said to have this. They frequently save one another from certain death. To be most specific:
    • Ox tears out his hair (he tore out part of his soul) to break the hold Arachne had over Kim.
    • Everyone remains friends with Kim even after the the reveal that she is a witch.
    • Spirit, Sid, Nygus, and even Marie let Stein go, despite his being the main suspect in the murder of Marie's New Old Flame, because none of them believe he really did it, despite his being insane.
    • Despite the fact that Crona betrayed Shibusen, all Maka wants is to know that Crona is safe.
    • Tezca Tlipoca offers Justin a chance to come back to Shibusen, although he is the real murderer of Marie's New Old Flame.
    • Despite trying to steal away her weapon at the start of the series, Maka saves Blair—now her and Soul's pet cat—from harm.
    • Maka sits down and gives up in the middle of a fight in the Sloth chapter of the Book of Eibon. When she finally breaks the hold the book has over her, Soul doesn't even let her apologize, but spends the rest of the arc either holding her or holding her hand.
    • Kid nearly destroys the world with the Madness of Order, only to have Black*Star, whom often tries to beat him up for no apparent reason, go and get him.

And this is just to name a few.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • iCarly: Freddie towards Carly, who seems to love Carly unconditionally no matter where their relationship lies with regards to Phileo and Eros. He has proven his ability to self-sacrifice for her, being almost killed in order to save Carly from being killed herself by pushing her out of the way of a truck in one episode.
  • Lancelot embodies this love on Merlin in regards to his love for Guinevere and Merlin (and to a lesser extent, Arthur). When a tear in the veil between the worlds results in evil spirits roaming the land, Arthur makes the decision to offer himself up as a blood sacrifice to close the rift. Knowing that Merlin intends to take Arthur's place, and having made a vow to Guinevere to protect Arthur with his life, Lancelot steps up and sacrifices himself for both of them, simultaneously saving Merlin's life and preserving Arthur's relationship with Guinevere.
  • In the BBC's modern reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock and John (i.e. Dr. Watson) go from being complete strangers to living together, and John is willing to kill to save Sherlock's life, in the space of the first episode. Although many (hell, most) of their mutual acquaintances interpret this as romantic interest (Mycroft's teasing, "Should we be expecting a happy announcement...? ), John's and Sherlock's relationship is closer to agape, even if most of the "sacrifice" is performed by John, while Sherlock seems more detached. Most notably, in the final episode of the 2010 season, "The Great Game", John, covered in explosives, wraps himself around the man threatening Sherlock, intending to bring down their enemy at the expense of his own life. In the climax of the second series, though, Sherlock more than returns the favour as he fakes his own death by no less than jumping from a building to save John's life, which could as far as we know also accidentially ended up being a real sacrifice. The whole issue again is orchastrated by the Big Bad who gives Sherlock the choice to either jump or have John and his two other most important people killed.


Religion[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Blaze Union, an important part of Gulcasa's characterization is that he is practically incapable of differentiating between types of love due to having been abused. He tends to perceive all types of affection directed towards him as phileo-love, and feels agape-love for his comrades and eventual subjects (which winds up being requited). As he's a Christ analogue, this is probably intentional.
    • Though tragically enough, it's his inability to function without having someone fill the position in each of the loves (his desperate desire to be loved and needed by people) that eventually creates the instability needed for him to be the Big Bad of Yggdra Union (well, for a certain definition of bad anyways)
  • In Radiant Historia, The Hero believes this separates himself from the Big Bad.
  • In Mother3, Lucas' signature ability (PK Love) is a weaponized form of this. It's also required to pull the Seven Needles.
  • Gaia Online's "Sainte Ciel" Evolving Item told the story of a nun trying to rescue the princess she loved from an evil demon. You could choose between Eros and Agape routes; if you chose Agape, Ciel would pull a Heroic Sacrifice to rescue Princess Rosamund. A sequel item, "Rosamund's Revenge", suggests that this is the canon route.


Real Life[edit | hide]