The Four Loves

"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 is 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 the word "love" can apply in many situations and circumstances, the ancient Greeks divided the concept of love into four different types (later expanded upon by C. S. Lewis in his The Four Loves):

  • Storge (Affection/Family) — This is fondness through familiarity, especially among family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance.
  • Philia (Friendship) — Friendship is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. This includes what Lewis calls companionship; that is gregariousness of the kind which is found in a Good-Guy Bar or Local Hangout; as well as friendship proper which is between Heterosexual Life-Partners, Platonic Life-Partners and the like but often starts as companionship. What results from Commonality Connection - some especially lighthearted Worthy Opponents might have this as well.
  • Eros (Romance) — This is love in the sense of "being in love". (This is distinct from sexuality.) This kind of love longs for emotional connection with the other person. According to 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, which is this desire expressed in a sinful way).
  • 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). However, emotions such as the other three loves can provide a "booster rocket" into agape. Note that true agape is never self-destructive; it is not the willingness to sacrifice oneself that, say, someone with a Guilt Complex would have. It builds the soul, and, like the other types, fosters emotional health and self-confidence. It's difficult to express the differences between a Martyr Without a Cause and someone who's accepted agape love into their heart, but they exist; one key distinction is that someone might love a vile monster even while actively opposing him/her, even to the point of a Mercy Kill, like a mother might love a son that passed the Moral Event Horizon a long, long time ago and needs to be put down. Agape love need not always be spiritual, but it is often based in spirituality - as Philip K. Dick put it "Love is (...) like a father saving his children from a burning house, getting them out and denying himself. When you love you cease to live for yourself; you live for another person." Also, unlike the other ("earthly") loves, agape is immune to Love Makes You Evil (and similar tropes).

A fifth love, rarely mentioned in modern times, was called "xenia". Translated precisely as "guest friendship", we know it today as the Ancient Greek concept of Sacred Hospitality. It was so important to the Greeks that its patron was Zeus himself, in the epithet of Zeus Xenios.

Also referenced as a minor note are loves for non-human things. Love for an animal (such as a pet) is redirected to storge according to C. S. Lewis, while modern animal rights proponents might argue for the inclusion of animals in general in agape, 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 these are rough categories 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 philia. 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 philia. If they get married, live happily ever after, grow old together and like each other's company simply because they are there, that is storge. And if they make Heroic Sacrifices for each other, that is agape. In general, phileo will normally make storge arise in time, and in the absence of hindrances (look here for a list) it's likely to bring about eros as well.

Related to Like Brother and Sister and I Just Want to Have Friends. Agape is also a Super Trope of Heroic Sacrifice and all four can be expressed by an Act of True Love.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk, where there are a lot of broken families, a major theme is adoption and the fact that Storge doesn't need biological relation in order to take root.
    • The Band of the Hawk is like a surrogate family for people who don't belong anywhere. Guts and Casca both had crappy childhoods and were alone in the world by 11 or 12 years old. Griffith took them in, and they became part of a band of True Companions including Judeau, Pippin, Rickert, Corkus, and all the enlisted men. When Guts decides to set out on his own, young Rickert cries, "The Band of the Hawk is your family! Why would you want to leave?"
    • Godo the blacksmith raised an orphaned Erica all by himself, and she loved him as her dad. Rickert also joins their family through apprenticeship and adoption, such that Erica says that she will follow him no matter what: "We're family."
    • Young Schierke was raised and tutored in magic by the good witch Flora, who looked after her like a grandmother. At their parting Flora tells her not to cry, saying that in all of her long life, the days she spent with Schierke in the woods were her most serene.
    • Farnese and Serpico show many of the difficulties of families that are related by blood but struggle to understand each other. Farnese was neglected by her father and behaved outrageously as a cry for attention, while Serpico was the bastard son of a nobleman and a serving woman who resented his mother for controlling him and his father for abandoning them. Farnese and Serpico grew close from growing up together and from Serpico discovering that she is his half-sister, and Farnese's mother tries to encourage her daughter when she's feeling at a loss.
    • Teenage islander Isma never knew her mother, who according to her father was a mermaid, and lost him to an accident a few years ago. However, the charm left on the door by her mother helps protect her from the island's curse, and in volume 37 she is tearfully reunited with her mother, who was watching over her all along.
  • 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) has her own personality rather than being a complete carbon copy of 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.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: All Shinji and Asuka ever wanted was someone to love them. Shinji wants to be loved by his father, and is constantly seeking paternal approval. And despite of all her claims of needing nobody, more than anything in the world Asuka yearns for someone to show her affection and make her feel she is not alone.
  • 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 seconded by 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."
  • Code Geass: CC once wanted nothing more than this trope. So she got a geass power that forced everyone she met to fall in love with her and shower her with affection, which 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 Mai-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.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mami shows this kind of love towards other people, especially Madoka and Sayaka. It doesn't last long…
    Blogger: …it's set up so Mami will meet her and have someone who will look up to her and love her, maybe like a daughter, or like a younger sister would. Mami is shown indulging Bebe, but also berating her for poor behaviour, and warning her with mannerisms seen between adults and young children, but also being fiercely protective of her, from the second she notices Homura acting strangely and potentially targeting Bebe. Mami is at her best in a universe where she has people to care for and who care for her in return — this stable form of love makes her dangerously good.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Fic 
  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic A Candle to the Sun has Twilight deciding to admit her love to Celestia. The story, and the Les Yay tendencies in the fandom, sets the reader to expect a lover's eros, making it a surprise ending when it turns out to be a daughterly storge.
  • The Harry Potter of the Firebird Trilogy shows Voldemort using this is in a very cruel way.

    Films - Animated 
  • 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.
  • The main plot of Frozen is how the sisters Anna and Elsa rebuild their relationship after being distant for over a decade. The "act of true love" that would break Anna's freezing curse was implied to be Eros (hence Anna trying to get a kiss from Hans and later Kristoff), but this is subverted as the act that saves her is storge between the sisters. Anna's desire for Elsa's affection is written out in several songs, including four Cut Songs. In "Life's Too Short (reprise)" she bemoans as she freezes to death how selfish she was for being desperate for affection which led to her being in her current situation. "More Than Just A Spare" and its finalized counterpart "For The First Time In Forever" show that she redirected her want to be with Elsa into being In Love with Love, which led to her being easily manipulated by Hans when he pretends to fall in Love at First Sight with her and instantly tries to marry her.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • In Maleficent, Maleficent comes to love the princess she cursed like a daughter. This love is also what breaks the curse in the end, which triggered some accusations that the movie copies Frozen, even though it is more about parental love, not sisterly love, and the characters are not even blood-relatives.
  • Bryan Mills' daughter is abducted and sold into sexual slavery while on vacation in France in Taken. Bryan heads to France, finds the slavers, kick France's butt halfway across Europe, and gets his daughter back.
  • In Interstellar, Coop's love for his daughter Murph enables him to save Humanity after he dives into a black hole by guiding him to a point in time where he can transmit the data needed to lift mankind off of a dying Earth.

  • Rana Sanga and his family in Belisarius Series. Lady Sanga is the epitome of this.
  • Honor Harrington and Nimitz, her treecat.
  • Harry Potter feels this way towards the Weasley family (except Ginny) as well as Hermione.
  • In Les Misérables, Valjean fosters Fantine's illegitimate daughter Cosette, and, as neither Cosette and Valjean have family of their own and they have both been treated brutally, they bond instantly as father and daughter and develop a very strong relationship.
  • Charity and Michael Carpenter exemplify this in The Dresden Files. In Proven Guilty, Harry looks at Charity embracing her children and thinks:
    I regarded the kids for a moment, mostly very young children's faces, relaxed in sleep. Children whose world had been founded in something as solid as Charity's love for them would be able to do almost anything. Between her and her husband, they could be raising an entire generation of men and women with the same kind of power, selflessness and courage. I'm a pessimist of the human condition, as a rule,but contemplating the future and how the Carpenter kids could contribute to it was the kind of thought that gave me hope for us all, despite myself.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is what Theon Greyjoy longs for, he hasn't got much from his own family, and he got more of it from the Starks. But after everything that he has done, it's too late for him to salvage anything of his relations with the Starks.
  • In Bubble World, this is why Angel acts out so much—she wants to be noticed and loved by her neglectful parents.
  • Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings.
  • What Katniss feels for her young sister Prim

     Live Action TV 
  • 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: Loads among the crew, especially Simon and River. Also, interviews suggest Inara is supposedly the "mother"-type to the rest of the crew, 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 name for "little sister").
  • Sherlock: Sherlock and Mary are like brother and sister, Mycroft is an Aloof Big Brother, Mrs. Hudson is a Parental Substitute and John is, in a way, like a brother to Sherlock, and vice versa.
  • 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 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Teri Bauer took a rape for her daughter in Season 1 of 24.
  • 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.
  • The Doctor and just about any companion in Doctor Who have storge with an admixture of phileo (in varying amounts). This can lead to misunderstandings, especially in the reboot, where a companion expects eros (See Amy in Flesh and Stone). However, eros has been established on a few occasions, although the series is usually subtle about it (to date this has applied to Rose, River (whom the Doctor actually marries at one point), Clara and the occasional one-off character). Agape is also common: the Doctor has, one time or another, displayed elements of all four, sometimes simultaneously.
  • Rather unexpectedly for a series focusing on fairy tales, Once Upon a Time's drama revolves around parental bonds almost more than it does romantic ones. All of the core adult characters are parents, biological or not, and characters like Emma and Regina are very much affected by their lack of healthy familial support growing up.

    Video Games 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the importance of storge is a recurring theme. Clover's bond with her brother, Snake, is one of the few emotional anchors either have in the Deadly Game. Because of this, letting either of them die is a sure path to a bad ending. During the True Ending's Wham Episode, June and Santa are also revealed to be this, though they acted like strangers to complete their plan and save Past!Akane's life in the incinerator.

  • 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.)

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In a Sinfest Wish Fulfillment comic, Lil' E's is a dream of a happy birthday with his parents.
  • In Panthera, this is partly why Jason wants Taylor to join the eponymous team- gaining shapeshifting abilities allows him to see another layer of wonder in the world, and he wants her to experience that. (His girlfriend, Kira, is actually jealous of Taylor because of this; she feels that Jason's storge-love for Taylor diminishes the eros-love he has with her.)
  • In Guardians this is how Jaireth feels toward Kotu, even though he's not Kotu's biological father.

    Western Animation 
  • Next to philia, storge is probably the second-most prominent love in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Applejack's Storge is the most prevalent, as she has a deep bond with her siblings and Granny Smith. Twilight Sparkle also has a deep Storge bond with her brother Shining Armor and her eventual sister-in-law Cadance. Pinkie Pie also has Storge for her family, and Rarity also has it for her sister Sweetie Belle. Even Rainbow Dash develops a Storge-like bond with her fan Scootaloo, even though they aren't blood-related.
  • Gravity Falls has the Pines family. Although struggling with problems, especially between Stanford and Stanley in the past, these only made their storge between all four members stronger.


    Anime and Manga 
  • 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. Even some bad guys!
  • Any of the Shibusen partners in Soul Eater — not only toward their partners, but toward one another.
  • Yukino's most important person in Mai-HiME is her best friend Haruka, and in the manga, in which Haruka is also a Hime, Haruka has Yukino as her Key.
  • Rosario + Vampire:
    • The Battle Harem protagonists eventually become this as they evolve into True Companions. Given how diverse the group is in species and temperament (and the fact that they're constantly competing over Tsukune) it's a sign of their Character Development that they have.
    • Kurumu's character arc is how her eros love—which she initially used as justification for teasing the other girls and forcing herself onto Tsukune—allows phileo into her heart, which in turn allows her to reach agape. As her Heroic Sacrifice in S2 V9 shows, she's learned that there are many types of love, and that being rejected romantically doesn't mean that no one loves her at all.
  • In Sailor Moon Crystal, the friendship between Princess Serenity and her protectors was so strong that it brought them together in the next life.

    Comic Books 
  • Astérix and Obelix are close friends, and (except the first book) are on the adventure together. And as Lewis points out about friends, Astérix and Obelix are usually side by side, looking at a common goal (usually pounding some Roman legionaries, Germanic warriors of various sorts, or turning the pirates' latest ship into driftwood) or common interests.

    Fan Works 

  • Danny and Reuven in The Chosen
  • The "four horsemen" in the 1632 series stick together in the True Companions sense of this trope before the Ring of Fire, due to similar interests, and afterward the relationship is more of a familial one due to their respective families being stranded in the time from which Grantville came.
  • 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 Vorpatril and Miles Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga.
  • Rana Sanga and Damadora in Belisarius Series. In a way Rana Sanga and Belisarius too. Valentinian and Anasstasius also.
  • Sherlock Holmes has Holmes and Watson.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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: The Original Series.
  • Carly and Sam in iCarly. Carly towards Freddie, although that could end up in eros in the future.
  • Sherlock: Sherlock and John.
  • 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.
  • Danny and Jackie in Blue Bloods.
  • Dan and Casey in Sports Night. Casey turned down a chance to be a late night talk show host to continue working with Dan.
  • In Supernatural, Castiel and Dean are this.
  • Nolan and Emily from Revenge. Between Emily (real Amanda) and Amanda (real Emily), too.
  • The study group in Community tend to fall here, with a hint of Storge and occasional short-lived dalliances into eros.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Chief O'Brien confesses to Dr. Bashir that he finds himself closer to Dr. Bashir than to his own wife. They do all kinds of best buddy activities in their off-duty hours.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, Ledaal Kes and Ragara Szaya are this. They're gay, but have been friends and intellectual peers since childhood, and because they're Dragon-Blooded and their society demands that Dragon-Blooded 'do their duty' (i.e, get married and have children), they get married. On the few occasions that they have sex it's very uncomfortable for them, but they're very much Platonic Life-Partners and have fun making robots and going to parties and playing gateway. Ironically, both of them are The Casanova, so their friendship is the most constant relationship either have.

    Video Games 
  • At the climax of TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, Robot Buddy R-110 is fatally wounded by the Big Bad and in his last moments he laments, "I only wanted to be loved…" This runs contrary to his recent activities throughout the last act.
  • Friendship and The Power of Friendship is what the Kingdom Hearts series is all about. More specifically, the bonds between people are perhaps the most powerful thing in the universe, to the point that they're effectively what hearts are made of.
  • This is a surprisingly common theme throughout the Sonic the Hedgehog series. In Sonic Adventure, the positive feelings the playable characters have towards each other empower the drained Chaos Emeralds. Sonic Heroes is about the teamwork of three friends. At the end of Sonic Rush, Blaze's new friends empower the Sol Emeralds so that she can use them.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is based entirely around philia, as the title notes. The Mane Six's strong bond drives the entirety of the series, and the Deuteragonists, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, aren't far behind either. However, it also incorporates all three other loves on the side, as noted in their respective sections.
  • Gravity Falls has the friendship triangle between Mabel, Candy and Grenda.
  • Kaeloo: The relationship between Kaeloo and the rest of the main four.


    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball 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 has this for Kyousuke.
  • Some of the most important people for the Hime of Mai-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.
    • Later, after their newfound love was cruelly crushed when Casca was driven to insanity, Guts is now on a desperate quest to find a cure for her so that she may return to normal, hopefully repairing their tarnished relationship that he yearns for so badly.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne has the love between Van and Hitomi. The words here describe it very well:
    They just have that much faith and love in each other. And that speaks more to me than any sappy “I love you” and dramatic kiss. They don’t need promises. All they need to know is that the other is happy and they are content. If that isn’t true love, well I don’t know what is.
  • In Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus has a rather ironic relationship with eros. On one hand, her very presence helps those around her to find it. On the other, her characterization is defined by the absence of eros: she is destined to never find her true love by her own choice, something Venus eventually accepts (even so, her life is not a lonely one).

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Real!Syaoran in Shatterheart initially wished to find his lost love, the actual Sakura. Over time, he starts to move on and tries to find love elsewhere. He begins to fall in love with Kurogane and starts pursing his affection. In which he eventually succeeds.

    Films - Animated 
  • Anastasia from the Cinderella III: A Twist in Time movie, though she has a hard time figuring out what kind of love she wants exactly. When she purposefully turns down Prince Charming—being disguised as Cinderella at this point—Lady Tremaine begins to scold her. Anastasia argues, "But I want someone to love me for me."

    Films - Live Action 
  • Brokeback Mountain is basically about how painful this emotion is when society hates it in people of the same sex.

  • 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. Sadly, her husband cares more for her "chastity" 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.
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, the Nymphs are a society of Extreme Omnisexuals, aiming for this: "Social harmony is achieved only when everyone loves everyone."
  • Molly Carpenter of The Dresden Files feels eros towards Harry, and tells him this soon after they start working together. Unfortunately, Harry has known her since she was a child, and feels only storge and phileo towards her. Awkwardness ensues.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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 has this between Arthur/Guinevere, Gaius/Alice and especially Merlin/Freya, a relationship that is explicitly born out of each partner's loneliness and their desire to connect to someone on an emotional level.
  • Katherine and Elijah from The Vampire Diaries. He would never have picked someone like her under normal circumstances, but now if anyone threatens his Katerina, they better watch out.
  • Charlotte and Declan from Revenge, although they do have some phileo.
  • At one point forbidden by the network, the modern era of Doctor Who has allowed this to appear from time to time, if usually in a subtle fashion. Recent examples include Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor, River Song and the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors (the Doctor actually marrying her at one point), and Clara Oswald with the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. There has also been the occasional single-episode example, such as the Tenth Doctor and Madame de Pompadour.

  • 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
  • Nickelback's Gotta Be Somebody seems to imply this.
    Nobody wants to be the last one there
    And everyone wants to know that someone cares
    Someone to love with my life in their hands
    There's gotta be somebody for me like that!
  • The reason why there are so many love songs in the first place.

    Video Games 
  • The Dating Sim genre exists because people want eros.
  • May from Guilty Gear. Her sole motivation is winning Johnny's love.
  • Squall from Final Fantasy VIII without really knowing it at first, towards Rinoa.
  • 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 eros, Ciel would succumb to the demon Mephiste's temptations.
  • In World of Warcraft lore, the succubi seem to be motivated by this; there's an alarming frequency of succubi falling in love with their summoners and becoming insanely possessive of them.

  • In Homestuck, the trolls refer to eros-love as matespiritship. John's dad and Rose's mom are specifically given as an example.

    Western Animation 
  • On Family Guy, Meg Griffin is treated horribly by her family and most of Quahog for her supposed ugliness. She is desperate for affection to the point of mental instability. (One cutaway gag shows her 'dating' a corpse.) In another episode, Meg accepts a pity date from Brian, her family's talking dog, and becomes obsessed with him after he insults another girl in her defense and kisses her while drunk.
  • The Ice King from Adventure Time tearfully proclaims his desire to be loved in "I Remember You" after attempting to perform a love song for Princess Bubblegum, although his desire for the love of a princess had been apparent ever since his first appearance. Many plots involve him trying to achieve a Philia relationship with Finn and Jake, as well. On some level, he also seems to approach Marceline because of the Storge relationship they shared before he lost his sanity.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. While nowhere near as prominent as philia and storge, eros is also visited on the show, mainly between Twilight Sparkle's brother Shining Armor and his wife Princess Cadance. Rarity expresses a desire for eros early on in the series, and was disappointed that her dream guy, Prince Bluebood was a total jerk. Even Twilight herself gets a brief encounter with eros in regards to Flash Sentry in Equestria Girls.


    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 unconditional, to the point of doing a Heroic Sacrifice for his sake… twice.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka herself is this toward the entire world. And Homura has this for Madoka, having vowed to save her from the fate of a magical girl no matter what. Homura starts out trying to save her because they're best friends, but because of the "Groundhog Day" Loop created by Homura's increasingly desperate attempts to keep Madoka safe, their relationship becomes very one-sided, and Madoka sees Homura as little more than an acquaintance with an unusual interest in her and unknown motives.
    • The third movie makes it clear that Homura's love is truly unconditional. She doesn't expect anything for it, not even Madoka's affections: the meaning that love gave to her life justifies her suffering on its behalf, and always has.
  • 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.
  • In Nabari no Ou, Miharu develops this for Yoite, eventually doing a Hazy Feel Turn just to help grant Yoite's wish. Yoite's feelings for Miharu could be interpreted this way as well, especially in the manga, where he urges Miharu to erase him so he won't be sad after Yoite's dead. Asahi's love for Miharu is another example.
  • In Girls und Panzer, the reason why Maho Nishizumi works as hard as she does to fulfill her responsibilities is so that her younger sister, Miho will be free to live the way she wishes.

  • In Star Wars Episode II, Anakin explains to Padme that while other forms of love are forbidden to a Jedi, as they would interfere with their devotion to duty and to the force, universal compassion is not only permissible but required of a Jedi.
    Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as… unconditional love… is essential to a Jedi's life. So, you might say that we are encouraged to love.
  • Beast from Disney's adaptation of Beauty and the Beast lets Belle go to tend to her sick father even though he knows that doing so will condemn him and his household staff to remain cursed forever (as he doesn't know if Belle loves him in return). This shows just how far he's come as a character, as Mrs. Potts points out.
    Mrs. Potts: After all this time, he's finally learned to love.

  • The main theme of Harry Potter is agape. It is literally what ensures Harry's victory over Voldemort - Lily Potter's Heroic Sacrifice planted the seeds of Voldemort's final death.
  • In The Dresden Files series, at first Karrin Murphy and Harry Dresden fall under storge, but by Cold Days, Karrin definitely feels this (and possibly eros, although on this she is extremely reluctant due to his personality changes) for Harry when she says, in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming:
    If you're going down to Hell, I'll be right there beside you, all the way.
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, when a man begins to preach this to the Hormagaunts, it was bewildering. It sounded like Nymph-talk — the Nymphs being an older society of Extreme Omnisexuals — but it was not sexual.
  • Interestingly, agape is the central idea of Redeeming Love even though it’s a Romance Novel. Eros does come into play later, but it’s treated like a bonus side effect of the self-sacrificing, Honor Before Reason type of unconditional love that Michael has been displaying to Angel throughout the story. (Since the text outright makes parallels to the Biblical book of Hosea, which in turn explicitly states it’s a metaphor for God’s unconditional love for His people, this twist Aesop is pretty clearly justified)
  • Sherlock Holmes: This is literally what Holmes and Watson end up in, as well as phileo, particularly when Watson is shot.
  • In Cassandra Clare's books, Shadowhunters have parabatai, which is essentially this, with some shades of philia thrown in as well, but eros is definitely forbidden.
  • Katniss and Peeta, although it takes a while longer for her to realize this.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Merlin:
    • Lancelot embodies this love 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.
    • At the end of series 1, Merlin attempted to sacrifice his life for Arthur. Due to a case of Exact Words, this didn't go according to plan. He then set off to do the same thing for his mother, whose life he'd accidentally bargained away in return for Arthur's, but before he could get there Gaius sacrificed his life so Merlin wouldn't have to. He got better when Merlin killed the villain doing the sacrificing, satisfying the magic's need for a death to save Arthur.
  • In the BBC's modern reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock and John Watson go from being complete strangers, to flatmates, with John demonstrating his willingness to kill to save Sherlock's life, in the space of the first episode. Although many of their mutual acquaintances interpret this as romantic interest, their relationship is in reality phileo intruding strongly into agape.
  • Simon and River in Firefly is in some ways an extension of storge into agape.
  • In Once Upon a Time, True Love is set up like this, especially with Snow White and Prince Charming, who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the other at any moment.
  • In Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchester. They are both willing to constantly sacrifice themselves for each other or to save each other without hesitation, regardless of the circumstances. This includes going to Hell for each other, dying for each other, committing suicide to bring the other back, and selling their soul. Sam and Dean's relationship is the embodiment of all-consuming unconditional love, meaning that their relationship and love for each other transcends all kinds of relationships (including familial, platonic and romantic). Sam and Dean's relationship is spiritual in nature as it is strongly implied that the two are spiritually connected and will share Heaven when they die.
  • In Doctor Who, The Doctor shows willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends, even on at least three occasions (Fifth, Ninth and Tenth) directly sacrificing one of his incarnations in order to save the life of a companion. His companions are likewise - whether eros is involved or not - willing to do the same to protect the Doctor or to live up to his beliefs.

  • According to The Bible, mankind as a whole has big need for this kind of love. For this reason, Jesus Christ is described as dying selflessly on a cross for mankind's sins. Furthermore, the very nature of God, according to Christianity, is love itself. This kind of love note  is referenced in John 3:16:
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Compounded moreso by Jesus having died for all people, even the ones who would reject Him. And He did this knowing full well most people would reject Him. That is why it is unconditional; He loves even the people that hate Him. Described beautifully (of course) by Lewis:
He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.

    Video Games 
  • 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).
  • In Radiant Historia, The Hero believes this separates himself from the Big Bad.
  • In MOTHER 3:
    • The story centers around the unconditional love between Mother and Child, and family as a whole. The Final Battle has the Ghost of Hinawa, Mother of Lucas and Claus, come back to wake Claus from his brainwashing by Porky. Claus then commits suicide to ensure that he can no longer pull the last needle and Lucas and the others wouldn't die from that possibility, as well as to be with the Mother he loves again.
    • 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.
  • Bill's Sacrifice in Left 4 Dead amounts to this:
    "You want me, come and get it. I'm just scars and tar anyway. But you didn't get them—did you, you sons of bitches?"
  • All four kinds of love show up in the game Super Paper Mario, since the Power of Love is extremely important to the plot. Agape and eros are the most prominent of the four. Bowser's one sided eros for Peach nearly causes the destruction of the multiverse and it ends up being saved by the eros (which also has traits of agape) between Lady Timpani aka Tippi and Lord Blumiere aka Count Bleck. Nastasia's love for Count Bleck is definitely Agape because she loves him despite the fact that he does not return her feelings and goes so far as to take a bullet for him. In fact, many of the games chapter's have different forms of love as their theme. At the end of the third chapter the needed Pure Heart suddenly appears in response to the phileo that Tippi felt when she is rescued. The fourth chapter's theme turns out to be Storge, in the form of Squirps's love for his long dead mother. The seventh chapter's theme is Storge in the form of Jaydes's and Granbi's love for their daughter Luvbi when it is revealed that they created Luvbi out of the final pure heart in order to disguise it, but they did care for her just as they would if she was their real daughter. The characters Francis, Mimi, and Luvbi all badly want to have Eros although for Francis and Mimi it is on a much more shallow level.
  • Team Fortress 2 The Heavy will often yell "Get behind me Doktor!" At first glance it sounds like He's ordering the medic to get back there to keep healing him, but then you realize the phase "Get behind me" can also be used to protect someone. Heavy is literally willing to take a bullet for the Medic.
  • Agape is one of the two ultimate goals of Undertale. In spite of all the monsters trying to either kill or capture you, your unconditional love for them drives you to befriend your "enemies" instead of killing them since all they really want to do is to escape their holed-up existence under Mt. Ebott. As Sans puts it at his endgame judgement, you don't gain LOVE (which as noted later, is definitely not one of the four loves), but you instead gain love. In fact this love combined with your determination allows you to become essentially invincible during the final confrontation with Asriel at the end of the True Pacifist run. On the other hand, the other ultimate goal of the game is to completely disavow love for LOVE which stands for Level Of ViolencE just so you can get strong enough to destroy the whole universe.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Rose Quartz of Steven Universe appears to be a subversion. She doesn't qualify as a Martyr Without a Cause because her goal is protecting the Earth and all its life. However she initially only loved the lives a humans as a concept, and it took until she met Greg (thousands of years) before she began loving humans as individuals.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has agape embodied by Pinkie Pie. As seen in the episode "A Friend In Deed", she happily proclaims "everypony's my friend" and that she loves to see everyone in the town smile, even the non-ponies. Fluttershy gets in on the action as well; in part two of the pilot, she calms a wounded manticore without knowing that he was even in pain. She then says "Sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness."

    Real Life 
  • The city of Philadelphia was named for this concept; Agape includes the concept of "brotherly love for all humanity", and the city's name means just that in Greek (philos = love, adelphios = brother). Its motto ("Let Brotherly Love Endure") and nickname also reflect this.
  • The Japanese language differentiates between unconditional love (Ai, 愛) and romantic passion (Koi, 恋), although the distinction is very fine and it's generally held that both of these things can be felt for a romantic partner. See these two pages (Japanese-language) for native speakers giving their own insight on what the difference is and what these things both feel like.

Mixed Examples

    Anime and Manga 

  • The four ghosts supernaturally connected to Thomas Reilly in Heart and Souls embody each concept.
    • Milo, a thief longing to go straight and who has a "big brother" relationship with Thomas and the other ghosts, is philia.
    • Harrison, a gentleman who encourages Thomas in a fatherly fashion and inspires an interest in the arts in him as a child, is storge.
    • Julia, a woman who died before she could confess her love for her fiancé and longs for Thomas not to make her mistake, is eros.
    • Penny, a single mother who has everyone's best interests at heart and is the most reluctant to ever hurt her impromptu family, is agape.

Alternative Title(s): Four Loves, Wanting To Be Loved