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 "love" can apply in many situations and circumstances, the concept of love will be divided into four different types (as proposed by C. S. Lewis in his The Four Loves) for a better study of this trope:
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 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, which is this desire expressed in a sinful way [such a Stalker with a Crush]).
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.
Also referenced as a minor note are loves for non-human things. Love for an animal is redirected to Storge according to C. S. Lewis (modern animal rights proponents rather argue for the inclusion of animals 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 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 other's company simply because they are there, that is Storge. And if they make Heroic Sacrifices for each other, that is Agape.
A close, platonic bond between mentor and student might carry shades of storge or phileo, but is usually not classified as one of the four.
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
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".
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... theirMagnificent 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 badassfather. 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 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, 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.
In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mami shows this kind of love towards other people, especially Madoka and Sayaka. It doesn't last long...
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.
The Harry Potter of the Firebird Trilogy shows Voldemort using this is in a very cruel way.
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 GonBryan 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.
The main plot of Frozen is how the sisters Anna and Elsa rebuild their relationship. Their Storge love is actually what gives Elsa the confidence to control her magical powers (essentially, to unfreeze things), and what breaks an accidental curse by Elsa upon Anna that would have otherwise killed her.
Harry Potter feels this way towards the Weasley family (excepting Ginny) as well as Hermione.
In Les Misťrables, 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.
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, its to late for him to salvage anything of his relations with the Starks.
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.
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 (mežmež, the mandarin name 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.
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 are generally Storge and/or Phileo. This can lead to misunderstandings, especially in the reboot, where a Companion expects Eros (See Amy in Flesh and Stone).
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Kurumu's character arc is how her Eros love- which she initially used as justification for teasing the other girls and force 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.
The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic A Delicate Balance largely centers around Twilight trying to figure out where Phileo ends and Eros begins. The idea that just having Eros love for one of her friends doesn't diminish the Phileo love for her other friends is a recurring theme.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Philia as the primary Love. However, it also incorporates a little of all the other loves on the side: Storge (in the case of the the mane six and their respective families), Eros (in the case of Shining and Cadance), and Agape (in the case of Pinkie Pie and the whole town of Ponyville).
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.
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.
They just have that much faith and love in each other. And that speaks more to me than any sappy ďI love youĒ and dramatic kiss. They donít need promises. All they need to know is that the other is happy and they are content. If that isnít true love, well I donít know what is.
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.
Brokeback Mountain is basically about how painful this emotion is when society hates it in people of the same sex.
Frozen: The "act of true love" that would break Anna's freezing curse was implied to be Eros (hence Anna trying to get Hans' kiss), but this is subverted as the act that saves her is Storge.
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.
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 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?
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.
Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up shamelessly panders to this wish.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
Interestingly, agape is the central idea of Redeeming Love even though itís a Romance Novel. Eros does come into play later, but itís 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 itís a metaphor for Godís unconditional love for His people, this twist Aesop is pretty clearly justified).
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.
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 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.
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 The love is unconditional on God's end, the point of this verse is to illustrate how much God loved Mankind that He did something that He didn't have to do, He could have left humans to rot instead of sacrificing His Son. The whosoever believes part is there to illustrate that our love is conditional, we can choose to accept or ignore this sacrifice through our free will. is referenced in John 3:16:
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 upbeing requited).
"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.
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 thesetwo pages (Japanese-language) for native speakers giving their own insight on what the difference is and what these things both feel like.