Known also as "Ara the Beautiful" and "Ara the Fair", "Ara the Handsome" is a legend from ancient Armenia about a king who was so handsome, the Queen of Assyria waged war with Armenia just to have him.
The tale begins with Queen Semiramis asking King Ara to marry her. She had heard of his beauty and would stop at nothing to have him, having even driven her husband away because of her lust. But Ara declined, because he already had a wife named Nvard. As a result, Semiramis declared war on Armenia, and sent her armies to attack the country and bring Ara back to her alive. However, the king was slain during the war, his body later found among the corpses of the Armenian soldiers.
In order to both calm the Armenian armies who now wanted to fight to avenge their king's death, and to fulfill her obsessive lust, Semiramis vowed to use black magic to resurrect Ara. She placed his body upon her castle and called upon the spirits of hounds to lick his wounds clean and heal him, but this was unsuccessful. Grief-stricken, she instead had him buried at the foot of a mountain and dressed one of her lovers as Ara to convince the Armenians that she had resurrected him, and the war was concluded.
In the aftermath, Semiramis had all but one of her sons, Ninuas, killed for mocking her lust over Ara. Eventually Ninuas grew up to kill her.
The tale is still quite popular in Armenia to this day, and is still a part of their folk history. Incidentally, the earliest written records of the tale were written by early Christians, who shunned ideas of magical resurrections (finding it too similar to the story of Jesus). There is evidence that in the original versions Semiramis was successful in resurrecting Ara. Ara was worshiped by the pagan Armenians as a War God and of rebirth. "Ara the Handsome" may or may not have been based on the Real Life King Aramu, the first king of Urartu, an empire from the 800's to 500's BC which comprised of much of modern day Turkey and Armenia. And Semiramis may have been based on the Real Life Queen of Assyria, Shammuramat, who was Aramu's contemporary.
A version of the folktale can be read here.
"Ara the Handsome" contains examples of:
- Big Bad: Queen Semiramis, a queen so obsessive that she'll start a war to get with Ara.
- Bishōnen: Ara is an example.
- Downer Ending
- Fairest of Them All: A very rare Gender Flip.
- Fake King: Who Ara is replaced with when the resurrection doesn't work.
- Folk Hero: Ara is still considered one of the forefathers of Armenia, it's not uncommon to see statues of him in Armenia or in places with a high Armenian population.
- God Save Us from the Queen!
- The Hero Dies: In post-Christian era versions at least.
- Hijacked by Jesus: Christians adopted the Downer Ending version where Semiramis instead produces a look-alike of Ara to discredit pagan beliefs. Ara also came to be looked at in Christian times as the ideal faithful husband for resisting Semiramis and staying with his wife Nvard, while this probably wasn't an important moral value when the tale was first told.
- I Want Them Alive
- Love Makes You Crazy
- Mr. Fanservice: Ara.
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased
- Silly Reason for War: Can you imagine a country going to war over something like this today?
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Ara is so attractive that Semiramis goes to war to capture him, and he ends up getting killed.
- Stalker with a Crush: Another Gender Flip, as the female stalker is portrayed as villainous.
- World's Most Beautiful Man
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Might have been anyway.
- Your Cheating Heart: Semiramis dumps her husband for Ara. And it's implied since she disguised one of her 'lovers' as Ara later on that she must have had a man-harem or something.