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Peerless Love Interest

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"I see heaven when I see thee, Dulcinea.
And thy name is like a prayer
An angel whispers... Dulcinea... Dulcinea!"
Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha

In some works, a hero, possibly a Knight in Shining Armor, falls for a woman because she is perfect — too perfect; flawless to the point where he could never actually be with her. Some knights, indeed, fall in love with a mere description of this lovely lady and find the idea of her to be motivation enough.

If there are class distinctions — as there often are — she is of a higher social rank than he. She comes from money and peerage, and even if she's not the World's Most Beautiful Woman, she's probably treated as such (with all the loneliness this implies). To top it all off, she's a paragon of virtue despite growing up with enough wealth to corrupt a saint. Her mere existence motivates the hero to great deeds: either to prove himself to her or to defend her honor or reputation, thus becoming her Champion.

One literary term for this type of character — the girl who is too perfect to be obtained — is the princesse lointaine.note 

The story is just as likely to be contemporary as historical.

Contrast Girl Next Door. See also Courtly Love, Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy (which applies more to high school settings), and Girl Next Door Turned Superstar. Compare Attractiveness Isolation, which is often related. Often leads to Loving a Shadow; may lead to Single-Target Sexuality and Unrequited Love Lasts Forever.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Griffith from Berserk has shades of this, being not only a Father to His Men but an incredibly beautiful man in an otherwise gritty setting. His lieutenants Guts and Casca are both implied to have feelings for him but see him as too perfect to approach and end up falling for each other instead. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Griffith's feelings for his lieutenants. When Guts overhears Griffith claim that his only friends are those he sees as equals, he temporarily quits Griffith's service and leaves on a journey to find himself; to say Griffith takes this poorly would be a massive understatement.
  • Danganronpa 3: Hajime Hinata, a talentless Reserve Course student, can’t understand why an Ultimate like Chiaki Nanami would want to hang out with him. Chiaki reassures him that his lack of talent doesn’t matter and she just has fun playing video games with him, but Hajime’s feelings stay the same. Wanting to be seen as her equal, and therefore worthy of being with her, ends up being one of Hajime’s primary reasons to partake in the Izuru Kamukura Project.
  • Destiny of the Shrine Maiden has a lesbian example. Chikane is such a perfect girl that even having the courage to propose to her elevates you above the other students. The main character, Himeko, is absolutely smitten by her and believes that she's living the dream when (due to one thing or another) she begins living with her. Deconstructed — crazy things happen and in the end, Chikane is revealed to be neither angel nor devil but just a girl the same age as Himeko. There's no such thing as a peerless lover.
  • Maken-ki!: Usui falls for Himegami, who's considered to be one of the hottest girls at Tenbi Academy. Which made his chances of hooking up with her seem unlikely to begin with; becoming much less likely once he and the others learn she's the daughter of Yamato no Orochi. Meaning, she's both royalty and a demi-goddess. But she subverts it near the end of chapter 65, when she tells him she's not above him and finally provides him with a faint glimmer of hope.
  • SSSS.GRIDMAN: In the Voice Dramas, Namiko and Hass enjoy playing Rikka up as one of these whenever they interact with Yuta. It's suggested one reason they do this is because they want him to understand just how much he has to Dare to Be Badass if he's going to stand any chance of asking her out... and an even bigger reason is because they get a kick out of the idea and look forward to teasing Rikka if it works out.

    Film — Animation 
  • Jasmine is a deconstructed example to Aladdin. She's a princess while he's a penniless 'street rat'. He doesn't believe she'd ever want to be with someone like him after discovering she's royalty and so wishes to become a prince to be worthy of her. However, Jasmine dislikes stuffy, image-obsessed princes; she genuinely liked Aladdin when he thought she was just another peasant like him and behaved accordingly, hates being treated like a "prize to be won" and rejects 'Prince Ali' until he starts acting more like his usual self. In the end, Jasmine says she loves Aladdin just the way he is and the Sultan ends up changing the law so that Jasmine can marry whomever she chooses instead of being required to marry a prince.
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington is a rare male example for Sally. She loves him from afar and risks getting in trouble with her creator to sneak out and see Jack. However, she can't bring herself to actually tell Jack how she feels because she's just a lowly ragdoll while he's the Pumpkin King whom everyone adores, which is especially emphasised in "Sally's Song". She does still attempt to warn him when she receives an ominous premonition about his attempts to run Christmas, being the only one to do so, out of concern for him. Luckily for Sally, in the end, Jack approaches her after she helps save them all at great personal risk, and they end up as a couple.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In A Knight's Tale the peasant William falls in love with the noble lady Jocelyn.
    William: Geoff, 'tis my lady.
    Geoffrey: Oh, geez, William, you aim too high.
    William: Oh, if there's another way to aim, I don't know it.
    • For her part, she seems used to this reaction from young knights and doesn't really respond to his advances with anything but amusement bordering on annoyance until he stops treating her like an ideal by actually listening to her and trying to get to know her as a person.
  • Dianne Court from Say Anything.... Since she's beautiful and the valedictorian, everyone assumes that she's completely unapproachable. When Lloyd Dobler asks her out and she accepts, everyone is astonished, especially Lloyd himself.
  • Played with and/or deconstructed over the course of the original Star Wars trilogy, vis a vis Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa. In the very first film (Episode IV: A New Hope), the pirate mercenary Han, after a heated argument with the recently rescued princess/senator/revolutionary, nevertheless admits feelings for her, and begins to ask farm boy main protagonist Luke Skywalker (who also has romantic designs on her) "You think a princess and a guy like me..." only to be cut off with a very curt and blunt "no". Han and Leia, of course, become romantically entangled over the course of the later movies and eventually marry, while Luke is efficiently taken out of the equation when he learns that Leia is his twin sister.
  • In Titanic (1997), poor artist and drifter Jack is told "Ah, forget it, boyo. You're as like to have angels fly out your arse as get next to the likes of her" in regards to Rose, a beautiful upper-class passenger. However, it turns out Rose is a Spirited Young Lady who would much rather be with the penniless but kind and free-spirited Jack than her snobby and callous fiance Cal. She despises her stifling and close-minded upper-class lifestyle, with Jack encouraging her to try new things and let her hair down. By the midway point, Rose tells Jack she wants to run away with him once the ship reaches New York. Unfortunately, an iceberg nixes that plan, although Jack does everything he can to keep Rose alive, even sacrificing himself for her and urging her to survive and live the life she always dreamed about.

  • In the Chivalric Romance The Earl of Toulos, the earl falls in love with his enemy's wife and sneaks into his lands to catch a glimpse of her. Then he withdraws until she is accused of adultery, whereupon he goes in disguise to act as her champion and clear her name. (Some variants have an ending tacked on where she is widowed and they marry.)
  • Harry Potter:
    • The title character starts out as this for Ginny Weasley, in a rare male example. She develops a massive crush on him at the age of ten/eleven. He's famous in the Wizarding World as being the one who stopped Lord Voldemort when he was just a baby, is a talented Quidditch player, and stops Voldemort a second time in the first book. And then he only goes and saves Ginny's life in the second book. This is deconstructed and then subsequently reconstructed; Ginny is so awed by Harry that she can barely speak to him and is extremely shy and awkward around him, while he's all but oblivious and is more interested in Cho Chang once he starts noticing girls. Hermione suggests that Ginny try to relax more and just be herself; she also recommends she date other people instead of just waiting for Harry to notice her and see how that turns out. Subsequently, Ginny stops pining for Harry so much and becomes more confident and assertive, which Harry admires. In his sixth year, Harry finally falls for Ginny and they eventually begin dating; she admits she never truly gave up hope he'd return her affections, while as far as her brother and Harry's best friend Ron is concerned, Harry's the only boy 'worthy' of his sister. By the end of the series, Harry and Ginny are married with three kids.
    • It's revealed that Lily Potter was this for Severus Snape. He loved her ever since they were children, especially as she was one of the only people to ever treat him kindly, but was never able to tell her how he felt. She was also considered way out of his league; she was beautiful, popular, a prefect, Head Girl, and came from a loving middle-class family; Snape was not especially attractive, came from a poor and abusive family, and his only friends besides her were bullies and Death Eater wannabes. Snape ruined any chance of them ever being together when Lily tried to defend him from the Marauders and in a fit of humiliation and anger, he called her a Mudblood (which was very much the final straw for Lily, who disapproved of the company Snape kept). Lily went on to marry James Potter, but Snape never stopped loving Lily. It's telling that even though he joined the Death Eaters for a short time, he still loved Muggleborn Lily despite their pureblood supremacist beliefs, enough to betray Voldemort when he learned he intended to kill her. After her death, Snape spent over a decade protecting her son and acting as a spy for Dumbledore to ensure her sacrifice wasn't in vain. Even Dumbledore was surprised to learn he still loved Lily after all this time, enough that his Patronus took the same form as hers. If you re-read the series, you'll notice that while Snape regularly trash-talks Harry's father, he never says a word against his mother.
  • High School D×D: Rias Gremory is seen as this by Issei Hyoudou. While it's very clear the two are in love with each other, Issei one-sidedly decided she was out of his league, since she's a beautiful top-ranked devil, and figured that she deserved someone better than a hopeless pervert like him. This becomes a problem as the series goes on since Rias wants to take their mutual feelings to the next level, but Issei is still treating their relationship as master-servant. It reaches its peak in Volume 10 when Issei claims Rias is his master and nothing else before the rest of the Club spells out the problem for Issei.
  • Arya for Eragon in the Inheritance Cycle. She's a stunningly beautiful and powerful elf princess, while he's a teenage Farm Boy turned Dragon Rider in-training. He becomes borderline obsessed with her after seeing her in a dream and goes to a lot of effort to rescue her in the first book. He also doggedly pursues her affections in the second book. This is actually deconstructed to an extent, as Arya rather brutally dismisses Eragon's feelings as a childish infatuation; she is decades older than him (though she doesn't look it) and so thinks of him as little more than a child, they barely know each other and she detests the way he idealizes her, (including putting her on a pedestal and focusing only on her beauty). It's not until they spend some more time together and Eragon matures a bit that she starts reciprocating his feelings, though even then she suggests they wait until he's older before attempting a relationship.
  • The Kharkanas Trilogy:
    • Invoked with Lady Hish Tulla, who is one for both Anomander Rake and Silchas Ruin. They consider her the World's Most Beautiful Woman and thus, even though both have scored first base before, they still see her as unreachable and virtuous and only to be worshiped from afar.
    • Dragged through the mud and deconstructed with Enesdia. Her betrothed Andarist has delusions about her Incorruptible Pure Pureness. Her brother Kadaspala has an unhealthy obsession — though not of a romantic nature — with how pure and virtuous she is and considers her impending marriage to be detrimental to those qualities. Others consider her vain and spoiled. She is none of these extremes and the only one who sees that — Cryl Durav — thinks she only considers him her adopted brother and is unreachable for him for other reasons.
  • Re:Zero: From the moment Subaru met Emilia, he saw her as his ultimate dream girl and felt the need to fight for her to prove himself. It gets deconstructed when Subaru self-proclaims himself as her knight and disgraces her before all those present in the royal elections, attacking anyone who voices even the slightest negative opinion about her. Moreover, later during their quarrel, Emilia directly quotes this trope and accuses Subaru of idealizing her in his mind. Emilia also voices her disappointment with Subaru's behavior towards her, saying what she wanted was to be treated like a normal person. They sort it out later, with Subaru promising to try and start thinking of Emilia as a person even if he will still treat her like someone special to him.
  • Shimoneta: Initially, Anna is perceived to be the perfect girl and a model student by her peers and Tanukichi, who secretly nursed a crush on her. That changes after a single accidental kiss awakens her long-repressed hormones, causing Anna to become a horny, nigh-unstoppable stalker. It shatters Tanukichi's ideal image of her and leaves him terrified.
  • In another Chivalric Romance, Sir Degravant, Degravant, persecuted by his neighbor, falls in love with the man's daughter and risks himself on a venture to his enemy's lands, where he catches a glimpse of her and has to fight free. Later he wins The Tourney in which her hand is the prize.
  • Lyanna Stark to Robert Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire, to the point that he fought in a rebellion (partly) in order to rescue her. After Lyanna died, Robert became a broken man, bitter over having to marry someone else. When Robert grumbles that Lyanna would have let him do what he wanted to if he had married her, Ned (Lyanna's brother) comments that Robert only saw Lyanna's beauty, not her personality.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • It's strongly indicated Lyanna Stark was this to Robert Baratheon, as in the books. He never got over her death and states she was "the one thing I ever wanted" and that "seven kingdoms couldn't fill the hole she left behind". Not even his wife Cersei Lannister, who at the time of their marriage was said to be the World's Most Beautiful Woman, could compare as far as Robert was concerned; none of the numerous other women he sleeps with can hold a candle to Lyanna, either. It's implied (outright stated in the books) that Robert had an overly idealistic view of Lyanna and didn't truly know the real her– such as when he complains to Ned that she should've been buried somewhere she could see the sky instead of the crypt at Winterfell, only for Ned to remark that she's a Stark and belongs there with her family. It's eventually revealed that Lyanna never returned Robert's affections and eloped with Rhaegar Targaryen instead; she was even convinced Robert would've murdered her newborn son simply because of who his father was.
    • Daenerys Targaryen manages to be this to multiple people. Ser Jorah Mormont is head-over-heels for her and is one of her oldest and most devoted followers. He knows he has no chance with her, but he remains by her side nevertheless, wanting more than anything to see her on the Iron Throne. Even when she banishes him, he goes to extraordinary lengths to get back to her and is even willing to risk death fighting in gladiator games just so he can be near her. Although she doesn't return his love, Daenerys is deeply touched by his loyalty and regards him as a dear friend. Daario Naharis is also besotted with her, although he is far more forward about his feelings than Jorah. He is willing to screw over his commanders to take control of the Second Sons, bring them over to her side, and pledge his sword, life, and heart to her just days after they met out of infatuation and admiration for her. He is willing to do anything she asks, even vowing to kill her enemies anywhere in the world. When she breaks things off with him, he laments that no one else could ever compare to the Mother of Dragons and willingly (albeit grudgingly) remains in Meereen to keep the peace at her command.
      • This is deconstructed with Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister in Season 8; they're so in awe of her that they are blinded to her increasingly dark and unhinged mindset until it's too late. Even after witnessing Daenerys snap and raze King's Landing, Jon desperately tries to justify it in some way until Tyrion makes him see that as admirable as Daenerys was and no matter how much they love her, what she has become is terrible and she needs to be stopped before more people are killed.
  • Essentially how Dan Humphrey falls in love with Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl. Many of their problems as a couple arise from the fact that she can't possibly live up to the image of her he's created in his mind.

  • "She's So High" by Tal Bachman is all about this:
    She's so high
    High above me, she's so lovely
    She's so high
    Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite

    Tabletop RPG 
  • This happens all the time in the Pendragon game. The rules actually force knights to fall in love with (develop a Passion/Amor for) women, usually higher-class noblewomen of the setting. One of the most common targets was Queen Guenever (sic).

  • In La Princesse Lointaine (written by Edmond Rostand prior to the more famous Cyrano de Bergerac), a knight falls in love with a princess solely from hearing a description of her beauty and virtues. The play is based on the story of the troubadour Joffrey Rudel and his love for the Countess of Tripoli.
  • Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha is too perfect to be real (which is why it's not really a surprise when it turns out she isn't). She is Don Quixote's Hero's Muse and a winsome twist of his Horrible Judge of Character ways — the wretched Aldonza, hearing herself called Dulcinea, is eventually inspired to try to live up to it.

    Video Games 
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn poor Varl is perpetually in this place with respect to Aloy. Whether she is an outcast or "Anointed", there's always a gap between her and the tribe that cannot be bridged. She's a bit like Joan of Arc was- there's too much religious awe there to see her as a normal person.
  • In Love Plus, Manaka is seen as this by the other students due to her great grades, beautiful looks, amazing tennis skills, high-standing family, and overly-polite behaviour. For this reason, no one really tries to get close to her, causing her some deal of angst and social awkwardness as she isn't sure how to make genuine friends. One background character even says at one point that it's like she lives in a totally different world from everyone else.
  • Most Tokimeki Memorial games, including the Girls' Side series, have as the main love interest a seemingly perfect character who is beautiful, athletic, intelligent, beloved by the school populace, and easily the most difficult character to win over.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics