1. I think I tended to see this story primarily in terms of trying to save her people, and all the other relationships as accessory to that. Primarily because the story feels focused more on her quest rather than the relationships.

    Sexual or romantic relationships tend to be something a lot of people seek out at some point in their lives, so they probably have a fascination for it just because of that. Especially since it’s something they have to work for. There’s usually a relationship with a parent at some point in their lives, but if they want a romantic relationship, they have to look for one.

  2. notleia says:

    Tangent: Yeah, large age difference between people of technically the same generation were more of a thing when people had more kids throughout more of their lifetime than stopping at 2-3 in their 30’s (tho there are plenty of exceptions, I’m just ballparking a mainstream average). My mom is about 12 years younger than her oldest brother, and she’s only one of five. Good little fruitful Catholics and/or weird Quiverfull peeps with 8+ kids could easily have two decades between oldest and youngest.

    • Lauren says:

      Yeah, I’ve known families like that. I’m the oldest out of 3, but my youngest brother is 14 years younger than me. And my boyfriend is the youngest of 3, and his closest sibling is 8 years older.

  3. Lauren says:

    I think the reason retellings focus on the romance is because there’s so little evidence (or likelihood) of actual romance. That way they have a “but what if” to hook readers.

    Granted it’s been way overdone, and anyone not familiar with the Biblical account might be surprised.

    Mostly, it’s just because romance sells (and I say that as someone who loves romantic stories). But, yeah, overall Xerxes/Esther is icky.

    • notleia says:

      I think Ruth/Boaz is just about the only romantic (or “romantic”) story that isn’t actually pretty gross when you think about it.

      • Not really sure Ruth x Boaz is entirely free of ickiness, either, though. People’s lives were hard back then, so people seemed to have to settle a lot, even if a marriage or circumstances around it weren’t optimal.

      • Travis Perry says:

        I think you imagining that anything in Ruth/Boaz is gross in any measure would have to come from a misunderstanding of what the book is about. It certainly seems to me to show a misunderstanding of the culture of the time. You could say that Naomi sending Ruth to the threshing floor to lie next to Boaz was a rather clumsy attempt to get her to seduce him–and would qualify maybe as gross (though I’d say it was desperate rather than gross). But Ruth obeys not because she is a bad person, but because in her culture, submitting to the wishes of her adopted mother was a “thing.” And Boaz flat-out turns down any opportunity to take advantage of the situation and seeks to marry her, after already clearly admiring her. The bottom line for the story is that both Ruth and Boaz are exceptionally honorable people and the story makes it plain they deserve each other. That’s not romance in the modern sense, which focuses on bodies a lot–which is kinda gross, actually. In fact, I’d say that Ruth/Boaz is far less gross than virtually any modern romance story.

        Esther is not really romantic and definitely reflects a past culture. Being the chief wife among a harem of wives (as Esther was) just reflects the realities of another world–I totally get why a woman would not want to trade lives with Esther. Her life was kinda awful, actually. But calling it “gross” or “icky” seems to me to kinda miss the point…though what I am saying requires someone to realize the story is in no way a romance, even if the king found Esther more beautiful than all the other wives in the harem…

        • notleia says:

          No, I’m very aware that romance is a fairly recent invention. But a situation can be normal in context to the culture and times and still be “gross” in the (casual) modern sense *at the same time*. Or maybe that’s too postmodern of me.

          That Ruth WAS desperate and forced by circumstances is pretty gross even if Boaz specifically wasn’t gross and it ended up fine. I guess I’m not being terribly specific between calling a situation gross and calling the people and their actions within that situation as being gross. Or what exactly I mean by “gross.” Lots of grossness to go around in either case.

        • Part of it depends on how we define gross. I kind of took it to mean whether or not there’s potentially messed up aspects in the relationship. Ruth x Boaz sounds like one of the better couples in the Bible, but it’s by no means perfect. I somewhat feel sorry for Ruth because there’s a possibility that she may not have really cared for Boaz that way or wanted to be with him. That can be a rather stressful situation for someone to be in, yet, if she did dislike the idea of being with him, she agreed to anyway because of circumstances.

          That’s part of why I pointed out the aspect of settling. She may have settled for Boaz because of tradition and to pull herself and her mother in law out of poverty, even if it may have been very unhappy or disgusting for her. There is a possibility that she didn’t mind the guy, and I hope that is the case, but who knows if it was.

  4. That was excellent Shannon; great analysis. I wonder if, in a broad sense, people (the royal we) a) don’t want to hear about father-daughter stories, or b) have so few good examples in their lives to draw the right story arc for a good father-daughter story, and therefore, we just don’t have many and prefer romance as a quick fix? I think, deep down, we do want to hear stories that portray positive “but what if’s”. What if a father sacrificially loved his daughter and help her work toward her best self, creating the environment for her identity to flourish? What if a daughter grew up in that environment and was supported through her trials? For a dad to walk alongside his daughter in the midst of them?

    Whenever I reread Esther, I can’t help but think “This is the same Xerxes from 300.” Nope, not romantic.

What do you think?