Beyond Happily Ever After: Divorce Should Be an Option in Fantasy Fiction

When divorce appears at all in fiction, it usually gets a bad rap. It breaks up families, causes tense arguments between couples, or traumatizes innocent children, like in Judy Blume’s It’s Not The End of The World. In historical or epic fantasy fiction, on the other hand, divorce seems to simply not exist. There are plenty of unhappy marriages, certainly, but the estranged couples either endure unhappily, murder each other, or flee in terror.

I’d like to present a case for the awesomeness of divorce, its historical antecedents, and why it can be a useful tool for creating complexity and drama in speculative fiction and fantasy.

First of all, divorce is in no way a modern invention. In the Roman Empire, at least one-sixth of elite marriages are estimated to have ended by divorce within the first decade, and probably substantially more (as detailed in Marriage, Divorce, and Children in ...