“Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” That line comes at the end of William Goldman’s seminal novel The Princess Bride, and it is a wonderful capstone on the adventures of Buttercup and Wesley. But it also brings up the question, what were the other five kisses? Mr. Goldman was no help at all with this—we had to dig up the other five on our own.
Grok & Oog
As with everything, it’s the early acts that are the hardest to top. Grok had long given up Oog for dead—winters were harsh, and Grok had his own brush with death not five days earlier with a sabertooth tiger. Laying alone in the cave to nurse his wounds gave him chills, no matter how many furs he wrapped himself in. Oog said she would be back, but Grok had seen women and men go out into the snows before. Grok could count those who had made it back on his right hand. And that hand had two fingers that were still in the tiger’s belly.
So when Oog did return, half-frozen but alive, dragging a tiger corpse, covered in tiger blood, with that cock-eyed smile that she gave him the first time they locked eyes, Grok scooped her up in his arms and gave her a kiss the likes of which had not yet been seen. The kiss had only just been invented, but Grok and Oog redefined what it was capable of from that moment on.
Rudjek & Weshptah
Rudjek and Weshptah had been neighbors for a long time, long enough that they both could remember the last Pharaoh. They had played together as boys, and into adulthood had an affection for each other that went deeper than family. When the floods came and went and took Weshptah’s house with them, Rudjek opened his home to the man who had loved for as long as he knew what love was. Weshptah answered with a kiss.
That kiss was good, but it was not one of the most passionate and most pure.
That came many years later, as they watched the sun go down over their fields and both realized without speaking to each other how wonderful their lives had become since they had intertwined them. And then, with the quiet intensity that would put the most exclamatory poet to shame, they kissed.
Tabla & Dakarai
Tabka was a weaver, and her life’s work was a history of her tribe, woven in red and black and gold. There were jokes around the tribe of her loving her woven history more than her husband. Tabka allowed that there may have been some truth in that; she married Dakarai because he respected her weaving, allowed her do to it while he tended their cattle. Dakarai was a good man, Tabka knew that. But the woven history was larger than one man, or one woman, or the two together. Dakarai understood that. At least she thought he did.
The woven history required dye that came from a particular root, and Tabka’s tribe, always on the move to stay ahead of the violent raiders, had moved far from it. Dakarai stayed with the tribe and the cattle, so Tabka walked alone. The journey was difficult, but it was worth it when she found the root, and knew the history of her people would have the vibrant colors it deserved.
Tabka saw the flames of what remained of her tribe’s homes first. They shone clearly, an inky smoke pouring from them in great plumes. In her mind, Tabka went through all the things she had lost, that had no doubt been burned away: her home, her cattle, the woven history of her tribe, Dakarai. All gone.
When Tabka got to the flames, she saw Dakarai standing there, holding her life’s work, the history of their people, slightly singed but intact. He offered it to her and accepted it with the reverence it was due. But she put it down almost as soon as it as she touched it. The only thing she wanted in her hands was Dakarai because the thought of being without him had terrified her utterly. And then, his face in her hands, they kissed.
Elaine the Peerless & Maerwynn the Fair
There are many tales of Elaine the Peerless, the maiden knight, and Maerwynn the Fair, whose delicate beauty blinded all. Most are fictious, embellished after the fact. Did Elaine save Maerwynn from dragons, from giants, from witches and sorcerers and countless other monstrousities? Perhaps. But unless Maerwynn was the most danger-prone person ever to live, it is unlikely all of them happened.
But we do know that one story was true, that one act of heroism was a matter of historical fact.
Maerwynn was kidnapped by the Magpie Prince who locked her into a tower with neither stair nor door. Only the Magpie Prince, in the form a black bird could visit Maerwynn, flew to her window to torment her before leaving her to cry in her solitude.
The tower was so well made that the stones were almost smooth, but such things are small obstacles to a woman in love. Elaine scaled the tower bit by bit, hanging on the stones by naught but her fingertips in some places. Elaine made it to the tower’s window, cut out the heart of the Magpie Prince, and kissed her true love Maerwynn in such a way as to be remembered for all time.
No embellishment has been added to this tale, because it needs none. Like the kiss, it was immaculate.
Lihua & Ju
A wealthy lord who had heard of the habits of Lihua the Bandit Queen, swapped clothes with Ju, a poor farmer. Which meant that when Lihua kidnapped Ju, there was no way she was going to get the massive ransom she imagined when she first saw his fine silk robes. But Ju had riches of his own that were not immediately apparent: a culinary skill with minimal ingredients, an uncomplaining demeanor, and a sparkling wit that made the dour Bandit Queen laugh in spite of herself. Lihua kept Ju as a “prisoner,” but after awhile she made no effort to restrain him and he made no attempt to leave. Ju was well-liked by Lihua’s band of thieves, but especially by Lihua herself. It was said that Lihua was too savage to take a lover, but those in her confidence knew the truth.
It was late at night when Lihua, exhausted after many hours of labor, looked at the daughter she and Ju had created together, a miracle made of love that only existed because of a mistake, years ago, and asked Ju to come close. The kiss that followed amazed even a band of jaded cuttroats.
That daughter took her mother’s name, and became known Lihua, the Terror of the Seas. She had many noteworthy kisses in her lifetime, but none in the top five.