The 5 Most Insane Things Anyone Ever Did for Love
Getting married isn't always easy. Often, your spouse-to-be makes some ridiculous demand before they agree to enter into a permanent relationship with you, like that you have to get rid of your collection of anime figurines without heads or give up on sleeping with your stuffed pig named Mr. Pinky.
Luckily, like all those times you've watched Couples Therapy late at night to convince yourself that your life could be much worse, a glance at history can provide us with copious examples of people who went much further than you ever will just to find a spouse. Like the people who said ...
"Second Thoughts? Tell It to My Entire Army"
The story of history's most awkward wedding starts in the sixth century with a Germanic tribe called the Varni, whose king had betrothed his son Radigis to a maiden in Britain, a sister of the king of the Angles. History doesn't name this woman, so I'll call her Betty.
This can be her.
All was looking good for Radigis and Betty until Radigis' father fell ill. On his deathbed, he instructed Radigis to call off his engagement to the strange foreigner and marry someone local instead. When Betty heard the news, she wept and listened to Lana Del Rey for a while, and then made the most logical choice for an abandoned bride: she decided to invade Radigis' fucking country.
See, according to the Greek historian Procopius, the Anglian "barbarians" of the time took the idea of marriage very seriously: "When merely the name of marriage has been mentioned among them," he wrote, "the woman is considered to have lost her maidenhood." It's probably good that this aspect of the culture didn't really survive in England or its colonies, lest any one of us duck into a Dave's Bridal to get out of the rain and find ourselves engaged to the stock boy.
"Hey, you like boxes? I like boxes too."
How Did That Work Out?
An army of 100,000 Anglian soldiers descended on the fiance's homeland, all singing "Love Is a Battlefield" in unison, and the Germanic armies met them near the mouth of the Rhine. There, the Germans were decisively defeated by the sheer power of the insulted Betty, and a group of soldiers brought her news of the victory, only for her to yell at them that they'd achieved fuck-all, because they hadn't brought back her husband-to-be alive.
Soldiers dutifully set back out to track down the poor guy and found him hiding in the woods. Brought in front of Betty, Radigis reportedly begged for his life and was calmly told that all was forgiven if only he'd leave his new wife and go through with the original wedding. Not surprisingly, he did, and the two united in what was presumably a long and very awkward marriage.
"You Want This? Prove It by Taking Over a Whole Goddamn Country"
What would you do if the person you proposed to demanded that you take over and rule a country before they'd accept? Probably, you'd just marry Debbie from work instead. She's really nice, and she gets on with your mother.
Why does everyone always forget about Debbie?
Not so Harald, the ninth-century ruler of several small kingdoms in what would one day become Norway. According to the Norse saga of kings, the Heimskringla, Harald was in love with a woman named Gyda. He sent messengers to propose to her, but Gyda knocked them back, saying that she'd marry only the king of a whole country, not the lousy ruler of a few puny scattered kingdoms.
The terrified messengers returned with the bad news, and Harald declared that the woman had a point. He vowed to unite all of Norway under his rule and not cut or comb his hair until he'd achieved this.
How Did That Work Out?
Harald started his Conquer Norway campaign right away, pillaging the land and killing off other kings like it was going out of style. He was remarkably successful in his conquests, maybe because the other proto-Norwegians saw his hair and thought they were just being visited by a tourist from Portland. Once Harald had crossed off the last kingdom on his to-do list, he returned to marry Gyda. Of course, Harald reportedly had at least nine other wives, so maybe she didn't end up that impressed after all.
"Walk a Thousand Miles and I'll Consider It"
In 2011, Chinese artist Peiwen Liu got down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend. But things didn't go smoothly: the girl jokingly told him she would marry him only if he walked 1,000 miles for her. She then probably went on with her day, but Peiwen decided to take her words literally and set off to walk from the town of Anyang to Guangzhou, a city around 1,000 miles away, where his girlfriend's parents lived. Carrying a backpack and a red flag reading "Eager to meet my mother-in-law," he walked about 25 miles per day. He even started to blog his experiences, which included being mistaken for a vagrant and a terrifying incident in which he was almost murdered by cows.
At least he brought a towel.
How Did That Work Out?
Unfortunately for websites with names like Life Is Really Beautiful that reported on his romantic quest, the story lacks a happy ending. By the time Peiwen was a week away from his destination, his fiance was already sending him text messages telling him to give it up and go home. When he persevered and arrived in the city, she sent him a text that read "I will not spend the rest of my life with you" and then switched off her phone.
"If only my scheme had given me warning by involving some sort of red flag."
Turns out that her parents want her to marry someone with a steady job who wouldn't drop everything to walk across a chunk of China. Which does seem a bit callous, but, really, would you want to be married to a person who steps out on a 1,000-mile quest after an offhanded comment? One minute you'd be mentioning to him that you didn't care for the most recent season of Justified, and the next you'd have to hold him back from throwing the television out the window and writing a new replacement script in his own blood.
"Build the Tallest Tower in the City ... in Seven Days"
If you ever visit the city of Kazan in Tatarstan, Russia, you'll see a weird tower that looks like a hardcore wedding cake:
See it on your next trip to Tatarstan to pick up groceries.
Legend has it the tower dates back to Ivan the Terrible's conquest of Kazan in the 16th century. Impressed by the beauty of the local queen, Suyumbike, Mr. Terrible demanded her hand in marriage. Suyumbike was maybe not enthused about hooking up with a guy who was definitely not nicknamed "Ivan the Nice" or "Ivan the Probably Treats Foreign Princesses Really Well," and she made a seemingly impossible demand: construct the tallest tower in Kazan within seven days. Other accounts have her demanding that he construct the tallest tower anyone had ever seen in the same timeframe, but considering it was Tatarstan in the 16th century, I don't think it really matters; we're not talking about modern Dubai here.
Ivan must have been just really eager to experience one of those wedding DJs who keeps playing "Celebration" even though you asked him to stick to dubstep, because he supposedly bullied his men into building the tower, and within seven days it was up.
"It usually doesn't take Ivan seven days, ladies."
How Did That Work Out?
Not so well. Suyumbike requested that she be allowed to climb to the top of the tower, maybe to make sure the inside wasn't made up of crude papier-mache and glue. Once she reached the top she promptly threw herself off to her death, casting a bit of a shadow over the engagement. I presume that, when Ivan fell in love after that, he wasn't fooled by the woman who wanted him to build her a giant tank full of man-eating sharks or the one that demanded he give her a noose and a sign reading "FUCK YOU IVAN."
"About Me: Looking for honest women who don't play games. No more drama."
Historians have since determined that the tower's construction is too recent to date back to the time of Ivan the Terrible, but since the town records concerning it were destroyed in a fire, it's hard to tell how much of the rest of the story is myth. It's quite possible the inhabitants of Kazan made up the whole thing so they'd have an excuse for the fact that, until recent renovations, the tower was gradually tipping over. "Yeah, our prized tower might be falling down, but it was made in seven days and Ivan was antsy. Give us a break."
"Yes, I'll Marry You! But First Kill My Baby Daddy. Oh, and He's a Politician"
It was the 1820s, and young Kentucky lawyer Jereboam Beauchamp was in love with an older woman named Ann Cook. Cook, apparently, had been tragically wronged in the past: a politician and lawyer named Solomon Sharp had fathered an illegitimate child with her, leaving her in disgrace. So Cook did the only reasonable thing: she told Beauchamp that she'd marry him only if he left an angry message scrawled on Sharp's carriage in horse poop. No wait, kill him. She told the poor guy she'd marry him if he killed Sharp. I imagine she phrased it something like, "Thou must murder him well," because in my head people in 19th-century Kentucky speak like characters in bad medieval-based fantasy novels.
"Make sure thou dost draw a dick on his face afterward."
Rather than simply shrugging his shoulders and marrying Debbie from work instead, Beauchamp agreed. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't very good at murder. First, he tracked down Sharp and demanded a duel, but Sharp refused to participate and left town soon after. Beauchamp tried to lure him back by writing letters under false names, which Sharp ignored. Finally, Beauchamp just traveled to his house and stabbed the guy.
I BEG THEE, GOOD SIR, DO NOT DRAWETH A DICK ON MINE FACE.
How Did That Work Out?
Beauchamp was arrested for murder, and Cook talked her way into his prison cell so the two could attempt a double suicide. She died from a self-inflicted stab wound: Beauchamp survived his own self-inflicted wound long enough to be hanged. The couple was buried together, which is the only nice part of the whole story. Which goes to show that you should really just marry Debbie.
C. Coville has a Twitter here and a funny book on sale here.
For more from C. Coville, check out 5 Reasons Modern Life Is Driving Manliness to Extinction and 5 Secret Languages That Stuck It to the Man.
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