Feb 23, 2021

5 Of The Most Iconic “Frenemy” Relationships in Literary History

"Frenemies": We love to love them, despite how much they hate each other. Whether they battle between friendship and hatred their entire lives, leave the tension behind, or even become passionate lovers, the bonds of the frenemy connection are strong. Sometimes, it's even stronger than a traditional friendship or longtime lovers.

We see this play out in literature constantly, the trope long ago becoming one that readers love to hate. When you consider how love and relationships in books differs from our real life relationships, it can be easy to let yourself be wooed by a love-hate relationship. There are hundreds we can turn to when we're looking for a little drama, but here are some of our favorites.

Number 5: Helena and Hermia 

When two best friends from childhood discover they love the same man after a love potion gone wrong, their friendship is tested in unexpected ways. 

When Helena’s long term betrothed decides he wants her best friend Hermia instead, Helena is left feeling bitter and scorned. There’s nothing like men to make two best friends turn on each other, and it will take serious mischief to set things right again. The characters are brought to life by William Shakespeare, who is the master of exploring different relationship dynamics in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Number 4: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most incredible examples of the frenemy. Dr. Jekyll hates Mr. Hyde because of the evil power he has, while Mr. Hyde despises that he has to share a body and a life with the amiable Dr. Jekyll. 

But when you’re two sides of the same man, there’s only so far your hatred can go before you realize you have to cooperate with yourself. The emergence of Mr. Hyde started as an experiment, and ultimately Dr. Jekyll becomes the lesser force within them. The entire relationship serves as a philosophical look into how we can be frenemies with ourselves, and how that can consume us if we aren’t careful. Explore more in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Despite the constant battle between love and hate, these couples set the standard for many novels.

Number 3: Gimli and Legolas

Gimli and Legolas have one of the most tense relationships in all of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings series. Dwarves and Elves hate each other, and nothing is more clear as the two come together to escort The Ring to Mordor.

Despite initial tensions, Gimli and Legolas slowly grow closer and begin to bond during the perilous journey. Eventually, the pair put all of their issues behind them during the war at Helm’s Deep, fighting side-by-side and risking their lives for one another. Once the war ended, the pair even lived together, though that certainly didn’t keep them from insulting one another. 

Number 2: Aziraphale and Crowley

Is there anything better than a frenemy relationship that spans the entire known history of the Earth? Aziraphale and Crowley from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens begin their journey together on opposite sides of a classic spectrum—Heaven and Hell. The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley must find a way to work towards a common goal throughout their thousands of years together and, in the end, they decide to stiff the teams they’re supposed to be playing for and work together to save humanity. 

By the end of the book, you can’t tell which team each character belongs to, and if you’ve seen the TV adaptation, you’ll notice more notes of a love story than are present in the book. One of the greatest things about Aziraphale and Crowley is the fan response to them. People of all genders and relationships saw themselves in the duo in the 30 years since the book's publication and the release of the Amazon Prime series. 

Number 1: Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

At the number one slot, it’s no surprise that we have Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy’s continual snubbing of Elizabeth throughout the novel builds the core of their relationship. Because of how he treats her, his proposal comes as a surprise, and she scorns him because of his prideful attitude towards her even while declaring his love. Regardless of the turmoil, their relationship has set the ultimate precedent for the enemies-turned-lovers trope that makes its way into books of all genres.  

These are just a few of our favorite frenemy relationships across literature. Which are your favorites? Tweet it to us @bookclubdotcom.

Despite the constant battle between love and hate, these couples set the standard for many novels.