A Ruritanian Romance is a story set in a
fictional country, usually in Middle Europeor East Europe, such as the Ruritaniathat gave the genreits name. The popularity of the Graustarknovels led to this type of story also being called Graustarkian Romances.
Such stories are typically swashbuckling
adventure novels, tales of high romance and intrigue, centered on the upper classes, aristocracy and royalty. The themes of honor, loyalty, and lovepredominate, and the books frequently feature the restorationof kings to their thrones.
Although recognizable Ruritanian romances such as
Robert Louis Stevenson's " Prince Otto" were written prior to Anthony Hope's " The Prisoner of Zenda", that 1894 novel set the type, with its handsome political decoyrestoring the rightful king to the throne, and resulted in a burst of similar popular fiction, such as George Barr McCutcheon's Graustark novels and Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Lost Prince". See a list of homages here.
The genre was widely spoofed and parodied.
George Bernard Shaw's " Arms and the Man" parodied many elements. Dorothy Sayers's " Have His Carcase" featured as the murder victim a man deceived by his murderers because of his foolish belief in his royal ancestry, fed by endless reading of Ruritanian romances. In Vladimir Nabokov's " Pale Fire", the main narrator has the delusion of being the incognito king of a "distant northern land" who romantically escaped a Soviet-backed revolution.cite journal | last = McCarthy | first = Mary | authorlink = Mary McCarthy (author) | title = A Bolt from the Blue | journal = The New Republic | date = June 4, 1962 Revised version in cite book |author= Mary McCarthy |title=A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays |url=http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1590170105/ |accessdate=2006-09-25 |year=2002 |publisher= The New York Review of Books|location=New York |id=ISBN 1-59017-010-5 |pages=pp. 83–102] The genre was spoofed in " The Princess Bride", which features the fictional countries of Guilderand Florin(terms for old forms of money).
The popularity of the genre declined after the first part of the twentieth century. Aside from the change in literary taste, the royalist elements of Ruritanian romances became less plausible as many European monarchies receded even from memory, and their restorations grew less likely.
Many elements of the genre have been transplanted into
fantasy worlds, particularly those of fantasy of mannersand alternate history. The science fictionwriter Andre Nortonfirst reached success with a 1934 Ruritanian novel, "The Prince Commands". Although "Ruritania" originally referred to a "contemporary" country, the idea has been adapted for use in historical fiction. A subgenre of this is historical romance, such as Jennifer Blake's "Royal Seduction" and its sequel "Royal Passion"; both are set in the nineteenth century and feature Prince Rolfe (later King) and his son Prince Roderic respectively, of the fictional Balkan country of Ruthenia.
John Cluteand John Grant, " The Encyclopedia of Fantasy"
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext95/prott10.txt Robert Louis Stevenson's "Prince Otto"]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/384/384-8.txt Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Lost Prince"]
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