BRACKETOLOGY: Ranking the All-Time Best Literary Lovers

Hello, Lovers!

Today is February 14th, Valentine's Day. It is a time to honor not just your own Sweet Baboo, or the greeting card company billionaire geniuses who created this day, but really, it's a time to celebrate all who have ever loved.

And, in particular, let's celebrate the characters from books who taught us about love. Even though "books" are going extinct in like two years, I think we can all agree that virtually all of history's greatest romances (except for Justin & Kelly) have come from the world of literature.

But which literary couple is the most loving? To answer this essential question, let's use my favorite way of ranking things, the NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket! I have seeded and matched up 32 of history's most heart-rending romances (16 from old books, 16 from new books), so now let's see which couple from the pages is one for the ages!

OLD BOOKS REGIONAL - First Round

1. Romeo & Juliet vs. 16. Tristan & Isolde

This is an easy first-round match-up for R & J. Tristan and Isolde are basically just "Boring Romeo and Stupid Name Juliet." I couldn't even finish the Wikipedia article about them. I think they die at the end? I don't know, I couldn't bring myself to care.

WINNER: Romeo & Juliet.

8. Orpheus & Eurydice vs. 9. Theseus & Ariadne

Which Greek myth scenario is more tragically romantic -- looking back at your beloved like right after Hades tells you, "whatever you do, DON'T look at her or she'll be dead forever," or totally abandoning your girlfriend on an island? Okay, fine, the first one is obviously more tragically romantic. But which one is more... gangsta?

WINNER: Theseus & Ariadne. Come on -- it's the year 2013! Abandoning girlfriends on islands is a big part of our dating culture these days.

5. Scarlett O'Hara & Rhett Butler vs. 12. Odysseus & Penelope

Two couples that had to wait a reeeally long time to get together, Scarlett & Rhett because Scarlett was off marrying other dudes for like the whole Civil War, and Odysseus & Penelope because Odysseus was having tons of affairs with witches and nymphs in the years following the Trojan War. Not a whole lot of faithfulness in either pairing...

WINNER: Rhett & Scarlett. At least Rhett was truly devoted to Scarlett! You can't really say the same for Penelope. I mean, you know she was getting it on with at least like 35 of those luscious suitors.

4. Jay Gatsby & Daisy Buchanan vs. 13. Jake Barnes & Lady Brett Ashley

The doomed leads of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby versus the doomed leads of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises! Pardon my crudeness, but I'll take Gatsby's broken heart over Jake's broken...you know...the other thing besides hearts that guys have that pumps blood and goes, "Ooooh! I want!" around women.

WINNER: Gatsby & Daisy.

3. Adam & Eve vs. 14. Finny & Gene from A Separate Peace

Two hot young couples that had their relationships ruined by trees!

WINNER: Finny & Gene. (Yes. Come on. Admit it. Finny & Gene count as a couple. A sexy, forbidden, 1940s, all-male boarding school couple. Admit it. You're writing the fanfic in your head right now.)

6. Anna Karenina & Count Vronsky vs. Hester Prynne & Arthur Dimmesdale

The battle of shameful affairs that take place in societies where shameful affairs are seen as bad! So how was each lady punished as a result? Anna Karenina had to have her train track moment, and, you know, that can't have been fun. But The Scarlet Letter's Hester had to suffer in two huge ways: both by having to wear the cloth 'A' around town and by having to give birth to a tiny devil baby.

WINNER: Hester & Dimmesdale in the upset! I basically always vote for tiny devil babies.

7. Jane Eyre & Edward Rochester vs. 10. Cyrano de Bergerac & Roxanne

This is the the All-Couples-That-Aren't-Very-Attractive match-up. Jane and Rochester are oddly steamy, though. Maybe it's the secret crazy wife in the attic that spices things up?

WINNER: Jane & Rochester, and really, normal-sized noses.

2. Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy vs. Beatrice & Benedick from "Much Ado About Nothing"

Both of these love stories begin with people who don't really like each other that much spewing barbs back and forth, but while "Much Ado" also pretty much ends that way, Pride & Prej ends with a sopping wet, lake-soaked Colin Firth.

WINNER: Elizabeth & Darcy. (I know that the book doesn't technically have waterlogged Colin Firth in it, but come on, no one who reads it isn't imagining waterlogged Colin Firth.)

NEW BOOKS REGIONAL - First Round

1. Edward Cullen & Bella Swan vs. 16. Lestat & Louis from Interview with the Vampire

Sexy vampires on sexy vampires on sexy vampires! And the only way for me to settle this is to pick which couple I find sexier and vampirer...

WINNER: Lestat & Louis. Wow -- that was surprisingly easy. I guess Tom Cruise & Brad Pitt feasting on each other's necks is sexier than Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson pretending to be in love for media attention. Who'da thunk?

8. Jaime Lannister & Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones vs. 9. Frog & Toad from Frog & Toad

This is easily the most difficult match-up of the first round. Jaime & Cersei Lannister lose some points for being incestuous, but they win back lots of points for being delightfully treasonous. And incredibly wealthy. And so beautiful. And, honestly, they win some points for being incestuous, too (it's love!). And yet...

WINNER: Frog & Toad. As far as I'm concerned, that's the greatest love story of our time. Or any time. Sorry, every other couple -- you're about to get destroyed. BY AMPHIBIANS WEARING CARDIGANS.

5. Florentino Ariza & Fermina Daza from Love In the Time of Cholera vs. 12. Sayuri & The Chariman from Memoirs of a Geisha

Like Scarlett & Rhett, these are two more relationships that took a looooong time to develop. I like Sayuri & Chairman because of that part at the beginning where he buys her an ice cream when she's like ten years old, and while that's sort of creepy, it's still better than pulling a Florentino and having a bajillion affairs before you land with the girl of your sueños.

WINNER: Sayuri & The Chairman. And endless "tea ceremonies."

4. Wesley & Buttercup from The Princess Bride vs. 13. Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings.

Which lover shows more complete devotion? Yeah, Wesley says, "As you wish," to Buttercup like every five seconds, but Sam refers to Frodo literally only as "Master."

WINNER: Frodo & Sam. Mmm...precious...

3. Augustus Waters & Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars vs. 14. Stevens the butler from The Remains of the Day and the lady who he's super-obsessed with but he's afraid to say anything because he's so devoted to the idea of being a good butler

WINNER: If I don't pick Augustus & Hazel here, then an army of millions of John Green fans, a.k.a. tween girls, will storm my house and take me prisoner. They will strip me down, cover my body with Lisa Frank stickers, march me to the local mall, behead me, and mount my head on a pike outside of a Claire's. I really don't want that to happen.

6. The Interchangeable Terminally Ill/Serving in the Military/Trapped in an Abusive Relationship but Really the Girl is in Love with a Sensitive Boy Couple from any Nicholas Sparks book vs. 11. Harvard Symbology Professor Robert Langdon and the Interchangeable Hyper-Intelligent and Kinda Sexy to Boot Euro Chick from any Dan Brown book

WINNER: Generic Nicholas Sparks lovers. Again, I'm terrified of tween girls coming at me with torches and pitchforks. I can't bring myself to disappoint them. And by not picking Dan Brown here, I'm really only disappointing his number one fan... my mom.

7. Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger vs. 10. Katniss Everdeen & Peeta Mellark.

The match-up of the Really Competent Girls and the Loser Dudes who they Tolerate for Some Reason. I gotta go Ron & Hermione, here, though. Think of all the secret hooking up they did behind Harry's back for like seven years! They deserve to be rewarded for that.

WINNER: Ron & Hermione.

2. Harry Potter & Ginny Weasley vs. 15. Harry Potter & Cho Chang.

I'M TEAM CHO. OBVIOUSLY. ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A PERSON IS THEIR STANCE ON THIS ISSUE. GINNY IS UNDEVELOPED AND YAWN-INDUCING, THEREFORE ALL PEOPLE WHO WANT HER TO BE WITH HARRY ARE UNDEVELOPED AND YAWN-INDUCING. CHO IS A BEAUTIFUL WINNER. HER FIRST KISS WITH HARRY WAS THE MOMENT WE ALL GREW UP.

WINNER: Harry & Cho.

OLD BOOKS REGIONAL - Sweet Sixteen

1. Romeo & Juliet vs. 9. Theseus & Ariadne

What's the more difficult beast to deal with as a couple -- a big, scary Minotaur...or the in-laws? Am I riiiiiiight?

WINNER: Romeo & Juliet.

5. Scarlett O'Hara & Rhett Butler vs. 4. Jay Gatsby & Daisy Buchanan

Saddest part of Scarlett & Rhett's relationship: when their tiny daughter dies in a horse-jumping accident.

Saddest part of Gatsby & Daisy's relationship: when they look at some nice silk shirts and cry.

WINNER: Gatsby & Daisy. I mean, those were such beautiful shirts...

14. Finny & Gene from A Separate Peace vs. 11. Hester & Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter

Just ask yourself this: what's the hotter place to secretly hook up -- at a 1940s all-boys boarding school, or in a Puritanical Pilgrim village?

WINNER: Finny & Gene. Consider this -- their hookups were so hot that A Separate Peace author John Knowles didn't even write any of them into the book itself. He just made it really, really obvious that Finny and Gene were hooking up.

7. Jane Eyre & Edward Rochester vs. 2. Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy

WOW. Tough call. Okay, here's how we'll settle this. You know how they had those "goofy monsters take over Victorian era romances" books a couple years ago? Stuff like, Pride & Prejudice...and Zombies! 

Well Jane & Rochester didn't need that. They already had a secret crazy in the attic! And nothing makes a relationship work like a secret crazy in the attic.

WINNER: Jane Eyre & Rochester. Yes, I'm aware that all of womankind is going to boycott me forever for not picking Darcy.

NEW BOOKS REGIONAL - Sweet Sixteen

16. Lestat & Louis from Interview with the Vampire vs. 9. Frog & Toad from Frog & Toad

Frog and Toad don't need to spend centuries eating each other and fighting over ten year-old Kirsten Dunst to stay happy.

Frog and Toad are happy just taking the occasional tandem bike ride and feeding each other one cookie too many.

To me, that's real love.

WINNER: Frog & Toad.

12. Sayuri & The Chairman vs. 13. Frodo & Sam

I just closed my eyes and imagined each couple spooning. Sayuri & Chairman? It just didn't work. But Frodo & Sam? How badly would you want to be part of that tiny, furry-footed cuddle sandwich? 

WINNER: Frodo & Sam.

BRACKETOLOGY: Ranking the All-Time Best Literary Lovers

3. Augustus & Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars vs. 6. Any Lovers from Any Nicholas Sparks Book

This is so difficult. How can I possibly pick between John Green's good-humored, making-the-best-of-it teenage terminally ill couple and all of the times Nick Sparks has written about the exact same thing? I can't make this call.

So I'll let my dad make the decision. When he saw The Notebook, he wept like a tiny baby boy with a boo-boo, and he won't know what The Fault in Our Stars is for two years until the movie version with Zac Efron comes out. So...Sparks over Stars, by default.

WINNER: Nicholas Sparks lovers.

7. Ron & Hermione vs. 15. Harry & Cho.

We'll use the same litmus we used a few match-ups back. Where's the better place to hook up for the first time -- under some wizardly mistletoe? Or IN THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS?!?

WINNER: Ron & Hermione.

OLD BOOKS REGIONAL - Elite Eight

1. Romeo & Juliet vs. 4. Gatsby & Daisy

Both characters dying > one character dying and the other character going back to live with her abusive, white supremacist husband.

WINNER: Romeo & Juliet.

Tenth grade Teddy: "So if Jane & Rochester have such an exciting romance, then why is Jane Eyre the most boring book ever?"

Current Teddy: "That's a good point, tenth grade Teddy."

Tenth grade Teddy: "You wanna go eat Hot Pockets and play Super Smash Bros. Melee?"

Current Teddy: "Yes, tenth grade Teddy...yes I do."

WINNER: Finny & Gene.

NEW BOOKS REGIONAL - Elite Eight

9. Frog & Toad vs. 13. Frodo & Sam

What's cuter -- piggyback riding up Mount Doom together? Or sitting in a tree reading books together at slightly different heights? Followed by sitting on a big rock with arms around each other? Followed by RECEIVING MAIL FROM A SNAIL? No contest, right?

WINNER: Frog & Toad.

BRACKETOLOGY: Ranking the All-Time Best Literary Lovers

6. The Teen Lovers from Any Nicholas Sparks Book vs. 7. Ron & Hermione

A snog to remember > A Walk to Remember.

WINNER: Ron & Hermione.

FINAL FOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1. Romeo & Juliet vs. 14. Finny & Gene

Okay, so Romeo & Juliet actually loved each other eternally as opposed to secretly resenting each other and hate-hooking up throughout the whole story, as Finny & Gene did (yes, they did hate hook up throughout the whole story. Read the book! I'm right!)

WINNER: Romeo & Juliet.

9. Frog & Toad vs. 7. Ron & Hermione

All right, real talk. Deep down, everyone knows that the only reason Ron and Hermione even exist as a couple is because halfway through writing book 4, J.K. Rowling was like, "oh crap, teen girls love my books. I better set two of my main characters up for a not-quite-plausible relationship."

But Frog and Toad? Frog and Toad are DESTINED.

WINNER: Frog & Toad.

CHAMPIONSHIP:

BRACKETOLOGY: Ranking the All-Time Best Literary Lovers

1. Romeo & Juliet vs. 9. Frog & Toad.

Look, guys -- it's not even close. Romeo & Juliet are a couple of 13 year-olds who got carried away with their hormones and helped by an inexplicably enabling Friar. They had their moment, it lasted like five minutes, and then it ended.

But Frog & Toad? Frog and Toad are a lifetime of love. Frog and Toad are Sundays spent kite-flying with your number one bro. Frog and Toad are staying hidden under the sheets for hours in an attempt to good-naturedly scare your BFF. Frog and Toad are jumping up and down and clapping with glee for no reason.

Maybe they're just platonic, romantic life partners. Maybe they're something more. All I know is -- THAT'S WHAT I WANT IN A LOVING RELATIONSHIP. I want what Frog has. I want what Toad has.

And I wish the same for you.

CHAMP: Frog & Toad.

MVP: Being friends first, lovers second.