Some variations tell a wonderful love story; others are unrealistic and a little on the soppy side. Some use the story as an allegory for a spiritual journey. The first known account is a short poem from India, but the most well-known writing about this Romeo and Juliet love story is the work of the Persian poet Nizami. In any case, it makes for a perfect example of the unrequited and unattainable romance.
As the story goes Layla and Majnun fell in love while in school and he began to write poetry to her. Their families feuded so the relationship was discouraged. He persisted and became obsessive about his love for Layla. He asked her father for permission to marry her and was refused. She was instead married off to an older man and sent away. The more romanticized versions of the story had Layla refusing to have conjugal relations with her husband to keep her love pure for Majnun. Unless things were a lot different in those days, this sounds highly unlikely.
Majnun left his tribe and wandered in the wilderness proclaiming his love for Layla and writing love poems in her honour. Some of these poems were heard by others and became popular when recited in markets and bazaars. In this way Layla continued to hear of Majnun and kept her love alive.
Majnun was so single-minded in his devotion to Layla that he was declared a madman by his former friends. His family tried to entice him back home and took him on a pilgrimage to take his mind off Layla. Nothing worked. Majnun remained in the wilderness but gave his letters to passers-by for delivery to his home.
Eventually Layla died, supposedly of grief. Majnun visited her tomb regularly, writing verses in the sand and on her tomb. In time he wasted away and died in the desert, to be buried beside his love Layla. His final verses were carved on a rock beside her grave.
Unrequited love makes a wonderful story, but in my more irreverent moments I sometimes wonder about the Romeos and Juliets of the world. What would their lives have been like if the course of their love had run smoothly and they had married as other couples do? Would they continue to feel the same way when faced with dirty diapers or mortgage payments or in-law problems? I think the real love stories are those couples who face life together on a difficult day with their eyes firmly fixed on each other rather than a distant unattainable star.