The Call of the Void
If you could buy any kind of love potion what would it be? Perhaps you’ll settle for Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in the (Harry Potter) universe, or perhaps it would be a potion curated from Love-in-Idleness from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But truthfully, can you force someone to love you? Most importantly, can you genuinely love someone under a spell back?
With Valentine’s Day coming around, I’m reminded of John Collier’s “The Chaser,” a short story about a man named Alan Austen, who is in a desperate search of love potion. He eventually finds a small shop, owned by a small, old man who sells a small love potion that would make Austen’s partner, Diana, become possessively jealous, hopelessly devoted, and practically drown herself in adoration. “That is love!” Alan exclaims as he leaves with the love potion. “Au revoir,” says the old man, knowing Alan will be back to buy poison to kill Diana later.
What I like about this story is how Alan confuses possessiveness with love and care and how we as the audience understand how Alan’s ignorance will be Diana’s ultimate demise.
I stumbled upon some love potions myself when I went antiquing and examined the clear bottles that contained their little scrolls with instructions and a plethora of ingredients. One was a “regular love potion” (whatever that means) and the other was a possessive one. The thought of the second bottle made me shudder. It brought me back to Alan and Diana and I wondered to myself who would be so bold to buy something so dangerous.
I could only think of that saying, “be careful what you wish for,” because while the thought of someone falling hopelessly in love with you sounds endearing and a part of every princess fairy tale, I couldn’t imagine how a love potion, and a successful love potion at that, would affect people’s lives.
Would they have to return like Alan to buy a poison (or commit worse acts) to end their partner who had driven them mad from their incessant love?