Romance stories wouldn’t be the same without classic tropes, and here at GGA, we often wonder about their origins. That’s where this column, The Origin of Tropes, comes in. This time, we’ll look at one of the best romance tropes ever — “There’s Only One Bed.”
History of Sharing Beds
The first beds date back to the Middle Stone Age, 77,000 years ago. And their history since then is far more detailed than we could ever get into here. However, suffice it to say that most of “There’s Only One Bed” wouldn’t always have been the source of unresolved sexual tension it is today (UST).
In the West, at least, we associate bed sharing between teens and adults with romance or sex. By extension, married couples sleeping separately is still somewhat taboo.
However, the extremely wealthy have often had their own quarters. At some point during the 19th century, it was decided couples not sharing beds was more hygienic and better for sleep health. Thus was born the era of twin beds made (in)famous in shows like I Love Lucy.
Somewhen in the 1970s, the idea of a married couple not sharing a bed started to worry many. People thought it showed the relationship was in trouble. But the resurgence of not co-sleeping is on the rise, with 25 percent of couples today sleeping separately. And getting a better night’s sleep for it.
So, if having only one bed doesn’t have a long history of anything to do with UST, what can we say is the origin of this trope? Does it even have one? There are multiple answers here. If we go by TV Tropes, the wiki mentions the trope appearing in fairy tales.
The trope appears in the original Aladdin, a Middle Eastern folk tale first written down in the early 1700s. Aladdin and The Princess share a bed after the genie does some magical bed-swapping. It’s far from romantic, however:
“The Princess was too frightened to speak and passed the most miserable night of her life, while Alad- din lay down beside her and slept soundly.”
The second example that TV Tropes provides is from The Two Brothers, in which a case of twin swapping involves some inadvertent bed-sharing. Oddly enough, both stories include placing a sword between the two characters sharing the bed to prevent any “funny business.” Guess they didn’t have pillows back then?
Then there’s fan fiction, where “There’s Only One Bed” reigns supreme. SYFY did the work of tracing the trope back to a 1979 Star Wars fan fic called “Bunkies,” featuring Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Fic writers have been making one bed ever since.
And that, friends, is the origin of “There’s Only One Bed.” Which trope should we tackle next? Let us know in the comments!