Roses have long been held as the most romantic flower. Red roses for passionate love, yellow roses for friendship and white roses for innocence. These flowers are given every day and in the millions each year. But the blue rose is considered to be the most magical of the roses and have the ability to grant impossible wishes. The reason that these blue roses are so special is because they supposedly do not exist.
The earliest reference to a blue rose dates back to the early 12th century in an Arabic text, that would later be translated into the French Le livre de l’agriculture (‘The Book of Agriculture’) in 1864 by J.J. Clement. This book describes a blue rose that can be found in the orient, but these flowers got their blue color because of blue dye that was placed into the bark of the roots. It wasn’t until 2004, through genetic modification, that Japanese scientists were able to produce a blue rose. This still doesn’t explain the myth of the blue rose and why it seems to appear everywhere.
The first myth of the blue rose came from China where, as the story goes, an emperor’s daughter was to be married and her father allowed her to set one condition to her suitors. The condition was that the princess would only marry the man who was able to bring her a blue rose. Many of the men in the kingdom gave up, stating that it was an impossible task while the others set about on finding a way around her demand. One brought her a sapphire shaped into a rose but she stated that she would not marry someone whose heart was as cold as a stone. Another brought her a painted rose to which she stated that she could not marry someone who would poison her like they poisoned the plant. The last suitor brought her a box in which there was an illusion of a blue rose and when the princess reached in to touch the rose, her hand passed through the illusion. The princess then stated that she could not marry a man who was so deceitful. The princess then made her way to the garden where she told the gardener’s son that she wished that she could marry him. So, a few days later, the gardener’s son brought the princess a white rose and upon seeing it, the princess said that the rose was in fact blue but that she was the only one who could tell that it was blue. The emperor chose to believe his daughter’s word and they were married.
This Chinese folktale might be the oldest story of the blue rose but the most famous example came from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (1996-) in which Prince Rhaegar Targaryen presents Lady Lyanna Stark with a garland of winter roses. Fans of the series will also know the story of Bael the Bard and how he whisked away one of Winterfell’s maidens and left only a winter rose behind. This winter rose is described as pale blue and is said to be the color of frost and only grows in the glass gardens of Winterfell. Both of these stories are about forbidden love in which only the story of the winter rose is left behind.
With this in mind, one has to wonder if Martin was a fan of Tennessee Williams, who named one of his characters Laura “Blue Rose” Wingfield in his famous play The Glass Menagerie (1944). Laura is a character who has a fragile mental state and has created her own mythical world surrounded by her glass figurines. This story was based off of Williams’ life which points to his own obsession with the magical blue rose.
You might have also heard about the blue rose if you’re a fan of Guillermo del Toro as he mentions it in his award winning movie Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). In the movie, the main character Ofelia tells a story about the blue rose. That the rose can be found at the top of a mountain surrounded by poisonous thorns. The blue rose promised eternal life to anyone who could reach it but, because no one had the courage to face the thorns, “the rose wilted, unable to bequeath its gift to anyone… forgotten and lost at the top of that cold, dark mountain, forever alone, until the end of time.”
Or you may have watched Netflix’s The Order which centers around a hidden group of magic practitioners who call themselves: The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose. It’s a secret society in which one must be offered an invitation to join. This invitation usually comes in the form of a blue rose and a meeting place in the middle of the woods. The beauty of these invitations is that they show their magic in the most beautiful and simple form— an impossible blue rose.
The blue rose has also found its place in a Japanese manga by the name of The Kiss of the Rose Princess (薔薇嬢のキス). The character of Seiran Asagi is also known as The Blue Rose Knight. The story reveals that Seiran is not actually a human but instead an AI. Seiran, as a character, does not believe that he is worthy of being a knight as he is not actually human and because the blue rose was never supposed to exist in the first place. The blue rose can only become a reality if science intervenes. Science also happens to be Seiran’s specialty as he is obsessed with somehow making the blue rose bloom in nature.
There doesn’t seem to be a singular place where the idea of the blue rose came from or why it has the magic to grant wishes or immortal life. There is no myth saying that the blue rose once existed but didn’t anymore. Maybe that’s why our collective conscious is so obsessed with it, because of the impossibility of the blue rose. To want something that we can never have. Though the reality of the blue rose seems impossible, the magic of it is still alive.