- "More than eighty years had passed since Carlisle had found Esme, and yet he still looked at her with those incredulous eyes of first love. It would always be that way for them."
- ―Edward, on Carlisle and Esme[src]
Carlisle and Esme Cullen are one of the secondary couples in the Twilight Saga. They are vegetarian vampires and the most prominent members of the Olympic coven, as they act like the ideal parent figures towards the other members of the coven.
Carlisle Cullen was the son of an Anglican pastor in the late 1600s in London, England. His father was responsible for leading hunts for beings of evil, such as witches, werewolves and vampires. When he became too old to continue them, he put his son in charge of the hunts. Although originally Carlisle was a disappointment, he eventually discovered a coven of true vampires living in the sewers. During a chase with them, Carlisle was bitten and changed into a vampire. To avoid slaughter, he hid in a potato cellar during the transformation. He was repulsed by himself and attempted to kill himself many times, but instead hid deep in the woods, away from humans as he could not justify the fact that he could murder an innocent person. But when a herd of deer passed by him, he attacked without remorse and discovered that he could survive on animals.
Carlisle was able to perfect his blood lust over the course of two centuries and began to study medicine, soon becoming a brilliant doctor. He traveled to Italy where he met the Volturi, who attempted to reunite him with his real food source. He refused and instead went to the New World - America. He first met Esme in 1911 in Ohio, when she was 16 years old and had fallen off a tree. Because the local doctor was away, Carlisle filled in and treated her leg. Esme deeply affected Carlisle that time and he never forgot about her. However, he moved on shortly after.
He began to work night shifts in Chicago, during the time of the Spanish influenza, in 1918. There he met Elizabeth Masen who demanded that he do everything he could to save her son, Edward. Carlisle did so and curbed his loneliness by turning Edward.
Esme Cullen was born in 1895, in Ohio, Columbia. She first met Carlisle when she was 16; she had broken her leg from falling off a tree and he treated her, because the local doctor was away that day. She never forgot about him and was forever in love with him. She dreamed of becoming a teacher, but her parents persuaded her instead to marry a man named Charles Evenson. However, the man turned out to be abusive and tormented her greatly until he was drafted for war, which greatly pleased Esme until he returned. When she discovered she was pregnant, she ran away from him and decided to fully dedicate her life to raising her child, but unfortunately, he died of lung fever shortly after birth. All hopes lost, Esme tried to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff but when she was mistakenly brought to the hospital morgue, her heart was still beating. She wasn't sure if she was in heaven or hell when she painfully woke up and saw Carlisle in front of her, the man of her dreams.
Carlisle and Esme first met in 1911, when Esme broke her leg falling off a tree. The encounter impacted each other greatly and they never forgot about each other after Carlisle moved on.
Not long after changing Edward, in 1921, Carlisle met Esme again, though their re-encounter was far less than pleasant. He was called to her deathbed after a failed suicide attempt impacted by the loss of her child. Recognizing her as the young woman he once treated and distraught by her tragedy, he turned her into a vampire to save her life. To his surprise, she wasn't upset with the news when he told her what he had done. In fact, she was happy to see Carlisle again - the man she'd always been fond of. She changed her surname to Cullen after they fell in love and got married.
Carlisle and Esme continued to extend their family by turning several others such as Rosalie, a young women who had been beaten and raped, and who Carlisle hoped could have been a mate for Edward, but instead fell in love with Emmett, after she found him mauled by a bear in Tennessee, and Alice and Jasper, a mated pair who wanted nothing more than to be part of the family.
Esme's passionate love to those around her was brought into her new life, and this was shown through her ability to adopt every one of the Cullens into the family: Edward, Rosalie, Emmett, Alice and Jasper. She has a special place for Edward in her heart as he was the first of her "children". She had never regretted her existence as a vampire like any of the other Cullens (excluding Rosalie) as she can spend eternity with the man of her dreams: Carlisle.
In Twilight, Carlisle and Esme play a fairly minor role. Carlisle treats Bella after the car crash which Edward saves her from. When she asks Charlie about the Cullens, he mentions that "that a lot of the nurses have trouble keeping their eyes on their work", even though he is married.
When Bella finally comes to the Cullens' home, after she falls in love with Edward and finding out about the Cullens being vampires, both Esme and Carlisle are happy for their son, the only one in their family who had not found love. Esme, with her warm and kind nature, instantly welcomes Bella into their life and somewhat 'adopts' her as a third daughter.
When James, Victoria and Laurent come to Forks, and all but Laurent want to hunt Bella, Esme and Rosalie lead Victoria away while Carlisle helps Emmett and Edward with James. After Bella is attacked by the tracker, Carlisle helps treat her broken leg and head wounds.
In Midnight Sun, Edward explains that Carlisle's love for Esme hasn't faded after 80 years, and he is sure that he will continue to love her this way and vice versa. This is due to vampires' feelings, personality traits and likes are frozen as their physical appearances, which makes love from a vampire permanent.
In New Moon, Esme and Carlisle are both present at Bella's party. Carlisle is the only one to contain his blood lust when Jasper tries to attack Bella and Edward pushes her out of the way, making her cut her arm open and needing stitches.
Carlisle and the rest of the Cullens travel to Ithaca after Edward leaves Bella. Esme goes to work restoring an early 1700's house while Carlisle works at the Cayuga Medical Center and teaches at Cornell University.
When Alice gets her vision of Bella committing suicide, Carlisle and Esme are away hunting at the time. They supposedly hear about the incident from Rosalie, because they are present at the airport to meet Alice, Bella and Edward. Both express deep concern for Bella.
They both vote 'Yes' for Bella to become a vampire. Esme tells Bella, "I already think of you as a daughter", before hugging her. Carlisle gives a more-drawn out explanation of why he votes 'Yes' and agrees to turn Bella after graduation.
In Eclipse, Carlisle and Esme play a slightly larger role. Carlisle takes charge when the family and Bella discover that it is newborn vampires causing trouble in Seattle. When Edward mentions that they may be targeting them, Esme doesn't want to believe it at first, suggesting that the Denali coven might be the target instead, though they are too far away. Carlisle quickly organizes a plan with the werewolves and Jasper, to prepare to fight them.
During the fight, neither Esme nor Carlisle sustain any injuries, and Carlisle spares the young vampire Bree's life with Esme's agreement. In the end, they are forced to watch her die when Jane orders for her to be killed.
In the movie, Esme and Carlisle fight the newborns side by side as partners.
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
At the end of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Carlisle and Esme find a defenseless newborn named Bree Tanner at the end of the battle. Feeling pity for her, Carlisle spares the young vampire's life with Esme's agreement. Though Jasper disagrees with the idea, they manage to talk him into it and deal with the Volturi's advances.
They both defend Bree while the Volturi interrogate her, but are unsuccessful in persuading them to spare her, and, in the end, are forced to witness her destruction.
In Breaking Dawn, Carlisle and Esme are both present at Bella and Edward's wedding. When Bella finds out she is pregnant while on her honeymoon, Carlisle is originally not supportive of Bella's decision to keep her baby, but because of Esme's decision to protect Bella and her unborn child, Carlisle no longer insists on abortion. Neither of them are present for the birth, as they are out hunting, but it appears they make it back in time for Carlisle to assist with Bella's transformation. In the first movie, Carlisle and Esme work together with their family to defend their newborn granddaughter from the Uley pack until Jacob emerges to stop the fight, telling Sam Uley that he has imprinted on the baby, thus the pack is forbidden to touch her.
Both Esme and Carlisle assist with tracking down witnesses to stand up for Renesmee, after the Volturi plan to destroy her and the Cullens after mistakenly hearing she is an immortal child from Irina. Carlisle attempts to talk to Aro and convince him that Nessie is not an immortal, but it is only after Alice brings back Nahuel, another vampire-human hybrid, that the Volturi retreat.
Carlisle and Esme, along with the rest of the family, return to their normal lives after the confrontation.