Monday, 27 March 2017

Murder Ballad Monday --De två systrarna (Swedish)

Hello and welcome to part eighteen of Murder Ballad Monday.

For the last two weeks we have explored Norwegian versions of the traditional ballad The Twa Sisters. This week, I would like to share a Swedish version called De två systrarna by the band Folk och Rackare.
 Image result for Folk och Rackare de tva
If you think back to part six of Murder Ballad Monday, I shared a version by the band Malinky in traditional Scots that had been translated from a Swedish version. You can refresh your memory here:

This is the Swedish version of that Ballad! It is unusual in that we really see a great deal more sibling rivalry than in other versions. This version has the beautiful sister taunt the uglier one with words like, “Even if you wash yourself both day and night, You'll never be as white as me.” It’s no wonder that she pushed her in.

 It is also unusual in that her breasts are used as decorations on the harp. Perhaps this is just a misstranslation of breastbone. I was also pleased to see that this version definitely has the sister punished. Many allude to it, some have her get off scot-free, but this one says she was "burnt in ashes and death." Also, it puzzles me that a fiddler finds her body but she is made into a harp. This is definitely a translation issue as the word used in the song simply means “folk musician.” I have included the lyrics below translated into English and they contain several footnotes to help explain some particular Swedish phrases. If you want to read the lyrics in Swedish with a side by side translation into English go here:

This Swedish version by Folk och Rackare follows the same tune that Malinky used in their Scots translation so I suspect this was the version they heard. Listen to the Swedish version here:

How it breaks down compared to other versions:
Name of ballad: De två systrarna
Performed by:  Folk och Rackare
Blowing cold cold weather over the sea
Blowing cold cold weather over the sea
Number of sisters: two
Where did they live: by the seashore
Appearance described as: One of them was as white as the bright sun, the other was black as the blackest coal
 Sweetheart:  not named, just called her fiancé
Excuse to go to the water:  none given
Body of water: seashore
Does it contain the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”: no
Miller and child: no
Mistaken for: n/a
Described in death: n/a
Who finds her on the bank: folk musician (translated here as fiddler)
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: golden hair, small fingers, snow white breasts
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: no
Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing: the bride has stolen my sweetheart
Is the sister punished: yes--On Sunday she sat in a bridechair red, On Monday she was burnt in ashes and death

 Here are the lyrics if you would like to follow along. I have eliminated the refrain so that it won’t be so long.
The two sisters
There lived a farmer by the seashore
(There's) Blowing cold cold weather1over the sea
And two daughters he had
Blowing cold cold weather over the sea

One of them was as white as the bright sun
The other was black as the blackest coal

We both wash ourselves in the water now
So I will most likely become as white as you

Even if you wash yourself both day and night
You'll never be as white as me

And as they stood there on the seashore
The ugliest of them pushed her sister off from land

You, my dear sister, help me up to land
And then I will give you my sweetheart

Your fiancé, I will get him anyway
But you'll never wander upon the green earth again

There lived a fiddler2by the shore
He looked into the water where the body floated

The fiddler carried her onto the shore
And of her he made a sweet harp

The fiddler took her golden hair
And built harp strings from it
The fiddler took her small fingers
And decorated the harp with them3
The fiddler took her snow white breasts
And the harp she rang with a lovely tone

And the harp was carried to the wedding spot
Where the bride was dancing with ribbons in the hair

And three strokes on the golden harp was played
That bride has stolen my sweetheart

On Sunday she sat in a bridechair red
On Monday she was burnt in ashes and death

1.I'm not sure if you're able say that the weather is blowing in English, but to replace weather with wind wouldn't suffice, since they mean that the whole weather condition is moving over the sea
2."Speleman", or nowdays "Spelman", is a Swedish folk musician. I chose to translate it into "fiddler" for two reasons. 1. There's an extremely high probability that he was a fiddler, since I'm guessing this story took place in a time when the violin dominated the Swedish folk music and 2. It gives a better flow to the lyrics
3.This is a tricky one. To "tappla" is to finger on something but it's not used as a verb here; instead it is used as a noun so it would make the most sense that he decorates the harp with the fingers. If someone has another idea they're welcome to share it.

 So, that’s it for version eightteen of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for version nineteen.

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