Sunday, 2 April 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Grausame Schwester (German)

Hello and welcome to part nineteen of Murder Ballad Monday.

For the last few weeks we have been exploring non-English versions of the traditional murder ballad The Twa Sisters. We have seen two Norwegian versions and one Swedish version of the song and today we are going to look at a German version entitled Grausame Schwester by a folk metal band called Subway to Sally. They are a heavy metal band that uses folk instruments like the lute, bagpipes, violin and hurdy-gurdy. While the Scandinavian versions were sung in the style of a traditional ballad, this one is not. I will be honest and say if I had not read the lyrics I would have never guessed it was a version of the Twa Sisters, but it most definitely is.  It is also only one of two that I have found that do not feature a refrain. 
Image result for subway to sally Grausame Schwester

If you would like to see the lyrics in German you can go here:

It is fairly melodramatic with lines like 
Jealousy gnawed at her day and night,
she wished that the beautiful one would lie in a grave

and they wept themselves blind, so lachrymose was the tune 

and the final over-the top lines:
Oh cruel sister, what have you done,
the girl killed in feverish madness
With envy in the heart, with malice in the gut
Hell now awaits, they will kill you too!

This is a live version of the song sung at some sort of huge metal fest, but it is amazing how the crowd responds to the traditional lyrics (even if the music is anything but traditional). Watch the version by Subway to Sally here:



Here's how it breaks down compared to other versions:
Name of ballad: Grausame Schwester
Performed by:  Subway to Sally
Refrain: none
Number of sisters: two
Where did they live: in the north by the sea
Appearance described asOne was of a bright and beautiful figure, the older, however, was dark and cold.
 Sweetheart:  none mentioned
Excuse to go to the water: none given, but it was a day that the winds blew strong
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: two musicians 
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: hair and leg
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: no, it was a song like a scream
Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing: it revealed the name of the murderer
Is the sister punished: yes I would think so with a last line that says Hell now awaits, they will kill you too!

Here are the lyrics if you would to follow along.

Cruel Sister
There lived a woman in the north by the sea,
long ago, she bore two daughters
One was of a bright and beautiful figure,
the older, however, was dark and cold.

Jealousy gnawed at her day and night,
she wished that the beautiful one would lie in a grave,
and then one day, as the wind blew strong,
she pushed her sister from the cliff down into the sea

The wind and the waves, they roar and cry,
far above the cliffs, far above the rocks.
But through the wind and the waves a sound penetrates
the voice of a girl, a song like a scream

Two musicians went down to the windy beach,
they found the lifeless body in the sand,
they took her hair, they took her leg,
they built a harp, to free the song

On the windy beach, when they began to play
they wept themselves blind
so lachrymose was the tune, as it softly
revealed the name of the murderer

The wind and the waves, they roar and cry,
far above the cliffs, far above the rocks.
But through the wind and the waves penetrates a sound
the voice of a girl

Oh cruel sister, what have you done,
the girl killed in feverish madness
With envy in the heart, with malice in the gut
Hell now awaits, they will kill you too!

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

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