Monday, June 01, 2009

Idle Reading

I grabbed a book almost blindly, to read during my trip. So it turns out to be Fraser's The Golden Bough, and I'm reading it before bed:

For five days afterwards this song was sung in all the houses: --

Dread Fairy King, I sacrifice before you,
How nobly do you stand! you have filled up my house,
You have brought me a wife when I had not one,
Instead of daughters you have given me sons.
You have shown me the ways of the right,
You have given me many children.

What strikes you about that little ditty? It's sort of funny to note the "ways of the right", of course, but the really noteworthy bit is about how the singer (who is to think of himself or herself from a man's point of view) is happy to have a wife and happy not to have daughters. Apparently the question where the wives are grown doesn't enter into the calculations.

I was also struck by the fact that the preceding paragraphs in the book suggest this song was certainly sung by women. The training in self-loathing used to start early. Probably still does, in many parts of the world.