Slovenski etnografski muzej

Številka revije 
Etnolog 11 (2001)

Odsev pravnega položaja in življenjskih razmer žensk v slovenskih ljudskih družinskih baladah

The paper researches the individual and typical phenomena of women`s legal status and their material, social and emotional living conditions as reflected in individual Slovene popular family ballads. The author's primary focus is on the relationships and the roles woman had in the family (daughter, bride, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, wife, mother, sister, child-murderess), deriving from the individual family relationships in the past, and she establishes the changes of women`s status in the course of time. In addition to the above mentioned aspects the author includes a completely new one when she researches the connections between women as the subjects of folk songs and women as their carriers (and performers).


Representations of the legal status and living conditions of women in Slovene popular family ballads. An essay to outline women as the subjects of folk songs in connection with the women-carriers of these songs

Family ballads are popular narrative songs about the (mis)fortunes of a family. They present the circumstances of people who constitute the relationships in the close and wider family, and they show these relationships within the different social and historical frameworks of an individual period. The paper aims to present women`s image and status in their different roles within the family, and to elicit the aspects which reflect their status and living conditions as presented in popular ballads. The paper also takes on a novel issue - that of the connection between women as subjects and as carriers of folk songs. By analysing the repertoire of female singers as the most common performers of ballads, an attempt is made to establish whether their life stories are connected with the songs they choose to perform and the attitude of the performing woman to the fate of the woman in the song.

As the subject of a song, a woman is the central person around whom the story of an individual ballad develops. The paper therefore traces the cultural aspects of family life, including marriage, refusal to marry, followed by the relationships between the parents and their daughter who is to be married, the wedding itself, the relationships within the family: father - mother, daughter, son; daughter-in-law - mother in law, husband - wife - mistress, husband - wife - child; stepmother - orphan; brother - sister, child-murderess. The analysis traces the developments from the proposal of marriage to child birth. The chapter Women as the subjects of songs establishes that family ballads reflect the authority of the parents over the children, the fact that parents could mortgage their daughter, sell her, or have her marry someone her against her will. A whole range of ballads refers to the purchase and abduction of a bride - the oldest contractual form of matrimony. In the songs Death of a bride before the wedding, Forced to marry far away, and others we learn about the tragic fate of young women forced into marriage. In other ballads, which take up the relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law, who are not related by blood, we are introduced to feelings of possessiveness and jealousy, because the young woman competes with her mother-in-law for the first (female) position in the family. The wife-husband relationship reveals that in marriage and in the family a wife was totally subordinated to her husband - a reflection of ancient patriarchal relationships. The chapters �Mother and Child and Orphan-Stepmother enable us to establish the deep connections between blood laws, the authority of parents, the lack of rights of orphans and their difficult condition, which was precisely the consequence of not being biologically related to the stepmother. The paper also takes up the issue of child-murder, which was a quite common phenomenon in Slovenia in the past, and therefore features in numerous ballads describing the - socially unacceptable - status of illegitimate mothers. The chapter Women as the subjects of songs brings a sample case, linking the life of female performers of family ballads to the songs they chose to sing and which indirectly reveal their attitude to life and their world of ideas and experiences.

The paper establishes that the women in family ballads may not be without rights, but that they are certainly subordinated and in conflict situations in all the relationships within the family. Women opposing this legally condoned situation always ends tragically. A woman`s social status is determined by a man (father, husband, etc.), her image in ballads is epitomised, the representations of her legal position and living conditions in family ballads stem from real life, and the authors and performers of the ballads use these elements to create a story which preserves merely traces of them.

In our present time Slovene popular family ballads are important as witness of the past, because some ballads inform us what the status of women should not be like, and also how important it is to research and consequently redefine traditions, so often called upon by people who do not wish the negative patterns of the past to change nor the positive ones to be continued.