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Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa

OH, THE WIND AND RAIN (The Two Sisters)
TWO SISTERS (Bonnie Broom)

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Philippa 19 Apr 99 - 06:19 PM
Bruce O. 19 Apr 99 - 06:30 PM
Philippa 20 Apr 99 - 11:38 AM
Philippa 27 Apr 99 - 07:35 AM
Håvard 27 Apr 99 - 09:30 AM
bassen 27 Apr 99 - 09:42 AM
Philippa 27 Apr 99 - 05:45 PM
bassen 28 Apr 99 - 04:46 AM
bassen 28 Apr 99 - 02:11 PM
Philippa 28 Apr 99 - 02:34 PM
Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin 16 May 99 - 10:06 AM
Susanne (skw) 16 May 99 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,Philippa 27 Sep 00 - 05:15 PM
skarpi 27 Sep 00 - 05:29 PM
skarpi 27 Sep 00 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,Philippa 28 Sep 00 - 05:04 PM
Branwen23 28 Sep 00 - 05:18 PM
skarpi 28 Sep 00 - 05:23 PM
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Subject: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Philippa
Date: 19 Apr 99 - 06:19 PM

The three songs in the subject heading all feature one woman drowning another because of jealousy. There are several versions of the Two Sisters (also called Binnorie) in the DT database which you can access at Mudcat. You'll find an Irish version of a' Bhean Eudach (the jealous woman)at an Bhean Udaí Thall thread.
REQUEST 1) Horta is a Norwegian song in the same vein. I'm requesting lyrics and translation (at least a summary)and information on available recordings (the internet lists at least one by Ingevorg Liestol on Heilo records; does anyone import Heilo to the UK. Pádraigín Ní Ullacháin says she heard the song from Agnes Buen Garnos, but doesn't mention any recording)
REQUEST 2) How related are these songs? In The Two Sisters, told in the third person, one sister is jealous of the other who is betrothed to wed. The jealous sister pushes the other sister into a river and refuses her pleas for help. In some versions, a miller finds the body and makes a harp of it. The harp than sings the story of the murder.
In the Gaelic song (a' bhean ud thall, a' bhean eudach, a' bhean iadach, bean mhic a' mhaoir, bean mhic a' tsaoir, thig am bàta), the two women are not sisters, one woman is married with children, and the jealous woman drowns her in the sea by knotting her hair to the seaweed. Sometimes the method of drowning is only made explicit in the accompanying story. the song is in the first person, and the accompanying story explains that the jealous woman's guilt is discovered when she sings the song as a lullaby to the dead woman's child.
Does anyone know of examples in which the English and (Scottish/Irish) Gaelic songs are closer in detail? For instance a Gaelic version in which the two women are clearly sisters or with the harp motif?
3) Haven't heard from BobbyBob in Ellen Vannin for a while. Any Manx versions of this song?

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Bruce O.
Date: 19 Apr 99 - 06:30 PM

F. J. Child in 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads', I, p. 119, 1882, noted 9 Danish, 2 Icelandic, 12 Norwegian, 4 Faroe, as well as Swedish and Finnish versions of "The Twa Sisters" (The Miller and the King's Daughter).

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Philippa
Date: 20 Apr 99 - 11:38 AM

thanks, Bruce O. Details on any of the related songs from anyone would be welcome. Even if you don't have lyrics, you can summarise the story, to show how the details resemble or differ from the English and Gaelic songs. The tunes probably vary a lot; I've heard 4 tunes for Gaelic versions. Calling Skarpi-Iceland....

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Philippa
Date: 27 Apr 99 - 07:35 AM

still calling....

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Håvard
Date: 27 Apr 99 - 09:30 AM

Brian McNeill has a song (Wind and Rain, I believe) on the same theme - except the deceased is made into a fiddle.. I think I've heard a Norwegian analogy as well, let me check and think some more....


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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: bassen
Date: 27 Apr 99 - 09:42 AM

Horpa or dei tvo systar - the two sisters - is one of the most well known of the traditional folk songs in Norway, collected in variants and fragments all over the country. This is definitely not my field, but if there aren't any norwegian folklorists or traditional folksingers lurking around in the 'cat, I'll be happy to get you the 50 verses that can be found in the standard anthology! My source books indicate roots as far back a an egyptian folk tale from the 14. century BC.


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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Philippa
Date: 27 Apr 99 - 05:45 PM

keep the information flowing
I didn't know anybody knew any songs from 14th century BCE!?

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Subject: Lyr Add: HORPA (Norwegian 'Two Sisters')
From: bassen
Date: 28 Apr 99 - 04:46 AM


The traditional forms of the old norwegian ballads and "viser" often have recurring refrains of one or two lines, almost like a verbal drone, the content never changing no matter what the content of the verse. Horpa has a common form, a quatrain with the second and fourth lines in the form of a refrain with the same wording, in this case: "ved sande" and "Båra ber'e så vent eit viv frå lande." Approximate translation: "by the sands" "The sea swells carry the fair young maiden from shore". This is a fascinating technique as one's understanding of the refrains changes with the content of the individual verse. All the verses are sung as indicated in verse one and fifty, but to save space it is common to only write the first and third line of each verse as below.

These are the verses as given in the book "Norsk folkediktning VI - Folkeviser I" from 1967. I'm working on an english summary, but am sending the original verses now just to keep the thread fresh.



1. Der var tvo systar i ei borg,
- Ved sande -
Den eine volde den andre sorg
- Båra ber'e så vent eit viv frå lande.

2. Den yngre kunna spinne lin,
Den eldre kunna kje stie svin.

3. Den yngre kunna spinne gull,
Den eldre var alltid svevnefull.

4. Den yngre kunna skipa mat,
Den eldre kunna kje två eit fat.

5. Syster tala til syster så:
"Me vil okkon til Sjoar-å"

6. "Hot sko me 'kon til Sjoar-å?"
me hava der ingji klede två."

7. "Me wil två 'kon kvite,
me er tvo systar like."

8. "Du må två deg nott og dag,
du tvær kje av det Gud deg gav.

9. Om du tvær deg kvit som krit,
Alli vert du di syster lik.

10. Du må två så kvit som du kan,
Alli fær du en festarmann.

11. Om du tvær deg kvit som bein
Alli fær du ein festarsvein."

12. Den yngre gjekk fyre som ei sol,
Den eldre gjekk etter som orm i jord.

13. Den yngre gjekk fyre med utslegje hår,
Den eldre gjekk etter med falske råd.

14. Då dei kom åt Sjoar-å
Så for dei til å vaske og två.

15. Den yngre sette seg på ein stein,
Den eldre skuva ho ut fyr mein.

16. Ho rette opp si kvite hånd:
"Å hjarte syster, hjelp i land!"

17. "Ligg du der, og få du skam,
eg vil hava din festarmann."

18. "Eg sko gjeva deg gull og jord,
om du vil hjelpe meg opp or fjord!"

19. "Ligg der du der, og hav du mein,
eg vil hava din festarsvein."

20. "Eg sko gjeva deg meire:
eit skip med gogn og greie.

21. Eg sko gjeva deg be're:
Alle mi brureklede."

22. "Inkje eg hjelper deg i land,
utan eg fær din festarmann!"

23. "Fyrr du sko få min festarmann,
fyrr sko eg reka så langt eg kan."


24. Den eldre blei kledd i brurehus,
Dei bar for henne dei håge voksljus.

25. "De tek inkje av dei sløri små,
eg toler inkje soli sjå."

26. "Vel du toler soli skin,
verre det er for festarmann din."


27. Der kom vind av norde,
Dreiv det likjet til fjorde.

28. Der kom vind av austre
Dreiv det likjet til nauste.

29. Der kom vind av are land,
Dreiv det likjet på kvitan sand.

30. Der gjekk tvo pilgrimar ut med å,
Dei såg det likjet på sanden låg.

31. Dei toke hennar kvite kropp,
Der gjorde dei av ein horpestokk.

32. Dei toke hennar gule hår,
Gjorde dei horpestrengjir små.

33. Dei toke hennar festar-ring
Og gylte horpa rundt ikring.

34. "Der sko vera bryllaup i neste by,
no vil me prøve 'kons horpe ny."

35. Dei tok den horpa unde skinn,
Så gjekk dei i bryllaupsstoga inn.

36. Dei sette seg i duragått:
"Lyster de høyre ein horpeslått?"

37. Til svara strengjen fysste:
"Bruri ho var mi syste."

38. Til svara strengjen are:
"Bruri ho var min bane."

39. Til svara strengjen tre'e:
"Brudgommen var min bele."

40. Mælte no bruri raud som blod
"Hav ut den horpa, ho gjere uljod!"

41. Svara det brudgommen, bleik som bast:
"Slå meir på horpa, og slå vel fast!"

42. Til svara strengjen fjorde:
"Bruri ho meg forgjorde."

43. Til svara strengjen femte:
"Bruri på å meg spente."

44. Til svara strengjen sette:
"Brudgomen meg forgjette."

45. Bruri tro på spilemanns fot,
Så blodet sårang av naglerot.

46. Bruri tro på spilemanns tå:
"De slå den horpa i stykkje små!"

47. Dei toke horpa slo imot jord,
Så blei derav ei jomfru god.

48. Brudgomen heitar på sveinar två:
"De gangje åt skogjen og hogge bål!

49. Hogge no older og eikje
Og hente nå never og kveikje."


50. Sundag sat bruri i høgsete boll,
- Ved sande -
Om måndagjen lå ho i oske og kol.
- Båra ber'e så vent eit viv frå lande.

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From: bassen
Date: 28 Apr 99 - 02:11 PM

Hi The following is pretty much a literal translation, if not word for word. I've tried to give the sense of the norwegian lines without adding too much explanatory english. Some of the verses really demand a complete rewrite; since I take it you're interested in what the norwegian version actually says, some of the verses ended up being poor english, but are close in structure to the original norwegian. Verses 24 - 26 are fragments of a larger segment which is lost: the gist of this part is the older sister is pretending to be her dead younger sister at the wedding, but the servants are aware that something is wrong. Hope this helps.

I have an old vinyl from the 60's with Ingebjørg Liestøl singing among other things about 10 verses or so of "Horpa". If you can't find any other version I could try to tape that for you?

The Harp or The Two Sisters

1. There were two sisters in a castle
- by the sands
One of them caused the other great sorrow
- the sea swells carry the fair young maiden from shore.
2. The younger one could spin flax
The older one couldn't herd swine.
3. The younger one could spin gold,
The older one was always sleepy.
4. The younger one could set a table,
The older one couldn't wash a dish.
5. One sister said to the other
Let us go to the Sjoar brook
6. Why should we og to Sjoar brook?
We have no washing to do there.
7. "We will wash ourselves white
We are two sisters alike (?)
8. You may wash both night and day
You'll never wash off what God has given you.
9. Though you wash yourself as white as chalk
You'll never be like your sister (the same as your sister, the equal of your sister)
10. You can wash yourself as clean as you can
You'll never get a man (betrothed, fiancé)
11. You can wash yourself as white as bone
You'll never get a man (betrothed, fiancé).
12. The younger one came first like a sun
The older one came after like a snake in the jord.
13. The younger one came first with her hair down
The older one came after with bad counsel.
14. When they came to Sjoar brook
They began to wash and clean.
15. The younger one sat on a rock
The older one pushed her in (the brook).
16. She reached out her white hand
"Oh sister of my heart, help me ashore.
17. "You can lie there and have the shame (direct translation)
I will have you fiancé.
18. "I will give you gold and land
If you will help me up from the fjord."
19. "You can lie there and suffer the hurt
I will have your fiancé."
20. I will give you more:
A ship all fitted out.
21. I will give you something even better
All my bridal gowns.
22. I won't help you ashore
Unless you let me have your fiancé.
23. Before I'd let you have my fiancé,
I would drift in the sea as far as I can.

24. The older one was dressed in the bridal house
They carried tall wax candles to her.
25. "Don't take off my little veils,
I can't stand to see the sun."
26. "You can stand the sunlight on you
It's worse for your fiancé." (that is, he won't like what he sees)

27. The wind came from the north
The corpse drifted along the fjord.
28. The wind came from the east
The corpse drifted to a boatshed.
29. The wind came from other lands
The corpse drifted to the white sands.
30. Two pilgrims walked along a brook
They saw the body/corpse lying on the sand.
31. They took her white body
And made it into a harp.
32. They took her yellow hair
And made it into little harp strings.
33. They took her betrothal ring
And gilded the harp all over.
34. "There's a wedding in the nest town
Let's try our new harp (there).
35. They carried the harp under a hide
And entered the "wedding house"
36. They sat on the doorstep
"Would you like to hear a harp tune?"
37. The first string sounded thus (svara=answered, responded)
"The bride was my sister."
38. The second string sounded thus
"The bride was my bane" (in the original sense = took my life)
39. The third string sounded thus
"The bridegroom courted me/was my courter"
40. The bride then said, red as blood
"Throw out that harp, it's making noise/a racket."
41. The bridegroom answered, pale as straw*,
"Play more on the harp and play well".
42. The fourth string sound thus:
"The bride did away with me".
43. The fifth string sounded thus:
"The bride pushed me into the brook."
44. The sixth string sounded thus:
The bridegroom enchanted me (?)
45. The bride stomped on the harpist's foot
So blood spurted from the toenails.
46. The bride stomped on the harpist's foot
"Crush that harp into little pieces!"
47. They took the harp and threw it to the ground
It turned into a fair maiden (uncertain of the meaning of this line)
48. The bridegroom called to two servants
"Go to the forest and chop firewood"
49. "Chop down alder and oak
and bring birchbark and tinder."
50. On Sunday the bride sat in the seat of honor
- by the sands-
On Monday she lay in ashes and coals
- The sea swells carry the fair young maiden from shore.

*("bast" is actually the fibrous layer between the bark and wood, used in preindustrial times in Norway for making rope among other things)


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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Philippa
Date: 28 Apr 99 - 02:34 PM

Bassen! How is your RSI?
Of course you can send me a Basssen's Best tape (and send me your e-mail address with it)- this means I have to broadcast an address, but it's not my home address anyway: Philippa c/o Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Slèite, an t-Eilean Sgitheanach IV44 8RQ, Scotland
Any other tapes from anyone with versions of this song are welcome.
I would like to visit Norway again sometime and see your museum, Bassen.

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin
Date: 16 May 99 - 10:06 AM

No version in Manx, that I'm aware of, I'm afraid. Sorry not to have spotted your query earlier, and thanks for the nudge from the Tarry Flynn thread.

Shoh slaynt,

Bobby Bob

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 16 May 99 - 05:53 PM

The version Havard mentioned is in the DT. Iain MacKintosh sings it on his and Brian McNeill's album 'Stage By Stage', with Brian playing the fiddle. Spine-chilling! It is an Appalachian version and, as they say in the notes, 'pared to the bone'. The DT gives the source. - Susanne

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 05:15 PM

at another thread, Malcolm Douglas provided a link to a Norwegian site with lyrics for over 100 versions of Dei to søstre

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: skarpi
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 05:29 PM

Hallo all , Philippa I am sorry I was not around when you called. Can anyone tell how is the melody of this song? I have never heard this nor did i know anything about it. I will however go to the Nationalbook center here in Iceland tomorrow and ask about this song, but first I need those Info. All the best skarpi Iceland.

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: skarpi
Date: 27 Sep 00 - 05:53 PM

Okei I have been listen to a media player at the DT base and i find this familiar song but, i cant remember it. I will ask around. All the best skarpi Iceland. Slán ljátt agus gora reif míla mahagat. I hope I did this right.

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: GUEST,Philippa
Date: 28 Sep 00 - 05:04 PM

slán leatsa agus go raibh mile maith agat! Did you use Icelandic phonetics? There are loads of different melodies and the one Norwegian tune I heard wasn't the same as any of the English language versions I've heard. The Scottish and Irish Gaelic song also has lots of different melodies.

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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: Branwen23
Date: 28 Sep 00 - 05:18 PM

Not really an answer to your question, but it's related...

I know another version of the same story, a song written by Jennifer Mansfield, I believe...

I don't have a recording, but someone else might. This one is from the perspective of the "bad" sister...
The lyrics are posted in this Hearme thread: 'click'

...hope i did that correctly...


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Subject: RE: Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa
From: skarpi
Date: 28 Sep 00 - 05:23 PM

Ha,Ha,Ha,Ha,...... Dear Philippa I just wrote it like a good Irish lady friend told me to do, just like you say it.It is easier for me to learn. I know I wrote it wrong. I have asked around for the lyrics, still no luck. I calling a friend who might help me. I listen to the midi files last night and I have to say that It rang bell but I a have to ask. All the best skarpi Iceland. Slán.

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