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There are lyrics of a song that I'd love to understand better:
"I Riden Så" (Ye Ride So Carefully) by the Finnish band Gjallarhorn

My questions are:

  1. How is the singer related to Silibrant and his daughter / their two dead boys?
  2. "I shall give my father my gray steed" -> why does she want to give "death" to her father?
  3. What are the "small gloves"?
  4. What are the "seven golden rings"?
  5. "One child they took to Freya's baptism" What does that mean? was he sacrificed in some pagan ritual?
  6. "The other they took to the hall of Valhalla" That could mean he fell in battle I guess?

I understand some small things. http://freya.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/?page_id=295 says:

The song is full of old Pagan symbols: the grove was a natural temple to the Pagans. The grey horse is a metaphor for death. There is talk about riding (from the grove) to the Church, and to baptise Freyia. The transition between the old and the new religion was slow and often confusing, and left its mark.

The actors are:

  • Silibrant
  • "There he saw his daughter" -> Silibrants daughter
  • "O, woe is me, woe is me" -> the singer ("That I have never worn since I was a bride" ->female, married)
  • "I see my daughter coming to me" -> the singers daughter
  • "I shall give my father" -> the singers father
  • some more that I feel I understand

Lyrics:

O, Silibrant went up to the high loft
All under the green linden tree
There he saw his daughter going to the grove
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

O, woe is me, woe is me, what do I behold
All under the green linden tree
I see my daughter coming to me
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

O, Silibrant spread out his cloak so blue
All under the green linden tree
And upon it she did bear two bold baby boys
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

I shall give my father my gray steed
All under the green linden tree
So he can ride to the church upon it
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

I shall give my sister my seven golden rings
All under the green linden tree
That I have never worn since I was a bride
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

I shall give my brother my small gloves
All under the green linden tree
That he shall take with him wherever he goeth
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

One child they took to Freya's baptism
All under the green linden tree
The other they took to the hall of Valhalla
Ye ride so carefully through the grove with her

4 Answers 4

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It's sung by fictive observers, the story teller so you will. Silibrand is just the father's name and he finds his daughter going into the woods to give birth. So he helps her laying his cloak on the ground that she may lay more comfortable. Sadly both boys die and they give their souls to the Gods. Afterwards the mother is going to die too while the father carries her on the horse home. Before she shuts her eyes forever, she tells her father how she wants her belongings to divide. It's rather sad...but it sounds beautiful.

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  • Actually he is just out on his lands when he spots his (married-away) daughter coming home, in pain and in labour. So it's quite a bit more dramatic. "Sadly both boys die" isn't quite clear, my understanding is that one of them dies. I posted a detailed answer.
    – Amarth
    Nov 24 at 23:20
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To me it sounds like Silibrand's daughter fled her marriage. Women would have ordinarily given birth at their husbands' homes, but she returned to her father's home at her peril. Also, her gold rings had not been used since wedding, which, to my mind, signals unhappiness.

I like the interpretation that she was dying and giving out her possessions: the gray horse, her bands and her gloves. I think the children survived the birth, though. She is said to have given birth to strong boys, warriors. Perhaps they were slain later in life since they both were assigned to deities of the warrior death: Freya of Folkvangr and Odin of Valhalla.

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Native Swede here. I fear you've misunderstood several parts of the story. I did a bit of research...

This song is a part from a medieval ballad called Den förtrollade barnaföderskan (hereby freely translated by yours sincerely as "The Enchanted Woman in Labour") originating from approximately year 1600.

The longer story according to that wikipedia link is about a woman - assumed to be married and having moved into her husband's household - who asks her mother-in-law how long women are pregnant, getting the answer 40 weeks and 7 years. Possibly the mother-in-law cast a spell on her causing the pregnancy to be that long.

And so when the pregnant woman is reaching is reaching the end of that time(!) and getting in labour, she wants to go home to her father. She arrives, though in pain, giving birth to two 7 year and 40 weeks old children. It isn't clear if she dies in childbirth or were just gravely maimed. The children wish for revenge against their grandmother who told their mother that she would be pregnant that long.

In that story, the children don't die, but perhaps the pregnant woman - at least she fears she is dying and therefore promising away her finest belongings to her closest relatives.

A longer version was apparently performed/released in 1979 by some Swedish band called "Folk och Rackare", then called Silibrand. Some other versions exist here and there too.


How is the singer related to Silibrant and his daughter / their two dead boys?

It's the narrator telling the story. Think of an actor playing multiple roles. They would speak the lines of multiple characters. There is just Silibrant and his daughter. "O, woe is me, woe is me" is said by Silibrant upon spotting his daughter for example, not by some anonymous 3rd person.

In the longer version I found, the two children also speaks.

"I shall give my father my gray steed" -> why does she want to give "death" to her father?

That's not the meaning at all. She just wants to give him her (finest) horse since she fears she is dying. In these ballads, gray or white horses are considered the finest since Kings and commanders would ride such in battle, to be easily spotted (source in Swedish: https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balladterminologi). There's a very well-known Swedish traditional song with a line "bästa fålen apelgrå" (the best steed, apple gray) with the same meaning: gray horses are considered the finest.

When visiting church on Sunday, people would dress up in their finest clothes and go there with their finest horses/wagons.

What are the "small gloves"?

They are literally a pair of fancy gloves.

What are the "seven golden rings"?

Seven golden rings.

In the longer version posted above, the dying mother also wishes to give some knife to her mother-in-law for reducing her life. The two children then swears to "fry their grandmother like a fish".

However, the last verse in the version by Gjallarhorn does not appear in the above source. Where the original rather includes Christian elements, the Gjallarhorn version instead includes Norse pagan elements. "Freya's baptism" meaning one child survives and "hall of Valhalla" meaning that one dies.

Freya being the Norse goddess of love, and depending on sources sometimes mixed up or considered the same person as the goddess Frigg (goddess of motherhood among other things).

Valhalla being the place where honourable people/warriors go when they die.

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As i see it: Silibrant is the father and he joins his daughter who is about to give birth. One of the baby boys dies (To valhallas sal) and one lives (to Frejas dop) and as the mother dies from childbirth complications she tells her father (Silibrant) how she wants to split her belongings. of course the "gray steed" is a metaphor for death, not sure why she would give that to her father.

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  • "of course the "gray steed" is a metaphor for death" No it isn't. I posted a detailed answer.
    – Amarth
    Nov 24 at 23:22

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