Recordings and music
Here you can find the words and music of two ballads from each of the sub-categories in the publication Sveriges Medeltida Ballader (Swedish Medieval Ballads), plus some archival sound recordings.
Ballads of the supernatural
Den bergtagna (The maid and the mountain king)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 24, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad A 54)
There are many documented variants of this ballad about a fateful meeting between a human woman and a supernatural male, which suggests that it has been popular in the areas visited by collectors. In addition to all the texts and tunes printed in Sveriges Medeltida Ballader it is possible to listen here to an archival recording from 1957 (SVA BB 536311) with Lena Larsson from Kungälvs Ytterby in Bohuslän and another from 1958 (SVA BB539027) with Ulrika Lindholm, Frostviken, Jämtland. This tale of a woman who has several children with a gnome (the mountain king) – and is forced by him to return to the mountain when she visits her mother – greatly resembles the ballad Agneta och havsmannen (SMB 19, TSB A 47). Both ballads are found in several Nordic countries, and a similar tale is told in the English-Scottish Hind Etin (Child 41).
- Naes, Jeanette: Sjølv trør ho doggi av jordi. Bergtakingsmotivet i tre norske ballader. Masteroppgave, Institutt for lingvistiske og nordiske studier, Nordisk språk og litteratur. Oslo universitet 2011.
- Piø, Jørn: Overnaturlige væsner i nordisk balladetradition. 2. DgF T38 Agnete og havmanden. Meddelanden från Svenskt visarkiv 27.
- Åkesson, Ingrid: Talande harpa och betvingande sång – musicerande, makt och genus i några medeltidsballader. Lekstugan. Festskrift till Magnus Gustafsson. Red. Mathias Boström. Växjö: Smålands musikarkiv/Musik i Syd, 2015.
Den förtrollade barnaföderskan (The enchanted childbearer)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 14, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad A 40)
This ballad has also been documented in many variants and sung well into our times. It is an example of the numerous ballads in which pregnancy and childbirth play a dominant role. In this case, the pregnant woman’s mother-in-law puts a spell on her: she is forced to be pregnant with her twins for seven/nine years and die when giving birth to them. The first variant (SMB 14 A) is furnished with one of the earliest written notations of ballad tunes – from around 1600. Here we can listen to an archival recording from 1957 (SVA BB 537623) with Svea Jansson of Nötö in Finland’s Åboland archipelago. There are Danish and Norwegian variants of this ballad, and a similar tale is told in the English-Scottish Willie s lady (Child 6).
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 43, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad B 16)
The ballad about Mary Magdalene is found in many variants, amongst others in a strong Finland-Swedish tradition. The recording here is, however, with Vendla Johansson of Delary, Småland (SVA BB536532). The Mary Magdalene legends have biblical roots, though there is no direct connection between the ballads and the biblical tales. Modern-day research on the biblical character Mary Magdalene points in totally different directions to the old ideas of her as a person with reprehensible morals. This ballad is about a woman who is punished by Christ, does penance and is forgiven for having three children out of wedlock – conceived, moreover, through incest and in a relationship with a priest; the ballad does not tell of whether or not she was the victim of assault. The Magdalene ballad is found in several Nordic countries and may be compared with The maid and the palmer (Child 21).
- Häggman, Ann-Mari: Magdalena på Källebro. En studie i finlandssvensk vistradition med utgångspunkt i visan om Maria Magdalena. Helsingfors: Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland, 1992.
Herr Töres döttrar (Sir Töre’s daughters)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 47, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad B 21)
Yet another ballad with many documented variants. The song can be connected to a legend which has Christian contents but lacks Biblical roots. Here we have a 1958 recording from Skåne with Ingemar Ingers from Lund, who sings a fragment of a variant from Per Persson, Norrvidinge (SVA BB 545215). The tale has a classic tragical structure: the brothers do not recognise their sisters – and vice versa – when they meet in the woods, and the parents do not recognise their sons. This leads to the brothers raping their sisters and murdering them, and the father murdering the sons in revenge. A spring rises where the daughters died, and legends regarding this spring are spread in various parts of the Nordic lands. Both the spring and the tale have been associated in folk tradition with a number of specific places. The legend also inspired Ingmar Bergman’s film Jungfrukällan [The Virgin Spring]. In addition to a number of Nordic variants the ballad shows similarities with one of the English-Scottish ballads, The bonnie banks of Fordie/Babylon (Child 14), though this ballad lacks the legend of the spring.
- Länne Persson, Marie: Kaller var deras skog. Balladen och berättelsen. Mjölby: Atremi. 2016.
Drottning Dagmars död (The death of queen Dagmar)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 57, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad C 6)
Words and music to Drottning Dagmars död
There are 16 variants of this ballad about a genuine historical person, and a number of them have tunes. Here we have a recording made by Matts Arnberg in the Færoes in 1959 with the singers dancing kvaddans (chain dance) as they sing (SVA BB 542521). The song is thought to be Danish in origin and tells of a Danish queen, born in Bohemia, who was said to be kind and pious. Queen Dagmar, idealised in the song, died in 1212 in Ribe, Denmark. The song is found in Anders Sørensen Vedel’s Hundredevisebog från 1591, and the earliest Swedish source is a broadside from 1753.
- Brix, Hans: ”Dronning Dagmars død” ur Brix, Hans: Analyser og problemer. 6. Köpenhamn 1950.
Vreta klosterrov (The abduction from Vreta convent)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 59, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad C 8)
There are 5 documented variants of this ballad, each with 40-60 verses. No tune has been documented. The Danish ballad researcher Erik Dal claims in Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, band III that the song is a about historic persons, in this case from Folkungaätten (the Folkunga dynasty). The song may have been written as an analogy to other songs about abducted brides, for example Folke Algotssons brudrov (5MB 60, TSB C 15). The first instance of this ballad in Sweden is from the 1610s. The ballad tells of how stolts Elin (proud Elin) is abducted from a convent by Sune Falkvardsson and lives with him in a miserable marriage for 15 years, giving birth to three daughters. At her death bed, her husband begs her to forgive him for tormenting her.
- Commentary in Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, band III, DgF 138 Sune Folkesøn.
Ballads of chivary
Rudegull seglar bort med sin trolovade (Rudegull sails away with his true-love)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 72, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad D 46)
This ballad of chivalry about a successful abduction has been documented in many variants – and, like many other ballads, with different titles. Here is a recording with Allida Grönlund from Vilhelmina, southern Lappland (SVA BB 545846). This variant is usually called Vänner och fränder (Friends and relations) – the opening words. The ballad tells of a young couple who become betrothed without the permission of their parents and are separated for some years. In the meantime, the main female character is forced to marry another – richer – man. Her true-love sails home at the last minute and abducts her from the wedding feast. Both the main plot and a number of motifs from the song – and complete stanzas (”wandering stanzas”) – are found in other ballads. This ballad is also found in Danish and Norwegian variants.
- Andersson, Otto: Upprepningsstrofen i levande balladtradition. Meddelanden från Svenskt visarkiv 23 1968. [About the refrain ”Uti rosen” in SMB 72]
- Ramsten, Märta: “Vänner och fränder – Allidas visa på vandring”. Lira nr 5 1996.
Sven i rosengård (Sven in the rosy grove)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 153, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad D 320)
The words and music of this frequently sung ballad have often been collected, and many field recordings have been made. It is also one of the ballads found in a strong Finland-Swedish tradition: here we are able to listen to Edit Johansson from Nötö, the archipelago of Åboland, Finland, recorded in1963 (SVA BB 547026). In addition, you can listen to Elin Lind of Grangärde, Dalarna, recorded in 1955 (SVA BB 534716). Fratricide is a classic recurring motif in world literature. The ballad’s structure is strict, consisting of a dialogue between Sven and his mother; their inevitable parting becomes increasingly apparent. ”Rosengård” and ”rosende lund” are places outside the home, beyond control, where terrible things can take place. Expressions such as ”där svanen svartnar och korpen vitnar” (where the swan blackens and the crow whitens) are common symbols of the impossible and are found in rhymes, spells and other folklore. Another well-known ballad with a similar theme is Ebbe Skammelson (SMB 125/TSB D 251). Sven i rosengård is found in Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic variants. The English-Scottish ballad Edward/Son David (Child 13) has a similar motif.
- Sven i rosengård i Litet vis- och låtlexikon
- Klintberg, Bengt af: Svenska trollformler, W&W 1965
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 217, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad E 139)
The ballad Ramunder is documented in a number of variants, several with tunes. The fight portrayed in the plot is typical of the genre, but the absurd exaggerations mean that this ballad might equally be seen as a jocular ballad or a heroic ballad. Here we can listen to a recording from 1961 or 1962 of the first verses with Lena Larsson of Kungälvs Ytterby, Bohuslän (SVA BB 544421) and a recording with Svea Jansson, Nötö, Åboland, Finland, who sings some other verses. The first instance of this song in Sweden is a broadside from the 17th century, and the ballad has been popular until the present day.
- Halskov Hansen, Lene: ”Ironi og forvirring i 1800-tallet – perspektiver på viseforskningens alvor og almuens humor.” I: En alldeles egen och förträfflig National-Musik. Nio författare om Svenska folk-visor från forntiden red. Märta Ramsten och Gunnar Ternhag. Kungl. Uppsala: Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur, 2015.
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 205, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad E 52)
This ballad has also been popular up to the present day, and the earliest instance of it is found in a broadside from 1794. Here we can listen to a 1958 recording with Svea Jansson, Nötö, Åboland, Finland (SVA BB 540416). In certain variants of the ballad, struggle and murder play a bigger part, but the legendary riddle joust has, with time, come to dominate the song. Riddle jousts are an old theme in legends and other oral tradition, and riddles and paradoxes play a leading role in some other songs – for example, De omöjliga uppgifterna (SMB 222/TSB F 6) and the English-Scottish Riddles Wisely Expounded (Child 1).
- Commentary in Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, band 1, DgF 18 Svend Vonved.
- Litet vis- och låtlexikon: Sven Svanevit
Bonden och kråkan (The farmer and the crow)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 248, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad F 58)
This ballad about the crow who would ”räcka till mången god ting” (suffice for many good things) is one of the best-known of them, and has been printed in many songbooks for schools, for example. Just as in many other jocular songs, one of the main characters is an animal. There are many documentations of this ballad, from the 1810s to around 1970. A number of these are sound recordings. Here you can listen to a recording from 1964 with Xenia Rönnblom, Nagu, Åboland, Finland (SVA BA 0060) and a variant in waltz time with Levi Johansson, Frostviken, Jämtland, made in 1951 (SVA BB 533017). There are Danish, Norwegian and English-Scottish variants, the latter named The Derby Ram (Roud 126). The theme has been interpreted as an ironic commentary on the ambition of the superiors of the farmers to wring as much as possible from them in the form of tithes and other taxes. A certain affinity can be traced to tales of animals, which often also have an ironic or a comical point.
Leja tjänstepiga (Hire a serving-lass)
(Sveriges medeltida ballader 258, The Types of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballad F 72)
This ballad about a serving-lass who demands (or is offered) a high and carefully-specified wage is documented in many variants, from the 1690s to 1970. There are several tunes, often with completely different refrains. Here you can listen to a recording with Edit Samuelsson, Nöbbele, Småland, from 1970 (SVA BA 0801) – it is also found on the LP Skämtvisor och polsktrallar Caprice RIKS LPF 2) and another with Allida Grönlund, Vilhelmina, Lappland, recorded in 1962 (SVA BB 545845). The theme of the song is related to the ”world turned upside-down” theme, and involves the reversal of both gender and class when the serving-lass – rather than her employer – dictates conditions. This ballad is also found in Denmark and Norway.