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The Perilous Hunt

The Perilous Hunt: Symbols in Hispanic and European Balladry

Edith Randam Rogers
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Perilous Hunt
    Book Description:

    In the symbolic language of ballads, a lady's costly dress tells of the beauty of the body beneath it or of the wearer's happiness; a lost hawk or hound foreshadows the hunter's fate long before the plot reaches a turning point. In her original and far-reaching study of such familiar narrative elements, Edith Randam Rogers adds much to our understanding of poetic expression in the ballad tradition.

    In focusing on individual motifs as they appear in different ballads, different languages, and different periods, Rogers proves the existence of a reliable lingua franca of symbolism in European balladry. Lines or even whole stanzas that have defied interpretation often come to life when the reader is aware of the meaning of a particular motif in such an international vocabulary of images. Thus this book makes available important new critical tools sure to have significant results for ballad scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6429-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    The undeniably healthy revolution in the study of folklore, with its mandate of scientific objectivity, has had an unfortunate (and doubtless unintended) by-product: the neglect of the traditional ballad as a form of art. The withdrawal of the literary critic from this field is partly due to the not entirely baseless charge that he has discriminated against aesthetically inferior texts.¹ Particularly in the last century, collectors, editors, and translators exercised their critical function somewhat high-handedly, by grading ballads as either “pretty” or “worthless” and by now improving, now discarding the versions that did not meet their artistic standards. The understandably...

  5. 2 Arcadia and Apocalypse: The Hunt
    (pp. 6-40)

    To say that hunting plays an important part in traditional ballads is both right and wrong. Hunters abound but seldom bring home any game; in theRomancero,the game is not even likely to appear. The reason for this lies in one of the main characteristics of balladry. Ballads deal with people and their relations with other people, or sometimes other anthropomorphic beings. Hunting is thus not the subject, but the scene, the circumstance, the atmosphere.

    This does not mean that hunting skill failed to enhance the image of a medieval knight, as he appears in ballads. In the eulogy of...

  6. 3 Measure and Mock-up: Games
    (pp. 41-57)

    A game is inherently a surrogate or a symbol. In its well-delimited microcosm, a game candidly spells out an order that, in fact, governs human life at large but is often obscured by its complexities. Symbolism and substitution being, thus , their very nature, games have an obvious affinity to poetic diction. Moreover, since the diction of popular ballads well-nigh requires symbols that simultaneously further the narrative, the actual practice of games in a given period makes them especially suitable for the genre here under discussion. And finally, since action, conflict, and crisis are the stuff of both ballads and...

  7. 4 A Symbol for All Seasons: Clothing
    (pp. 58-89)

    The extreme poverty of the lingua franca of ballads beocmes clearly evident in the use of clothing as a symbol. Makers of ballads have continually reached for it to meet contingencies in poetic expression. This seeming poverty, in turn, has resulted in enormouswealth in the variety of applications. Indeed a complete ballad could be constructed from different references to clothing: characters would be identified, their emotions expressed, their relations with each other explored, their good or ill fortune documented, and judgment passed upon them by their fellowmen—all this, by means of a sole symbol. This chapter will offer some...

  8. 5 A Buffer for a Taboo: Combing
    (pp. 90-108)

    One of the problems that the balladist faces—and successfully solves—is the treatment of the taboo. Certain forms of the hunt allowed the singer to introduce non-Christian elements into the scene without naming any members of the pagan supernatural realm. Another type of hunt paraphrased the man’s conquest of a girl. The praise of clothing stood for the praise of the body that it covered; many different motifs involving clothes conveyed other sexual taboos, such as seduction, promiscuity, incest, or adultery. Of all symbolic acts, however, combing is probably the favorite one for expressing sexuality and sometimes also for...

  9. 6 A Case of Vested Interest: Magic Music
    (pp. 109-134)

    The person of the singer seldm enters the text of a ballad. Now and then he may exhort the audiece to pay attention to a particularly pertinent line, but even this is intende to beneift the listener more than the singer. Nevertheless, there are some well-knows motifs involving music or singing in which the balladist doubtless has a personal, practical interest. I propose to explore tworomances,with the support of many other ballads, in order to show a certain fallacy in a familiar interpretation of the motif of magic music, and, then, to attempt a redefinition of this and...

  10. 7 Metempsychosis or Miracle Transformations in Conde Olinos
    (pp. 135-148)

    While Count Olinos emerged from the previous chapter as human, regardless of the magic effect of his song, the last portion of theromanceundeniably deals with supernatural events. A deludingly handy explanation of these events is usually given: namely, that the final portion of the ballad is a poetic exposition of transmigration of souls. The erudite exercise of tracing the transformation motif back to the pre-Christian belief in metempsychosis is a rather easy one, but it is just an erudite exercise and not necessarily indicative of what is seen in this ballad by the singers and their audience. To...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 149-160)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-166)
  13. Title Index
    (pp. 167-172)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 173-177)