Erin writes . . .
How much is that doggy in the window? The one with the waggily tail . . .
Okay, I haven’t lost it. Well, not entirely at least. That was a song my Dad used to sing to me at bedtime. I think it dates from some time back in the Dark Ages. But it brings to mind how marriages were conducted after mankind moved away from the classic fling-her-over-my-shoulder-and-haul-her-off-to-my-cave approach so favoured in earlier times. http://todayinshenaya.blogspot.com/2012/03/shove-off-while-i-grab-myself-wife.html
Civilized man now bought their wives. And thus the dowry and bride price systems were born. What’s the difference? The dowry is what the bride’s family gave to her and her new husband at the time of marriage. It was to be used to set up a new home, and as an insurance policy for the girl against the death of her husband or divorce. Obviously, the bigger the dowry, the better the catch. Remember how the dying Henry Dashwood, in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, pleaded with his rotten son, John, to take care of his two step-sister, Elinor and Marianne, because they had no dowry, and thus no chance of decent marriages? Such was the fickleness of love . . . Marriage was often regarded as a commodity to be traded to better the financial position and status of the whole family, not to pander to the emotional needs of two individuals. Thankfully, dowries are now thing of the past in most parts of the world.
But, where I come from, in Southern Africa, bride price – or Lobola, as it is commonly known – is alive and well. Lobola – either cows or cash – has to be paid by the groom to the bride’s family before a marriage can be performed. The Lobola is supposed to strengthen the bond between the two families. But it also compensates the bride’s parents for the loss of their daughter . . . her affection? her attractive demeanour? Not a chance. Her hands and her back, used for labour in the workplace, the fields, or at home. It really puts the romance back into marriage, doesn’t it?