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Germanic Kinship

From:         James Marchand 
Subject:      Germanic kinship
        A Truncated and Annotated Bibliography on Germanic Kinship
Aron, Albert W. Traces of Matriarchy in Germanic Hero-Lore. U. Wisc. Studies
ln Lang. & Lit., 9. Madison: UWP, 1920. An excellent study of the MB,
seriously marred by the idea that a MB system must reflect matriarchy. Based
mostly on Dargun and Bachofen.
Bachofen, J. J. Antiquarische Briefe. 2 vols. Strassburg: Tuebner, 1880-86.
Still the best work on MB in IE languages. Repr. in his collected works.
Bell, Clair Hayden. The Sister's Son in the Medieval German Epic.  U. Cal.
Publications in Modern Philology, 10.2 Berkeley   UCP, 1922. Pp. 67-182.
Excellent, but limited.
Benveniste, Emile. Le vocabulaire des institutions indo- europeennes. Vol. 1.
Paris: Minuit, 1969. See the secticn "parente", 203-276. Flawed by ignorance
of modern anthropology and blindness to MB.
Bjerke, Robert. A Contrastive Study of Old German and Old Norwegian Kinship
Terms. Indiana University Publ. in Anthropology and Linguistics, Memoir 22.
Bloomington: IUP, 1969. A Wisconsin dissertation, seriously flawed by
ignorance of previous work, e.g. Maurer, Amlra, Delbrueck, Buck, Vinogradoff,
even Aron's above-mentioned work, published by his own university.
Nevertheless, a careful study of certain law-books.
Bremmer, Jan. "Avunculate and Fosterage." Journal of Indo- European Studies,
4 (1976), 65-78. Interesting remarks on the ONorse problem, though not at all
careful in his reading of the evidence.
Bremmer, Rolf H., Jr. "The Importance of Kinship: Uncle and Nephew in
'Beowulf'," Amsterdamer Beitraege zur aelteren Germanistlk, 15 (1980), 21-38.
Best study of this problem, but weak in kinship theory.
Buck, Carl D. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal IE
Languages. Chicago: UCP, 1949. A useful compilation, based mostly on
Buehler, Th. "Fosterage." Schweizerisches Archiv f. Volkskunde, 60 (1964),
1-17. A good survey of the problem, but untrustworthy. Better is M.
Pappenheim, Ueber kuenstliche Verwandtschaft im germ. Recht," Zs. d. Savigny-
Stiftung, 29 (1908), 304 ff., which I do not have at hand right now.
Bullough, D. A. "Early Medieval Social Groupings: The Terminology of
Kinship,'' Past & Present, 45 (1969), 3-18. Excellent general remarks, e.g.
on the importance of differentiating between inheritance rules and kinship.
Campbell, C. D. "The Names of Relationship in English." Diss. Strassburg,
1905. Excellent on OE.
Dargun, Lothar. Mutterrecht und Raubehe. Breslau: Wilhelm Koebner, 1883.
Still useful as a collection of material.
Delbrueck, Berthold. Die indogerm. Verwandtachaftsnamen. Abhandlungen der
Phil.-Hist. Klasse der K. saechs. Ges. d. Wiss., 11.5. Leipzig: Hirzel, 1889.
The standard work.
Disciplina clericalis, by Petrus Alfonsus. PL 157.677 f. An amusing tale
which shows the pervasiveness of the avunculate. A poor poet praises his MB,
as does the mule, whose MB is a noble warhorse.
Farnsworth, W. O. Uncle and Nephew in the OFr. Chanson de Geste: A Study in
the Survival of Matriarchy. Columbia U. Studies in Romance Philology &
Literature. NY: CUP, 1913. Also useful for general information on the
Friedrich, Paul. "Proto-IE Kinship." Ethnologica, 15 (1966), 1-36. The first
to note that the IE system was of the Omaha type. Unfortunately ignored.
Ghurye, G. S. Family and Kin in IE Culture. Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1955.
Rpt. 1961. Often cited, but not very useful.
Gummere, F. B. "The Sister's Son in the English and Scottish Popular
Ballads." An English Miscellany presented to Dr. Furnivall. Ed. Ker, Napier &
Skeat. Oxford: OUP, 1901. Pp. 133-49. Shows the existence of the avunculate
in later times, including remarks on Scandinavian ballad.
KHL. Articles on Skyldskap, Aegteskab, Aett.
Levi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. NY: Basic Books, 1963. Chapter
II is still the best statement of the problems of the avunculate from an
anthropological point of view.
Lancaster, Lorraine. "Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society," The British Journal of
Sociology, 9 (1957), 230-250; 359-377. With a very useful chart.
Lounsbury, F. G. "A Formal Account of the Crow-and-Omaha-Type Kinship
Terminology," in Explorations in Cultural Anthropology. Ed. Ward H.
Goodenough. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1964, pp. 351-93. Like Levi-Strauss's, a
typical-"structural" account.
McLaughlin, M.M. "Survivors and Surrogates: Children & parents from the 9th
to the 13th C.," History of Childhood, ed. Lloyd de Mausse, 101-82. Many
trenchant remarks on surrogate kinship.
Merrill, Robert T. "Notes on Icelandic Kinship Terminology." American
Anthropologist, 66 (1964), 867-72. Based on modern dictionaries; has an
interesting chart with ego as the propositus.
Murdock, George P. Social Structure. NY: MacMillan, 1949. Still the classic.
Nitze, W. A. "The Sister's Son and the Conte del Graal." MPh, 9 (1912),
291-323. Useful material, but seems not to have read Wolfram's Parzival.
Phillpotts, Bertha. Kindred and Clan. Cambridge: CUP, 1913. The classical,
but not too careful, treatment of the sib.
Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. Structure and Function in Primitive Society. 1952;
rpt. NY: MacMillan, 1965. His chapters on the "Mother's Brother in South
Africa" and "On Joking Relationships" should be read by all who wish to
understand the avunculate.
Schrader, O. Reallexikon d. idg. Altertumskunde. 2d. ed. Ed. A. Nehring. 2
vols. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1917-23. See, e.g. "Familie, Ehe, Sippe, Stamm,"
along with the various relations, e.g. "Oheim, Neffe, Mutterrecht,
Schusky, Ernest L. Manual for Kinship Analysis. NY: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1965. An excellent introduction to modern methods in kinship
*E. Gasparini, Il matriarcato slavo (Florence: Sansoni, 1973), 291: "If it
had been left to the Slavs to recite the Faternoster according to their
spirit, they would not have invoked the Our Father, but an "Our uncle (MB)
who is in heaven."
** J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, pt. 3: The Return of the King
(1955; rpt. NY: Random House, 1965), 433: Frealaf, son of Hild, Helm's
sister, becomes king of Rohirrim (i.e. Helm's sister's son). 437: Eomer is
fostered by Theoden, his MB.
1. Havamal, 141, Bellows' Translation:
Nine mighty songs I got from the son
     Of Bolthorn, Bestla's father;
And a drink I got of the goodly mead
     Poured out from Othroerir.
II. Farnsworth, p. 21: "As will be seen, the tendency is to minimize the
intimacy between father and son, while exalting that between uncle and
nephew; in the latter case the closest solidarity is almost invariably the
rule ..."
III. Tacitus, Germania, chapter 20, Loeb: "Sisters' children mean as much to
their uncle (avunculus, actually 'mother's brother') as to their father: some
tribes regard this blood-tie as even closer and more sacred than that between
son and father, and in taking hostages make it the basis of their demand, as
though they thus secure loyalty more surely and have a wider hold on the
IV. Waltharius, 846 ff., my translation: "The sixth was Patavrid, whom the
sister of Hagen had brought into the world. When his mother's brother saw him
ready for the attack, he sought to hold him back with pleas and cries: 'Where
are you rushing so headlong? just look how death is smiling at you. Desist!
Your fates are spinning their last thread. Oh, dear son of my sister, your
eagerness deceives you. Give it up! You cannot equal Walther in strength.'
Patavrid persists. 'You maelstrom of the world, ever hungry for possessions;
you maw of avarice, root of all evil ...' 'Oh, dear nephew, what shall I tell
your mother?' ... And he gave forth with a loud "Farewell, my pretty one,
accompanied with sobs."
V. Gripisspa, 6, Bellows' translation:
Sigurth spake: "To me, if thou knowest, my mother's brother,
               Say what life will Sigurth's be."
VI. P ls saga, 1.9 (Vigfusson and Powell, 1.504): "Bishop Thor-lac, Paul's
mother's brother, held him in great esteem and loved him much, and often
asked him to his house. But though some other chlefs were adverse or
refractory to bishop Thor-lac, Paul was the more trusty and fully faithful to
him the more others forsook him. And when bishop Thor-lac died Paul showed
his affectionate friendliness to him more than all his noble friends.
6.5: But though the renown of bishop Paul was great as was deserved, before
the saintship of bishop Thor-lac was mooted, it made his repute still higher
in that he had a mother's brother of true nobility, and many looked for the
old saw to come true, that 'a man takes after his mother's brother'."
VII.  Mo/dhurbroedhrum verdha menn likastir.


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