Re: Levirate Marriage in Glorantha?

From: Grimmund <grimmund_at_kCQI57eEyj7oZV07nKAUHpTu9K-PAFyi4dMLhChOmSEXqImO4LFL1MmzEt5pOcQB7LD>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2008 11:16:23 -0600

Depending on the culture, it could be the sibling's duty to get the sister-in law pregnant, but the offspring were still legally considered the children of the dead brother.

This may or may not lead to resentment of the part of the surrogate father, since what has happened is that (in one sense) the dead brother has stolen the living brother's children.

As John pointed out, this is a fairly patriarchal thing. The usual connotation is that the woman gets very little choice in the matter, but the new husband doesn't necessarily get much choice, either. Catherine and Arthur's marriage was arranged by treaty; Catherine's marriage to Henry after Arthur's death was an extension of the treaty terms to ensure peace between Spain and England.

How does the culture deal with marriage for non-virgins? If the husband's death leaves the wife with some social stigma as "damaged goods" for no longer being a virgin, then remarriage is difficult?

How does inheritance work? Is there a dowry? Was it paid by the husband's family, or the wife's?

If the wife can inherit her husband's goods, then there is little pressure on her directly to remarry. If she cannot inherit, or the inheritance follows the husband's blood to the children, you might expect to see a childless widow expelled by her inlaws and returned to her family, so that they can make use of the dead son's property.

The alternative is some sort of levirate marriage, or if not a formal marriage, simply one of the dead man's siblings getting the widow pregnant, with the child being recognized legally as that of the dead brother, so that the child can inherit the dead brother's property. (Can the widow demand additional "service"? More than once child, to ensure that one lives to adulthood, to support her in her old age?)

If the wife's family provided some sort of dowry to provide for her support, Roman style, that would normally go with her if she left the husband's family. Keeping the dowry in control of the husband's family (or not being able to repay it) provided them an incentive to keep the widow in the family. If the dowry's been spent/invested/otherwise unavailable, that would give the widow an incentive to stay, since she's be broke if she left.

If the husband's family provided the dowry to the wife's family, "buying" a wife, they'd likely want to keep her in the family, since it's unlikely they'd get a refund. This gives them an incentive to "recycle" the widow, actually marrying her to an unmarried sibling of the husband, rather than having to go out an buy another bride. This can get complex, too, depending on whether or not all the sons are married, and whether or not the society allows for multiple wives.

Just some thoughts-


On Sat, Feb 23, 2008 at 6:57 PM, CJ <> wrote:
> In fact the issue
> revolved around a curse on a blood lineage, and i wondered if levirate
> marriage might allow a legal descendant without direct blood descent from
> the eldest son, for a plot I was writing for a scenario. There are other
> ways round it, but it just made me think - this could work for the story.
> Thanks to Greg for the clarification as well.
> I'm currently trying to write adventures for both HQ (Heortland) and MRQ
> (Dara Happan) to demo the systems, and that was all that inspired the
> comment. Sorry for the derail.
> cj x


"Power corrupts.  Knowledge is power.  Therefore: Knowledge corrupts."


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