M331
The song of the run-away girl.

Collected by Wang Ming-ji.

Introduction.

Miao marriages were normally arranged with the assistance of a middleman whose duty it was to conduct negotiations between the families, and to fix the marriage settlement that had to be paid. Although in theory the consent of the young people concerned had to be given, their respective families could exert considerable pressure on prospective brides and bridegrooms. Occasionally they rebelled and ran away with a partner of their own choice. The word "fang" was used to describe such people, and might be applied equally to the girl or the youth. The word actually means "run away", but specifically it was from an unacceptable partner or proposed partner, and usually, though not necessarily, with the intention of getting married to someone else.

The name Yeu-rang features in many stories. It means "dragon man" and is often applied to a rather fierce personage, sometimes possessing magical powers. In this song Yeu-rang appears as a rather strong-willed individual, who, having gone ahead with fixing up his daughterís marriage without taking her personal wishes properly into consideration, was wise enough, in the end, to rectify the situation, even at considerable cost. He had lost the marriage settlement he was expecting to receive, and then had to provide the young couple with a place to live and a livelihood. How the girlís brothers reacted to this sharing out of the family land is not recorded.

The song relates that, despite his best efforts Yeu-rang was unable to find a bridegroom who could play the pipes, but it nowhere explains why this accomplishment was deemed so important. Perhaps it was because his daughter, strong-willed as himself, had made this a stipulation. Certainly the man with whom she absconded, though something of a drifter, could play the pipes.

The name of the young man in this song possibly means "the strange one who competes", rendered "the strange suitor" in translation. When the run-away couple eventually returned home, the girlís father took the young manís pipes and rested them carefully against the partition wall in the house, a normal act of courtesy to a newly arrived guest, and in this case, a gesture of acceptance and reconciliation.
Translation in verse
Literal Transcription
Notes

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