Droit de Foreigner December 27, 2010Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
Beachcombing has had the pleasure of spending some time in the company of the sixteenth-century European traveller Varthema (obit 1517) previously – in connexion with a unicorn at Mecca. And today, he is going to return to the side of the eastward-bound one, now in Tarnassari (Tenasserim) India.
The king of the said city does not cause his wife’s virginity to be taken by the Brahmins as the king of Calcutta does, but he causes her to be deflowered by white men, whether Christians or Moors, provided they be not Pagans. These Pagans also, before they conduct their wives to their house, find a white man, of whatever country he may be, and take him to their house for this particular purpose, to make him deflower their wife.
When Beachcombing read this he presumed that Varthema had misunderstood a local custom. Yet the passage continues…
And this happened to us when we arrived in the said city. We met by chance three or four merchants, who began to speak to my companion thus:
‘Langalli ni pardesi’, that is, ‘Friend, are you strangers?’
He answered: ‘Yes’.
Said the merchants: ‘Ethera nali ni banno’, that is, ‘How many days have you been in this country?’
We replied: ‘Mun nal gnad banno’, that is, ‘It is four days since we arrived’.
Another one of the said merchants said: ‘Biti banno gnan pigamanathon ondo’, that is, ‘Come to my house, for we are great friends of strangers’.
And we, hearing this, went with him. When we had arrived at his house, he gave us a meal, and then he said to us: ‘My friends, Patanci nale banno gnan penna periti in penna orangono panna panni cortu’, that is, ‘Fifteen days hence I wish to bring home my wife, and one of you shall sleep with her the first night, and shall deflower her for me’.
We remained quite ashamed at hearing such a thing. Then our interpreter said: ‘Do not be ashamed, for this is the custom of the country.’ Then my companion hearing this said: ‘Let them not do us any other mischief, for we will satisfy you in this.’
But we thought that they were mocking us. The merchant saw that we remained undecided, and said: ‘O langal limaranconia ille ocha manezar irichenu,’ that is, ‘Do not be dispirited, for all in this country follows this custom’.
Finding at last that such was the custom in all this country, as one who was in our company affirmed to us, and said that we need have no fear, my companion said to the merchant that he was content to go through this fatigue.
The merchant then said : ‘I wish you to remain in my house, and that you, your companions and goods, be lodged here with me until I bring the lady home.’
Finally, after refusing, we were obliged to yield to his caresses, and all of us, five in number, together with all our things, were lodged in his house. Fifteen days from that time this merchant brought home his wife, and my companion slept with her the first night. She was a young girl of fifteen years, and he did for the merchant all that he had asked of him. But after the first night, it would have been at the peril of his life if he had returned again, although truly the lady would have desired that the first night had lasted a month.
Beachcombing particularly enjoyed this self congratulation. The story, in any case, ended well.
The merchants, having received such a service from some of us, would gladly have retained us four or five months at their own expense, for all kinds of wares cost very little money, and also because they are most liberal and very agreeable men.
The point of the ceremony was perhaps that the girl be already experienced when she arrive in her husbands bed or even squeamishness about blood? But in that case why were foreigners favoured? Possibly because they stood outside all local client networks. Or possibly so any ‘white’ children could be identified and disposed of or at least treated accordingly in the household – note the stress on ‘white’ race.
Beachcombing has found no parallel to this custom anywhere save in Pinkerton. Relating to Aracan (a neighbouring state): ‘Virginity is not an esteemed virtue with them. Husbands prefer running the risk of fathering the children of others, rather than marry a novice. It is generally Dutch sailors, who are liberally paid for this infamous prostitution.’
Beachcombing would love to hear of any other strange marriage customs of this kind involving foreign visitors or any Dutch references? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
31 Jan 2015: Bruce T writes in with a parallel story, ‘On the Droit du Foreigner front, I once read an account of an English merchant and his companions traveling in what’s now eastern Iran, near the border of modern Baluchistan, during the mid-late 18th century. They were invited to stay over a few days by the local ruler, who on their first night laid out a large feast for them. The last item on the menu was the original version of “Turkish Delight” a sweet pastry laced heavily with hashish. As our travelers had been guzzling the local wine through the dinner, the Turkish Delight hit them like a ton of bricks during the post dinner small talk. When they came to the next morning they discovered they had been sodomized by their hosts while they were passed out. They left in haste the next day, but it was several days before they could mount their camels without pain. They were the laughing stock of the next town they reached, as it was well known what happened to foreign travelers who were foolish enough to accept the dinner invitations of the local rulers. Somewhere in my vast pile of books is the volume that contains that little story. God only knows only what box or closet it’s stashed in. If I find it, I’ll send it on.’ Thanks Bruce!