Singing Bones, and Skeletal Instruments

Image from RadioDark

Many believe that bones of the deceased contain spiritual properties that live on beyond the decay of flesh. Ghost stories and hauntings, for example, can often be traced back to the act of disrespecting burial sites. Stepping on graves, uncovering buried bones, or removing parts of the skeleton and placing them elsewhere disturb the peaceful dead. For these people our bones become a home after death - a place in which our spirit rests.

The most disturbing hauntings come from the bones of those who experienced trauma after death. These remains have stories to tell, and wander the physical world seeking revenge for the actions that caused their death - but not every body becomes a ghost, as we see in The Singing Bone by the Brothers Grimm.

In a certain country there was once great lamentation over a wild boar that laid waste the farmer's fields, killed the cattle, and ripped up people's bodies with his tusks. The king promised his daughter's hand to the man who brought him the boar's body. Two poor brothers set out across the land to find the animal - the younger innocent and simple, from a kind heart, and the elder crafty and shrewd, out of pride. The eldest pauses for wine at a nearby house so as to ‘bolster his courage’, whilst the youngest continues onwards and kills the boar.

On the return journey, the youngest passes the house where the eldest had stopped. He is coaxed inside by the elder brother, and drinks with him. He informs him about the boar he has killed, and the elder is jealous - but hides this. On the long walk home the elder brother pushes his younger sibling from a bridge. he takes the boar and marries the princess.

Years later a farmer finds a shard of bone downriver. He fashions this into a mouthpiece for his horn, which, once attached, begins to sing by itself!

Ah, friend, thou blowest upon my bone!
Long have I lain beside the water;
My brother slew me for the boar,
And took for his wife the King's young daughter.

He takes it immediately to the King, who orders the remains dug up. Under the bridge they find the body of the younger brother, and the King orders the older brother killed for his actions.

There is a similar tale by the name of the Twa Sisters, which features sisters rather than brothers. The eldest sister drowns the younger - usually in jealousy - and the bones are washed ashore years later. A musician fashions them into a harp made of bone with strings made from her hair. As in The Singing Bone the instrument plays itself, and tells the musician of the sisters demise. The elder sister is tracked down and held accountable for her crimes. 

 

(another great article by Hayden Westfield-Bell: Paradise Lot's Blogger-at-Large!)