Judith Weir’s The Vanishing Bridegroom consists of three Scottish folktales, connected by the evolution of their central characters.
In ‘The Inheritance’ three sons ask their late father’s friend, the Doctor, for help when their inheritance money is found missing. He tells them a parable of a Bride who swore to love one man, but was forced to marry another. When the Bridegroom finds out about the woman’s Lover, he gives her back her dowry and sends the Bride back to her Lover. The Lover, however, refuses the money and sends her back to her husband. On the journey back, the Bride is stopped by three Robbers. Two Bad Robbers take her money and run, but the third one helps her to get home. When the Doctor asks the Sons who was the best character in this story, the Youngest Son claims it was the Bad Robbers who ended up with the money, and so the mystery of where the inheritance has gone is solved.
In ‘The Disappearance’, a Husband sets out from home, the night his baby daughter is born, to fetch a priest to christen the baby. On the way, he disappears into a hill. The Husband’s Friend, who accompanied him, tries to explain to the Policeman that they must wait for him to return. They wait for years, while the baby girl grows into a young woman, and just at the moment when the Policeman decides to arrest the Husband’s Friend, the Husband returns. He has been away only moments.
In ‘The Stranger’, the Daughter, now a grown woman, meets a Stranger on the hillside who asks her to marry him. She is suspicious of a man with hooves and horns, and her suspicion is confirmed by the Preacher; this man must be the devil himself. Circled by the protection laid down by the Preacher, the Daughter resists every force the devil can summon, using the words of an old folk song for her protection.
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