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Worldbuilding

another proposed marriage custom

Posted 2 Months ago by chiarizio

I got this idea after reading a Robert Silverberg novel whose title I can’t remember.
I don’t remember whether this was the system his conculture used or it just made me think of it.

Each parent P has contracts or alliances or agreements with two to four (usually four) other persons of about the same generation, that P’s sons or daughters can marry the daughters or sons of the ally.

P has an agreement with one man, M1, that P’s sons can marry M1’s daughters.
P also has an agreement with one woman, W1, that P’s sons can marry W1’s daughters.
Normally P won’t choose a married couple; that is normally M1 and W1 won’t be husband-and-wife to each other. They might be OK with that if each of M1 and W1 has a daughter by some other spouse.

P has an agreement with one man, M2, that P’s daughters can marry M2’s sons.
P also has an agreement with one woman, W2, that P’s daughters can marry W2’s sons.
Normally P won’t choose a married couple; that is normally M2 and W2 won’t be husband-and-wife to each other. They might be OK with that if each of M2 and W2 has a son by some other spouse.

The main purpose of the arrangement is that as soon as one of P’s children comes of age they’ll already have four pools of possible candidate spouses to court and perhaps betrothe.
Namely; suppose someone’s son S has just come of age.
He can date the daughters of his father’s male ally;
He can date the daughters of his mother’s male ally;
He can date the daughters of his father’s female ally;
And he can date the daughters of his mother’s female ally.

Ideally each one of those four pools will contain a girl who is not in any of the other pools.

I’m sure the reader can work out for themselves the analogous situation of someone’s daughter D who has just come of age.

....

There is a secondary purpose to the system; a person wants as many allies as possible, and maybe as wide a variety of allies as possible.

So ordinarily M1 and M2 won’t be the same guy; that is, the male ally whose daughters will accept courtship from P’s sons, won’t be the same male ally from whose sons P’s daughters will accept courtship.
Likewise W1 and W2 will ordinarily be different women.

Nothing I’ve said so far prevents M1 and W2 from being a married couple; nor M2 and W1.

.....

If a marriageable person doesn’t otherwise have a possible spouse to court, they will usually consider courting, or accepting courtship from, some appropriate child of one of the allies of one of their parents.
This might just as likely be because the marriageable person in question has taken too long to become betrothed, as because they have not been out in society long enough.
And of course there’s the possibility their spouse died, or their betrothed changed their mind.

....

There are several assumptions here.

  • People commonly marry someone other than a child of a parent’s ally. The parents’ allies’ children are available for first consideration and possible last chances. Lots of people marry the first person they ever date, but it’s probably more common to shop around a bit.

  • People commonly have more than one marriage in their lives. This may be “serial polygynandry” driven by widows and widowers; or by divorce; or there may be bigynandry.

  • People commonly have more than one son and more than one daughter.

    From this we can deduce that the world is probably not too crowded. Either society wants more people, or the mortality rate is high enough that to keep the population up people want many children or society wants many married couples.

    .....

    Well, what does anyone think?

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