by Anita Mae Draper
How many times can you watch the same movie before you tire of it? I don’t know, but even after all the times I’ve watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers over the years, I want to watch it again. Which is strange because it doesn’t elicit strong emotions like Gone with the Wind. And it doesn’t make me bawl through a dozen tissues like A Holiday to Remember. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is just a musical. But, it makes me laugh, cry, and tap my toe. I feel good watching it, too.
Maybe it has something to do with me being a history nut. The movie is set in 1850 Oregon when a backwoodsman named Adam goes to town looking for a wife. He finds one willing to marry him and move to the backwoods where the only road to town is through a mountain pass. The problem is, he doesn’t tell the girl, Milly, that he needs a wife to cook and keep house for him and his 6 messy brothers. The problem compounds when the brothers watch Adam and Milly fall in love and decide they want wives, too. Except no other women want to marry them and move so far from town.
Adam retells Plutarch’s story about the abduction of the Sabine women based on Roman history. The legend is that when Rome began, there was an abundance of males but no females. The men wanted wives but the neighboring tribe, the Sabines, refused to give their women in marriage fearing the growth of a superior race. So, the Romans decided if they weren’t given women, they’d take them. They invited their neighbors to a festival which the Sabines attended. At a signal, Romans ran into the crowd and abducted the Sabine women while other Romans fought off their men. The abducted women were offered marriage and the guarantee of civic and property rights. Moreover, their sons would be free men. The women accepted. However, the fathers and brothers of the Sabine women went after them, prepared to fight for them. The women, emotionally caught between their families and their husbands, physically jumped between the two factions, and brought about a truce.
If you do a bit of research on this legend however, you find several works of art depicting the abduction scene and entitled, The Rape of the Sabine Women. However, all the historical data points out that the historical word ‘rape’ stands for abduction. Texts confirm the Sabrine women were not raped but offered freedom and rights. However, in many parts of the modern world, bride abduction with the intent to impregnate and thereby force a marriage is a serious crime but low on the list of priority of law enforcement.
In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Milly demands the brothers return the women, but a blizzard closes the mountain pass until spring. While they wait for the snow to melt, the whole lot of them are making cow-eyes at each other. Things heat up when Milly learns the only reason Adam married her was to be a housekeeper. It’s only fair for her to keep separate from Adam, too then, much to his chagrin.
You could ask me why I like the movie so much when it’s promoting abduction and force. Well, it isn’t. It’s simply retelling a legend. And like the legend, the women are given a free choice. Do the brothers suffer incarceration because of the abductions? I can’t tell you that because it’s giving the plot away.
This movie has humor, romance and music. The dance sequences rival those on TV today. But, it doesn’t have anything spiritual to it. I can’t even relate it to a story in the Bible. I just know the movie makes me feel good.
Have you watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Did you know the Legend of the Sabine women before I mentioned it? So, what do you think?