This is a factual question about the historical basis of that old movie, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. I just dusted this movie off the shelf, and it seems the inspiration for the six brothers for “stealing” their wives came from the Romans. Is this true, or a mistaken case of "rape and pillage?
Also, they claim this is the origin of the tradition for carrying the bride across the threshold. Is this true? And if not, where did that tradition come from? - Jinx
Try searching for “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “rape of the sabine women”. Pretty sure that’s what you’re after.
From a cursory glance at the results, rape back then meant theft/kidnap without the immediate sexual connotation (although presumably after you’ve kidnapped them, there’s a good chance of a more modern rape taking place). So that would seem to back up your carrying the bride over the threshold point.
Bromley is quite right about the original (and now archaic) definition of the word “rape.” I recall working with my master teacher on how to approach Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, and how to make it clear that it was about the theft of a lock of hair. (Fortunately, this was back in the dark ages of the early '70s—if I had to do it today, I’d also have to contend with American Pie imagery.) So the Rape of the Sabine Women refers to the theft of said ladies by the Etruscans or Early Romans—who apparently had something of a shortage of females—and not to sexual violation per se (although, as stated, that was probably involved as well).
Regarding the custom of carrying the bride over the threshhold, my understanding is that this stems from the belief (also Roman) that evil/mischevious spirits live under the threshhold, and that they will attempt to trip the bride when she first enters her new home. If they succeed, that portends great misfortune for the marriage.
Anyone doubting that the word ‘rape’ used to mean something else is encouraged to read the script of The Fantasticks, including the song “It Depends on What You Pay” and the choreographed fight scene generally referred to as “The Rape Ballet”. I think modern versions of the script include an aside from El Gallo where he admits that most people would feel more comfortable with the word “abduction,” but “the proper word is rape.”
That disclaimer was in there from the beginning, as witness the following exchange from the original cast recording featuring Jerry Orbach (yes, that Jerry Orbach):
El Gallo: “The cost, señors, depends upon the quality of the rape.”
Father: “The what??!!??”
E.G.: “Ah, forgive me—the attempted rape. I know you prefer ‘abduction,’ but the proper word is ‘rape.’ Short and businesslike.”
(And sailor, my intention was to use the word in that very context; guess I just didn’t make it clear. But then, I had just washed my keyboard, and I couldn’t do a thing with it.)
The word rape comes from the Latin word that means “to snatch away”. (I know, I know, my Freudian slip is showing). So in the archaic sense, to rape a woman was to abduct her. What happened after you abducted her…well, that was a different verb.
The same word is the root of rapture (to be carried off, in a figurative sense) and raptor (that which snatches things).