Listen on Spotify.
Watch a condensed version with music that we did for Dr. Metalhead/R.N. Roveleh's channel:
Watch a shorter, more condensed version of this video where we listen to the music while commenting: https://youtu.be/wUVDU6gyz3c
Today, me and R.N. Roveleh (IG: @helevorn_bor), also known as Dr. Metalhead, join forces to review a song by the Russian pagan metal band, "Zimushka"!
Check out Dr. Metalhead's channel for more rock and metal analyses: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdVxf3vpZaj133BdVmHVKSg
Listen to Zimushka here: https://youtu.be/Q9wylzyFcKM
We got the English translation of the lyrics from here: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/zimushka-winter.html
Hi, everyone! Today me and Helevorn are going to be analyzing the lyrics of “Zimushka”, which is a song by Arkona. You can listen to the whole song by checking out a link in the description.
So we're going to be first taking a look at the English-translated lyrics of the song and analyzing what this song is about and how it connects with the mood and feel of the song at the end of the song analysis. We'll talk about how it compares to other folk metal that we've listened to, including Wardruna and Finntroll, which you know. Wardruna you have actually analyzed on your channel, Dr. Metalhead, and we have included a link to your channel in the description below.
Yes, indeed, and I'm really excited to do this reaction video with you on Arkona, because this is one of the bands that we both really enjoy and that we listen to a lot, but I'm not very familiar with Russian language or Slavic folklore all that much, so this is quite a bit out of my comfort zone, but I feel Arkona's music a lot so even if I don't usually look into the translation of the lyrics, I think that it is very timeless and very emotional and you can sense what is going on from the music alone.
Right. So to begin, Zimushka actually means “winter” in Russian and I will start by reading out the first translated verse of this:
Winter winter, cold winter oh winter
don't freeze good young fellow
So right off the bat, it's very interesting that Masha, the lead singer of Arkona is referring to winter as, a person as a good young fellow
Indeed, the song basically begins with an invocation of winter. And this song is, as I understand, based upon an ancient Siberian native song. I'm not familiar with the original song but we can see that it has all the characteristics of a folk song. Folk songs usually portray the life of simple people and timeless themes like time, life, death, love, suffering family, and hard work, so this is all a very subjective type of literature and it's meant to be relatable and emotional and to make the events and the protagonists describe feel very real to the listener, invoking a strong emotion.
So I think that this is part of why it begins with an invocation, it is meant to captivate attention and also have a sort of a ritualistic function right with an invocation of a spiritual entity. And the young man could refer to the character that we are going to see in the next stanza, right?
Rightm and I feel like the young man/winter is actually a personification, sort of like Persephone in the Greek myths, who is basically a personification of spring, and then in the winter she has to go to Hades, and she has to be in hiding. And I think here we have something kind of similar with this “good young fellow”.
So the next stanza:
Don't freeze winter good young fellow
Oh how wife with husband lives with no harmony
Right, so now we're getting the sense that they're tying into more personified characters, I think, “wife with husband” so the young fellow was the husband and now there's a wife who doesn't get along with him.
Exactly. And what is important to know about folk songs is that, in early societies, it was meant to be transmitted orally, so this leads to a series of characteristics, especially in terms of structure.
So, we see that the structure is simple, the lines are short, as we noticed, and there is a simple rhyme scheme and we have a lot of interjections (we saw the “hey” or “oi”, the callings) with alliterations and repetitions for the sake of easy memorizing.
So, we see that the lines are repeated in each verse. “Don't freeze winter good young fellow”, here it is again the first two lines of the next stanza; so this is how the song is structured because repeating certain words or entire lines makes the song more fluid and more easily transmitted orally, right?
This is how the meaning of the song is revealed to us gradually through these repetitions; we learned that there was a good young fellow that winter was asked not to freeze and now we learned that the fellow is in fact a husband.
Yes and I think this also contributes to the slow pace of the song, for example, we see a lot of repetition here, “winter, winter” all over again and then you know “good young fellow” is repeated a couple of times, so basically there's a lot of overlap between each stanza with only pretty much the last line or the last two lines of each stanza introducing new content.
Exactly. I see it as a sort of a theater stage where the curtain is rising gradually and we only slowly get to uncover the scene and see what is going on.
Right. exactly. So then the next one is pretty repetitive and it says how:
Wife with husband lives with no harmony,
Oh, harmony she lives not,
she did not live in harmony.
In this one, we see that the wife did not have a good relationship with her husband and even though she didn't have a good relationship, she is asking winter to keep him safe which is really interesting because I think that it shows a conflict within her, within the woman who is the protagonist of this ballad. And this conflict inside is going to be the central piece of the song.
Her husband she has plagued
oh plagued her husband
and in the green garden she brought him.
So this is why the husband is outside. She brought him to the garden and, you know, sometimes, when we see this sort of image of the woman who is sad because she doesn't have a good relationship with her husband, maybe we can imagine a different sort of scenario. But here, we see that she is the one who plagued her husband, so she is, so to speak, the reason why the relationship is falling apart.
Right and, you know, she brought him to the green garden to plague him, so it seems like she has been plotting this for a while. She is kind of malicious in the way she is actively working towards getting rid of him.
Exactly. Right, and then after he dies, right, and then she says:
Plagued her husband
Yes, to the green garden she has brought him
Oh, in the green garden
her husband she had hung
So it turns out that she had hung him in the garden. So she killed her husband and this is how she put an end to an unsatisfying relationship.
She hung her husband
Alone she went home
Oh to court she had approached
And on the bench she has sat
So we see her getting rid of his body, letting it hang, and then coming back into the house that they used to own and she's sitting on the bench and thinking about what she has done and about their life together.
To court she had approached
On the bench she sat
Oh, on the bench she sat
And bitterly wept.
And this is actually the image of the cover of the song, which - let me produce it right now, actually I should copy it into the document - it's actually her sitting outside and basically, she is on a bench and she looks very sad. So i will copy it and paste it here
Indeed, here we see the themes that are so prevalent in folk music: suffering, love, death, family, and time, as well, because we see the invocation of the seasons.
Exactly, so this also ties back to the whole personification thing. So unlike Persephone, these two characters are actually not representative of the seasons, but what they're doing and the situation they find themselves in are representative of the seasons.
So when she hung him, you know, it says the green garden, right, the green garden’s always repeated. So this implies that she killed him in summer or spring. But then when he's dead, it's winter, as you can see in the artwork and at the beginning of the song, when she keeps him calling out to winter.
On the bench she sat
Oh, she's cursing her life
Once she lived with the husband
So, we see that even though she was the one who brought an end to his life, also she is the one who is sad about it, because she feels that without him, her life has no meaning.
She is cursing her life
For when she lived with her husband
Oh, while with her husband, she was a housewife
So this implies that she did have a purpose as a housewife, but now she's just all alone and she's not defined by this role anymore, which terrifies her because she doesn't know what she is without that role.
Exactly, so it feels like she has no identity without her husband around and well, I’m not sure what it's like in Russian, but in Germanic languages, housewife also has the meaning of mistress of the house, so a role of authority that a woman plays within the household.
So now, she is just a bereaved woman.
Right, and I think in a lot of cultures, if someone didn't have children, because it's not mentioned here, when someone's husband dies, and they're not extremely old, I think they would probably go back to live with their parents, right?
Yeah, I think so, yeah, in some cultures, yes, that is very true.
So I guess literally, she would not
be the mistress of her house anymore, because she's lost it and now she has to go back and live with her parents who are the owners of their household.