Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Blatant Balladry

So, I suppose it’s time I talked about Novel No. 2. It’s tentatively titled Changeling, because I love me some single-word titles. Currently, it consists of a few more than 50,000 words of text (thanks, NaNoWriMo), a couple of outlines, and a bunch of research into the wacky, wacky world of British folklore.

Specifically, I’ve been doing some serious reading of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads compiled by Francis James Child in the late 1800s, a.k.a. the Childs’ Ballads. It turns out that most of the things I was really nerdy about as a kid (Robin Hood stories, some aspects of Arthurian legend, Steeleye Span, and a boatload of British fairy tales) all come from these ballads.

A surprising number of these ballads have wicked strong female characters in them. They aren’t always, y’know, moral, but they are often pretty badass. Consider the heroine of The Elfin Knight…some otherworldly prettyboy rides up and says, “La di dah, you can’t have me until you make me this totally magical and impossible shirt, ’cause I’m so fabulous, prance prance.” (or that’s how I read it, anyway.) Her response? “Okay, ask the impossible of me and I only ask the same of you. Fair!” She’s having none of his tomfoolery. The Childs’ Ballads are chock full of badass ladies like this.

To further make my point, and in honor of National Poetry Month, I present to you a version of The Elfin Knight. It’s pretty heavily Scottish/difficult to read, but persist! I beg you. You’ll totally recognise it, or at least you will if you listen to Simon and Garfunkle. Helpful notes: 1. If you can’t figure out what it’s saying, try pretending to have a heavy Scottish accent and see if that helps. 2. A sark is a kind of shirt. 3. Maun=must.

There are many, many versions of this song. I have chosen this one because it’s semi-intelligible and totally channels Tiffany Aching.

2D.1	THE Elfin knight stands on yon hill,
      Refrain:	Blaw, blaw, blaw winds, blaw
	Blawing his horn loud and shrill.
      Refrain:	And the wind has blawin my plaid awa
2D.2	‘If I had yon horn in my kist,
	And the bonny laddie here that I luve best!
2D.3	‘I hae a sister eleven years auld,
	And she to the young men’s bed has made bauld.
2D.4	‘And I mysell am only nine,
	And oh! sae fain, luve, as I woud be thine.’
2D.5	‘Ye maun make me a fine Holland sark,
	Without ony stitching or needle wark.
2D.6	‘And ye maun wash it in yonder well,
	Where the dew never wat, nor the rain ever fell.
2D.7	‘And ye maun dry it upon a thorn
	That never budded sin Adam was born.’
2D.8	‘Now sin ye’ve askd some things o me,
	It’s right I ask as mony o thee.
2D.9	‘My father he askd me an acre o land,
	Between the saut sea and the strand.
2D.10	‘And ye maun plow’t wi your blawing horn,
	And ye maun saw’t wi pepper corn.
2D.11	And ye maun harrow’t wi a single tyne,
	And ye maun shear’t wi a sheep’s shank bane.
2D.12	‘And ye maun big it in the sea,
	And bring the stathle dry to me.
2D.13	‘And ye maun barn ’t in yon mouse hole,
	And ye maun thrash’t in your shee sole.
2D.14	‘And ye maun sack it in your gluve,
	And ye maun winno’t in your leuve.
2D.15	‘And ye maun dry’t without candle or coal,
	And grind it without quirn or mill.
2D.16	‘Ye’ll big a cart o stane and lime,
	Gar Robin Redbreast trail it syne.
2D.17	‘When ye’ve dune, and finishd your wark,
	Ye’ll come to me, luve, and get your sark.’

This, and so many more are available in awesomely accessible format at Sacred Texts.

And I’m spent. More fairies, balladeering, and tomfoolery later.

1 Comment

  1. That was hard to read, but very enthralling.

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