Mudcat Café message #3938097 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3938097
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
18-Jul-18 - 09:07 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
On the Lloyd/Roud comparison: I opened Lloyd at random and came across a section on The Child Ballad 'The Elfin Knight'. This is a 'Child Ballad', chosen as such because it appeared to be old and widespread. We get only a few lines of the song, and those are from a Scottish version, intended to support a bizarre and unconvincing point that Lloyd is seeking to make on 'delousing' and 'insecticidal fingers'.

LLoyd's basic argument at this point is that ballads may have 'ancient and outlandish origins'. But it seems to me strong on rhetoric and broad brushes and short on evidence.

The piece seems to show astonishingly wide reading and travel by Lloyd: it refers to

Sophus Bugge;
Leon Pineau;
Unnamed researchers from Finland;
frescoes in 'certain' medieval churches of Hungary and Slovakia;
Unnamed Russian scholars;
Potanin; and

Unfortunately for anybody wishing to follow up on this section, we are not given references for these sources.

This is a pity, because Lloyd's argument (if you can call it that) here relates to a 'delousing scene' by a maiden with 'insecticidal fingernails' which he claims crops up old Siberian and Altaic epic songs. I had no idea what 'Altaic' meant and had to google it. Google says it was once thought to be a language family, possibly spoken/originating in the Central Asian Steppes, and including Korean and Japanese in some theories but that the idea is now widely discredited.

One reference that is given is wrong. It is to a 1952 Journal of American Folk Song article by Nygard. However, though the article cited is on the same song, and by Nygard, it has a different title. The Nygard JAFS article that Lloyd intended to refer to was actually published in a different year.

It's quite interesting to read this article because it discussed the methods by which, according to the author, it is and is not a good idea to trace the historical origins of songs. Source studies, Ngard says, are important because they 'reveal patterns of approach and thought that might well be noted for their inherent virtues or dangers. (This idea is one that may strike readers of this thread as pertinent) Nygard spends most of his article debunking the ideas presented to us by Lloyd more or less in support of his view that we are only just realising how very alien some of the sources of our ballads may me.

Nygard's article is also interesting because it mentions quite a few of the writers mentioned, but not referenced by Lloyd, who *appears* to have relied quite heavily on parts of it, though he only cites it in respect of one set of ideas about the song, the psychoanalytic ideas of Paul de Keyser.

For example, Lloyd mentions people in Scotland who believe they know the precise place where the story takes place. This is in Nygard.

Nygard uses the phrase 'shots in the dark' to refer to theories he believes to be, well, basically, wrong. The same phrase appears in the section by Lloyd (albeit as 'shot in the dark')

Nygard discusses Bluebeard theories, saying they seem to be on slightly stronger ground, an idea Lloyd repeats without acknowledging any source (p143) my edition. However, Ngard goes on to completely rule out any actual connection, saying the Bluebeard stories would be good to use alongside the 'Elfin Knight' (my title, not his) ones as examples of the polygenesis of a narrative idea. Wheras Lloyd seems to have run with it as a possible option, and it still crops up.

Pineau is mentioned in both. So is Sophus Bugge. Lloyd follows Nygard in dismissing the ideas of the latter relating to Judith and Holofernes, mentioning Entwistle in passing. Lloyd, to be fair to him, provides another reference to Enwistle, suggesting that he 'ought to have known better.'

My point here is that Lloyd may have given us an impression of being more widely-read than he was, and I am not denying he was more widely-read than most of us, just suggesting that as a writer Lloyd was very skilled at self promotion. He wants to convince the reader that his argument about wide origins is true, but the material he uses tends to be padding. I can see why Roud came to stick to ideas more clearly based in 'evidence'.

Another source cited by Lloyd, the work of Lajos Vargyas, may be the source for some of Lloyd's other comments, including the tracing of the insecticidal fingernails. It is called 'Researches into the Medieval History of Folk Ballad, and the page references provided by Lloyd are p129 t0 165. I don't suppose anybody could look these up?
My hunch is a) that some of the unreferenced names used by Lloyd may come from this source and b) the book won't really justify the comments about insecticidal fingers made by Lloyd.

I came to Lloyd's book late in life, as I have said before, so it was never the 'inspiration' for me that it plainly was for many involved in the 'folk revival'. And it strikes me differently. It's readable in short bursts, but too much of it seems like 'romanticising'.

Roud's emphasis on evidence seems like a much needed antidote after a page or so of Lloyd's rambling material. Sorry, Lloyd fans!


I am not denying that myths and legends did not cross continents, I feel sure that they did.

I didn't realise that LLoyd could speak Russian: he cites Propp in that language!