Mudcat Café message #3957164 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165063   Message #3957164
Posted By: Richie
17-Oct-18 - 02:49 PM
Thread Name: Origins: James Madison Carpenter- Child Ballads 5
Subject: RE: Origins: James Madison Carpenter- Child Ballads 5

I apologize for the quick and presumably inaccurate transcriptions of some Finnish, Danish and Swedish variants which, overlooking mistakes, are simply a way of making examples of the Scandinavian oeuvre accessible. Corrections needed and welcomed!

As Steve has presumed, there is evidence that Child 13 has risen from early Scandinavian versions to have been spread to Britain and from there-- North America.   

Besides the Swedish parody of 1794 is a Swedish "half comic text of 33 verses," in a handwriting as old as the 1640s (see Grundtvig's headnotes) from Stockholm, a transcript in Stephens' collection. The ballad can therefore reasonably be dated in Sweden to the early 1600s.

Percy's recreation of a Scottish ballad, Child B, can't be dated much earlier that c.1750 while Child A can't be dated earlier than the late 1700s (from Motherwell taken from the recitation of an old woman in Kilbarchan c. 1820s). Herd's 1776 version, a compilation of Child 13 with Lizie Wan (Child 51), was printed about the time of Percy's recreation.

The US versions, two of which I'd date to the late 1700s (Hicks family version and the Moncure version), can't be dated earlier than the mid-1700s without new evidence.

* * * *

The motive for murder has been explored by Archer Taylor, Phillips Barry and Tristan Coffin, the latter two basing the murder of the younger brother on jealously/incest arising from the brothers relationship with their sister who through a kenning is represented by the symbolism of the cutting of a "little bush that would not make a tree."

Jeannie Roberston, whose version mysteriously appeared in the 1950s which she claims was learned from her mother about 1916, says that the younger brother was jealous of older bother David who was killed because "he was heir to everything."

The dispute between the brothers about the little bush/willow that was cut down need not be a kenning but was a fight over an unimportant incident which escalated into murder. The vast amount of texts in the UK and US verify this motive. The deeper reason may never be known but Robertson's hypothesis makes sense-- that there was already jealousy and a struggle for dominance between the two brothers and the cutting of the holly bush triggered a deadly fight.

The Scandinavian versions in general show no interest in the motive. Only two versions give an explanation-- it was the seduction of the older brother's wife which was the motive for the murder of the younger brother.

Fratricide seems to be the overwhelming consensus for the murder -- the older brother kills the younger brother. Percy's recreation with patricide with the mother an accomplice is poetic but hardly traditional.