The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #75102   Message #1319608
Posted By: Nerd
07-Nov-04 - 12:19 PM
Thread Name: Wee pen knife
Subject: RE: Wee pen knife
Actually, Russ, the Oral-Formulaic theory suggests that he might have done just that.

But to get back to your point, I don't think you need to look for a time when ballads were trying to describe realistic events. Ballads were a relatively late addition to the roster of medieval genres. In England, they began by adopting conventions of other metrical forms such as romance, which are far older. So the process of creating metrical formulae to describe conventional situations and inserting them into poems existed before the ballad did. When I said it "became" a formula, I did not necessarily mean that the first time it was used it was realistic; it is possible and even likely that it was created AS a formula.

A secondary point: even if it was created as a realistic phrase, its original use could have been in a ballad like "The Two Brothers," where a wee pen knife is more realistic than a weapon-knife. So even accepting that, there's no good reason to assume a weapon-knife is the original phrase.