The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #120379 Message #2618350
Posted By: Jim Carroll
25-Apr-09 - 02:29 AM
Thread Name: Riddle Songs??
Subject: RE: Riddle Songs??
Riddle songs are reckoned by some to be the oldest form of balladry; the function of the riddle having once believed to have been the warding off of evil.
'Riddles Wisely Expounded' was given pride of place by Child as Ballad 1, the 'lay the bent to the bonny broom' refrain which appears in some versions, referring to the magical powers of certain plants.
This is followed by 'The Elfin Knight' (2) (impossible tasks rather than riddles) and no 3, 'The False Knight on The Road' which is given as a contest between the devil and a child over the posession of the child's soul.
The example Peter gave, 'Captain Wedderburn's Courtship', (Child 46) is not so much a magical competition, but one of wit, the prize being the woman's maidenhead. On a similar theme, without the riddles, is 'The Two Magicians' (Child 44), where a woman and a blacksmith (once believed to posess magical powers because of his skill with the use of fire in working metal), fight over her maidenhead in a shape-shifting competition.
We recorded 'King John and The Bishop of Canterbury' from an old County Clare (West of Ireland) fisherman as a joke/tale, the protagonists being a priest and Oliver Cromwell.