The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #151087   Message #3526152
Posted By: Steve Gardham
13-Jun-13 - 06:46 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 6
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 6
I've always assumed perhaps wrongly that the farmer simply had a 'cursed wife' and spoke his woes aloud overheard by the Devil who offered to take her off his hands. The whole thing is a simple joke and if you start to add too many extras in it distracts from the joke.

If you come across a solitary version with a markedly different verse it is quite likely the result of an interfering bard who thinks everything needs an explanation. I don't see any significance in some versions having the farmer ploughing with hogs. If that was the custom in that locality then localising the intro would be perfectly natural. You've probably already noted the similarity of 'hogs' to 'ox' in pronunciation.