The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #66440   Message #4167093
Posted By: GUEST,Robert B. Waltz
07-Mar-23 - 09:40 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: 'Judas' (Child 23?) by John Jacob Niles
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Judas' (Child 23?) by John Jacob Niles
It is only proper to note that JJN certainly wasn't the first either to palm off his own work as traditional or to rewrite a traditional ballad -- an extreme case is Thomas Percy's own rewrite of the ballad that probably should be called something like "What's That Blood?" but instead was labelled "Edward" in the Child catalog because Percy's rewrite had taken all before it.

But if JJN had truly studied Child, he would have seen how much Child hesitated to accept Percy texts -- when there was an alternative, he usually used Percy only as a source of corrections, and Child really, really wanted the Percy Folio published so he wouldn't have to rely on the Reliques. And people would have become more aware of fakes, not less, since Child's time. It should have been a warning.

And, indeed, a lot of JJN's texts look like they are, or at least could be, traditional. But "Judas" isn't the only case where he claimed the effectively-impossible. There is the "Lover's Farewell," which he calls a version of "The Three Ravens." There is "The Bonny Birdy," where he claims to have a version of a song otherwise known only from Anna Gordon Brown, and which (it has been suggested) Mrs. Brown made up.

But the crown of them all, the one that is perhaps even more unlikely than "Judas," is that JJN claimed to have a version of "Robin Hood and the Potter." "Robin Hood and the Potter" isn't even a ballad; it's a fifteenth century romance. It was almost certainly preserved by minstrels, not the folk. The manuscript which contained it was owned by Richard Calle, whom we know from the Paston Letters; he was a highly literate, educated member of the Paston Family (whose story would have made a good ballad itself, but that's another story). The "Potter" very possibly was not sung. Yet Niles had a tune for it.

A text and tune he says he got from "Potsie Cobb."

I could not have made that up if I had tried. I mean, the guy wasn't even subtle.