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Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet

DigiTrad:
CHILD OWLET (2)
CHYLDE OWLET


Related thread:
(origins) Origin: Chylde Owlett (Child #291) (12)


GUEST,Kim-lin 18 Mar 01 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 18 Mar 01 - 01:09 PM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Mar 01 - 01:52 PM
Abby Sale 18 Mar 01 - 03:23 PM
Abby Sale 19 Mar 01 - 04:41 PM
the Gremlin 23 Mar 01 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,Reynardine 17 Aug 18 - 11:00 PM
Joe_F 18 Aug 18 - 05:59 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Aug 18 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,Reynardine 18 Aug 18 - 10:18 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 18 - 02:26 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Aug 18 - 03:28 AM
GUEST,Reynardine 19 Aug 18 - 09:46 AM
Gutcher 19 Aug 18 - 04:56 PM
GUEST,Reynardine 20 Aug 18 - 12:52 AM
GUEST 20 Aug 18 - 10:31 AM
GUEST,Reynardine 21 Aug 18 - 12:04 AM
Gutcher 21 Aug 18 - 02:16 AM
GUEST,Reynardine 01 Sep 18 - 12:31 AM
GUEST,Rigby 02 Sep 18 - 04:41 AM
Steve Gardham 02 Sep 18 - 09:24 AM
Gutcher 02 Sep 18 - 05:46 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Sep 18 - 01:24 PM
Gutcher 05 Sep 18 - 08:56 AM
Steve Gardham 05 Sep 18 - 05:27 PM
FreddyHeadey 09 Sep 18 - 01:55 PM
Steve Gardham 09 Sep 18 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Reynardine 07 Oct 18 - 12:41 AM
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Subject: chylde owlet
From: GUEST,Kim-lin
Date: 18 Mar 01 - 12:22 PM

Does anybody know anything about the origin of the song "Chylde Owlet" and its origins? It's on the database in the version as recorded by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, and I have an acapella version by Maddy Prior. It's so chilling a song I wondered if there was any information about whether it was based on a real event, or story.

Also, it ends so abruptly with two verses about Elkin moor dripping with Chylde Owlet' blood and flesh that I wondered if there were any longer versions?

I'd be grateful for any info anyone has on that.

Kim-lin.


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Subject: RE: Help: chylde owlet
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 18 Mar 01 - 01:09 PM

Child #291, where he calls it a trite story. He takes it to be a late immitation of an old ballad. (by Buchan's 'collector' Rankine?)


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Subject: RE: Help: chylde owlet
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Mar 01 - 01:52 PM

As Bruce says, this is number #291 in Francis Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads; he gives one text only (early 19th century), and there probably are no other versions.  Though he didn't think much of it, he did say, "...for an imitation, the last two stanzas are unusually successful".

The text recorded by MacColl is in the DT database, here:  Chylde Owlet  There is no mention of MacColl's source for the words, which are a little different from those in Child (or for his mannered, anachronistic spelling "Chylde"); offhand, I would imagine that he made the alterations (including the substitution of "Elkin Moor" for "Darling Moor") himself, but there may be another source that I don't know about.  There is also no mention of MacColl's source for the tune; Child doesn't give one, but there may be one in Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads; I'm not in a position to check just now.  I think it more likely that MacColl made it up, or took it from another song.

Maddy Prior used a modified form of MacColl's tune, and seems to to have re-combined his altered text with the one in Child, removing some of the Scottish word-forms, the better to suit her accent.

Interestingly, the entry in the International Lyrics Server shows that the Harry Fox Agency claim copyright in the song as recorded by MacColl; whether they would be cheeky enough to assert any rights over the 99% or so of text that came from Child, I wouldn't care to hazard a guess.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: chylde owlet
From: Abby Sale
Date: 18 Mar 01 - 03:23 PM

Hi Bruce, Hi Malcolm. I've sung this song with great glee for some years. By the last 'piece o' flesh' none of the listeners are much interested in any greater length to it. The ultimate of the bloody Scotish ballads.

MacColl gives no source in Blood and Roses but I've traced down his sources any number of times to find them word perfect & legit. That is, even when the version or line is so unusual or contrary you're sure he's "improved" it or erred, he didn't - it's legit. In my experience, anyway. The big thing I have to question is the frequency with which one or the other of his parents just happened to transmit the only extant tune for a Child or other ballad.

But his comments to it are great:

A death in the family is a common ballad feature and the instruments of death are fairly common as well: the knife, the axe, the stake, the pistol, the noose, all take their toll. Sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces kill each other by stabbing, shooting, de-capitating, drowning, smothering, strangling and poisoning. There is something off-beat about having one's nephew torn to pieces by wild horses but, as Professor Child has observed, 'the last two stanzas are unusually successful'."

I agree.

Bronson offers nothing at all, in the main text or the appendix. But he'd closed his cannon in 1972, seven years before B & R came out.

Sorry, Kim-lin - no help. Maybe it's in Greig~Duncan, though.


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Subject: RE: Help: chylde owlet
From: Abby Sale
Date: 19 Mar 01 - 04:41 PM

Curious myself, and especially Child got the one version from Buchan's Northeast (of Scotland) material, I had a good look through Greig~Dincan. Nothing listed I could find. And since Bruce doesn't find a broadside source, I don't think there's any further to go with it.


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Subject: RE: Help: chylde owlet
From: the Gremlin
Date: 23 Mar 01 - 06:39 PM

Thanks Bruce, Malcolm, Abby for all your info and comments. That was my first time posting a message on this website and I'm really impressed!

Glad you're singing this with "glee", Abby! I've only sung it once at a folk club so far, with mixed response to the gory gruesome last two stanzas! (They like cheery songs so there's not much chance to sing the dirge!!)

Best wishes

Kim-lin


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 17 Aug 18 - 11:00 PM

The theme is quite similar to the story of Phaedra and Hippolytus, and it's not fanciful to suppose "Owlet" is a corruption of "Hippolyte". If so, the predecessor ballad was likely French or Norman. This is conjecture; I've no way to follow it up. Someone more experienced in the field of French medieval and folk tradition might find this line productive, however.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Aug 18 - 05:59 PM

It seems from Google (& casual observation) that "torn apart by *wild* horses" is something of a set phrase, and appears even where (as in this song) the horses are obviously tame.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Aug 18 - 06:14 PM

Here are some points to consider.

There is only one supposed traditional version.

Child was extrememly sarcastic of most of Peter Buchan's contributions.

Buchan was criticised heavily at the time over his 'eking out' of his versions, and excused himself from any corruption by blaming a blind itinerant, Jamie Rankin' (who he'd only known for a few years) who he claimed had collected most of the ballads for him. The term 'fall guy' comes to mind.

Towards the end of Child's collection you will find at least a dozen ballads that occur only in the published collection of Peter Buchan. It is worth reading Child's summary of what he thought of these later contributions on p182 of volume 5 in the introduction to another of Peter Buchan's sole concoctions.

Abby's comment on the 18th March 01 is quite pertinent.

Buchan was well read and took his themes for his ballads from a variety of sources, some classical, some from Scandinavian ballads, some from English broadsides.

He left no field notes of any description. The 3 existing manuscripts are actually proofs for the publications he produced.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 18 Aug 18 - 10:18 PM

Then Buchan could easily have copped this theme straight from Phèdre, but why he would attribute this gruesome deed to the actual Erskines, I don't know.

In the Chanson de Roland, the traitor, Ganelon, is tied in that exact fashion to four stallions (as almost all warhorses were, at the time), who were set loose in a field of mares. Even normally well-behaved horses can become chaotic under such circumstances. Again, I wonder if Mr.Buchan was a fancier of French literature.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 02:26 AM

"Even normally well-behaved horses can become chaotic under such circumstances."
There's an Irish song that uses this pretty common folk motif (here transformed into action)

grá geal mo croí.’
This tender young maiden fell down on her knees,
Saying, ‘Father, dear father, do as you please.
And if by wild horses, I strangled will be,
I’ll never deny he’s my grá geal mo croí.’

I've never really accepted that Buchan anything more than what many other collectors and anthologists were doing
I was one assured that "The Buchan Controversy was done and dusted" which is far from the case
I believe that there is still a great deal we have yet to find out about the ballads and their place in social and literary history - they were certainly important to those who sang them
I've just been examining a bundle of the rarest examples that were taken from Ireland to America by Famine refugees at a time when you'd think they had more important things of their mind
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 03:28 AM

Sould read - "Buchan is any more guilty of anything more"
Jim


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 09:46 AM

The Chanson de Roland itself was a heavily fictionalized account. What actually happened was that a French scouting party, possibly containing the historic Roland, was bushwhacked and wiped out by Basques at Ronceveaux. Some three centuries later, Turold "set down" ("declinet") the epic we know, whether from an orator or from memory we *don't* know, but it had grown greatly in the interval. Ganelon may have been a fictitious character, though the rarely-used nominative of his name, Guénes, suggests Celtic origin. In any case, the four-horse execution is, as you stated, a common feature in folklore, and was attributed (fictitiously) to the "martyrdom" of St. Hippolyte, clearly out of confusion with the classical hero, Hippolytus, who was dragged by his chariot horses. St. Hippolyte became the patron of horses and horsemen thereby.

Every folk song or epic had its origin in a single orator/singer/poet, whether man or woman, humble or high. Most are heavily reworked over generations. In "Child Owlet", we may be unusually close to the origins. As I know next to nothing about most Scottish clans, I'll let someone else figure how the Erskines got in there.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Gutcher
Date: 19 Aug 18 - 04:56 PM

Anent drawing by wild horses.
This appears in a ballad "The Lord Of Morton"
The verse being:--


Gar fetch tae me those twa wild staigs
Whilk gang on Oxenshaw
That ere I either eat or drink
I will his body draw.


A staig was a young unbroken horse.
The Lord of Morton was A Douglas.

A young lady, a graduate of the traditional music course in Glasgow, has, I understand, done a rewrite of this old ballad. Pupils of the said course being encouraged to rewright tunes, songs and ballads in order to lay a claim for copyright on their new productions, not a practice to be encouraged, as anyone comparing the new with the old, I am sure, will agree.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 12:52 AM

Only two! What a piker!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 10:31 AM

This was at the Northern part of the Borders, in those parts anything on feet was liable to disappear in the night.
One old reiver on passing a soo stack was heard to mutter " man if ye had feet ye widna bide lang here"

A soo stack was a stack of hay or oats built in the shape of a house with a pitched roof.

An ancient name, a soo having been used in medieval times to protect men in their endeavours to gain access to castles and keeps. It helped shed the molten lead etc. coming from above. ``````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:04 AM

It appears the Buchans had some kind of family connection with the Erskines, possibly not amicable, but whether that has any connection with either actual events or an insulting compositions, I couldn't venture.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Gutcher
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 02:16 AM

There is also a connection berween "The Song of the Howlet" {Owl} and the Erskines through the grandfather of Duncan and MacBeth.
I will explane when I return in a few days.

Guest post above about the Soo was from me.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 12:31 AM

I have heard one version where Lady Erskine suggests Child Owlet murder his uncle. I don't know how "traditional" that version is, but that is the only way he would (as she suggests) inherit his uncle's holdings. Under medieval law, a wife was not her husband's heir, unless she were also a close cousin; she'd only have had use of a third of his estate for so long as she stayed single. For her to have had use of the full estate, she'd have had to marry her husband's heir, which casts some light on her possible motives. None of that, however, is ever spelled out.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 04:41 AM

If I could sidetrack this thread for a moment -- Jim, is there more than one song called 'grá geal mo croí'?

Folk Songs of Australia contains a song called 'Gargal Machree', which was collected from an Irish emigrant and includes a verse very similar to the one you quote. The editors note that the title sounds like a corruption of 'grá geal mo croí' but they say that the Irish songs of that title are completely different.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 09:24 AM

How many do you want, Rigby?
Gramachree Molly
Gra Gal Machree (Joyce)
Gramachree and Paddy Whack (Merry)
Gra Gael Mo Chroi (Roud 2329)
Gra Geal Mo Chroi (O'Lochlainn p26)
Gra-mo-chroi (I'd like to see) O'Laochlainn, p126)
Gragual MacGree (Broadside)
Gay Girl Marie (Laws M23)=Gra Gramachree)
Gragalmachree (Sam Henry)
Gramachree (Sam Henry)
Gra Gramachree (Broadside)
etc....


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Gutcher
Date: 02 Sep 18 - 05:46 PM

As Robert Service said in The Cremation of Sam MacGee---A promise made is a debt unpaid.

Have just seen 2 1/2 hours of single finger typing disappear into the blue yonder when attempting to transfer from Words to this reply box. If, and when, I manage to retrieve it, it will be seen why it took so long to type. I probably overloaded the system.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 01:24 PM

Wow! Two-and-a-half hours, Joe? You can always split it up into bitesize pieces, If I've got a long text that's what I do.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Gutcher
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 08:56 AM

Hello Steve---see you are coming up to these parts in the new year. I will do a recy of the venue and if suitable for my restricted mobility would hope to meet up with you there.

You of course can spot an anonymous comment from me due to the grammar used, English not being my first language which explains the time taken to type my promised explanation of the link between Owlet/Howlet and the name Erskine, all from memory including any historical reference. When one is snedding {is that a word used in Yorkshire?} a very long oral story to extract the relavent parts and translating it with a thought to the, shall we say, wary acceptance of historians to anything handed down orally, it becomes a time consuming task--one which I will have to repeat.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Sep 18 - 05:27 PM

Hi Joe,
If you're referring to the Glasgow Broadside meeting I probably won't make that one. I'm also starting to slow down, and my very narrow interests are really the ballads. These broadside meetings are far too broad nowadays, too much not relevant to the relationship between print and ballads for me to make the effort. Shame because I'd have loved to have met you and swapped ideas.

Not familiar with 'snedding' as a word we use. Personally I'm very receptive to oral stories being passed down and going through the process. My only quibble is at what point were they made into ballads, and really there I mean each individual ballad, not collectively. From my wide reading on the subject, mostly of American academics, I get the impression that most of them were converted into ballads at a much later stage than a lot of people claim.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 09 Sep 18 - 01:55 PM

snedding

It'd be known by anyone who has gone hedgelaying
as the process of stripping unwanted sideshoots from a branch or trunk. A very satisfying job when you've a nice sharp bill hook!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Sep 18 - 03:07 PM

You have to mind your bill-hooks when you're doing a job like that.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Child Owlet / Chylde Owlet
From: GUEST,Reynardine
Date: 07 Oct 18 - 12:41 AM

Locally, we use either machetes or electric hedgeknives. You can get in trouble with either.

Now, if we may get back to the thread...


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