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Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions

DigiTrad:
BONNIE BROOM (questions)
JENNIFER GENTLE
JENNIFER GENTLE (modern)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED (2)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED (CATHER BANKS)
RIDDLES WISELY EXPOUNDED 3
THE DEVIL'S NINE QUESTIONS


Related threads:
Lay the bent to the bonnie broome? Meaning? (24)
LYR clarify -- Bent to the Bonnie Broom? (30)
The Tailors Bonnie? or Ninety Nine and N (11)


Kent Davis 01 Nov 05 - 10:39 PM
Sorcha 01 Nov 05 - 10:45 PM
Sorcha 01 Nov 05 - 10:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 01 Nov 05 - 10:51 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Nov 05 - 10:58 PM
Kent Davis 01 Nov 05 - 10:59 PM
Sorcha 01 Nov 05 - 11:02 PM
Kent Davis 01 Nov 05 - 11:15 PM
Sorcha 01 Nov 05 - 11:22 PM
GUEST,Masato at work 02 Nov 05 - 02:51 AM
Dave Hanson 02 Nov 05 - 10:20 AM
SINSULL 02 Nov 05 - 10:28 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Nov 05 - 11:45 AM
Bill D 02 Nov 05 - 01:20 PM
Nigel Parsons 02 Nov 05 - 02:54 PM
michaelr 02 Nov 05 - 09:34 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 06 - 12:13 PM
Mrrzy 23 Feb 06 - 10:24 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Feb 06 - 10:33 PM
Paul Burke 24 Feb 06 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,just for the record... 30 Jul 09 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Me & Myself 29 Dec 09 - 07:39 AM
Mysha 29 Dec 09 - 12:34 PM
GUEST 15 Sep 10 - 11:57 PM
Kent Davis 16 Sep 10 - 12:40 AM
GUEST,leeneia 16 Sep 10 - 10:53 AM
Kent Davis 16 Sep 10 - 07:06 PM
Kent Davis 16 Sep 10 - 10:55 PM
Kent Davis 16 Sep 10 - 11:21 PM
Ebbie 17 Sep 10 - 01:56 AM
Kent Davis 18 Sep 10 - 06:02 PM
GUEST 15 Nov 10 - 09:11 AM
Manitas_at_home 15 Nov 10 - 09:14 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 10 - 09:37 AM
Mysha 30 Jan 11 - 07:18 PM
GUEST 05 Feb 11 - 08:09 PM
Max 29 Jun 11 - 02:24 AM
Max 01 Jul 11 - 09:54 PM
Kent Davis 01 Jul 11 - 10:43 PM
Max 15 Apr 12 - 10:57 PM
GUEST,leeneia 16 Apr 12 - 12:15 PM
GUEST,Brian 26 May 15 - 07:08 PM
Steve Gardham 27 May 15 - 03:26 AM
Steve Gardham 27 May 15 - 04:00 PM
Steve Gardham 27 May 15 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,JB3b 17 Jul 15 - 04:17 AM
GUEST,JB3b 17 Jul 15 - 04:20 AM
Richie 17 Jul 15 - 09:06 PM
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Subject: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:39 PM

The versions I have seen and heard of "The Devil's Nine Questions" (Child #1) have only EIGHT questions. What happened to the ninth question?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Sorcha
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:45 PM

I found 9....grass, glass, horn, thorn, light, night,
axe, wax and ring. Which one do you not have?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Sorcha
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:48 PM

And, is yet another with 10.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:51 PM

See previous discussions here for more information.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:58 PM

milk-snow, silk-down, horn-thunder, thorn-death, tree-heaven, sea-hell, lamb-a babe, woman kind-the devil = 8
(Group B, a version in Branson)

It all depends upon whose version-


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 10:59 PM

The questions I knew were the same as in the "Digital Tradtions" part of this site, namely: Whiter than milk? Softer than silk? Louder than horn? Sharper than thorn? Higher than tree? Deeper than sea? More innocent than lamb? Meaner than womankind?
What is the question for "ring"?
Thank you!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Sorcha
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 11:02 PM

What is rounder than a ring?
Lay the bank, etc..
To you we thus our answers bring
Fa lang...etc

The world is rounder than a ring.
Etc...
(Bronson 3, There Was a Lady in the West)


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 11:15 PM

Thanks! I'd been wondering about that for about a year and you tell me the answer in 41 minutes! I had seen other questions, but they came in pairs, so I could get 8 or 10 but not 9. The "to you we thus our answers bring" phrase solved that problem.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Sorcha
Date: 01 Nov 05 - 11:22 PM

LOL...and I'm not even a singer....just have a copy of Bronson (abridged)


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,Masato at work
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 02:51 AM

All the texts in Child are here (The Child Ballads 1_ Riddles Wisely Expounded).


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 10:20 AM

What is the air speed of an unladen swallow ?

eric


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: SINSULL
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 10:28 AM

Domestic or European?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 11:45 AM

Which species?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 01:20 PM

"...like the swallow that flies so high.."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 02:54 PM

Eric:
"Airspeed of an unladen swallow"?
I don't know, but a fully laden swallow demolishes a pint of liquid quite swiftly
Presumably the speed for an unladen swallow should be the same as the speed for its opposite, a cough.
I know a sneeze can be 60 mph, but I don't remember a similar figure for a cough

CHEERS
Nigel
(Tongue firmly in cheek!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: michaelr
Date: 02 Nov 05 - 09:34 PM

Echoes of Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill's "False Fly" here (an abbreviated version of "The False Knight on the Road")

Fascinating song.

You know there ain't no devil
That's just God when he's drunk

--Tom Waits

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 06 - 12:13 PM

I would imagine the song to have had nine questions originally, as per the obsession with the number three and squares of it (c.f Dante's Nine Circles of Hell) during the period it may have originated from. Dante being a much earlier example, of course. Just venturing a guess.

-David


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Mrrzy
Date: 23 Feb 06 - 10:24 PM

Now this is interesting. The "bonnie broom" tune that I know is about a sister killing, and has no questions. I do know several question songs, including the devil's nine, but none of them have that tune.

Remember the questions in the songs to the tune of Scarborough Fair? More boy-girl than devil-human, but interesting... more like tasks to be accomplished but asked as questions of the "could you" kind.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Feb 06 - 10:33 PM

You can safely ignore the modern revival recordings of The Cruel Sister that include the "bonny broom" refrain. They don't derive from tradition and are irrelevant here (though the refrain and tune were borrowed from Riddles Wisely Expounded). See numerous past threads for details.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Paul Burke
Date: 24 Feb 06 - 03:29 AM

I thought the bonny broom was a version of the baffled knight one. Or are that a modern contrafection too?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,just for the record...
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 03:06 PM

"Are you the weaver's bonny" would be the 9th question.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,Me & Myself
Date: 29 Dec 09 - 07:39 AM

I agree with Guest in the previous answer. It is surely and certainly the 9th question.
-Are you God's or mine?
-What is whiter than the milk
-What is softer than a silk
-What is higher than a tree
-What is deeper than the sea
-What is louder than a horn
-What is sharper than a thorn
-What is more innocent than a lamb
-And what is meaner than woman kind.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Mysha
Date: 29 Dec 09 - 12:34 PM

Hi,

Why don't the last two in that list rhyme? I wouldn't expect alternatives for Lamb: it seems like the perfect word there; but are there alternatives being sung for Woman kind?
It's hard not to notice that Man would fit better, isn't it?

Bye
                                                                  Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Sep 10 - 11:57 PM

who is the weavers' bonny?---question nine


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 12:40 AM

Thanks, Guest of 15 Sept 10,

I think it depends on the version. The version I knew when I first asked this question five years ago (from Patrick Gainer's FOLK SONGS OF THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS) does not have a ninth question.

The Texas Gladden/Elizabeth LaPrelle version from Southwest Virginia does have "Who is the weaver's bonny?" as the ninth question: http://www.old97wrecords.com/elizabeth-laprelle/songs/devils-9-questions.htm


Now you must answer my questions nine
Sing ninety-nine and ninety,
Or you aren't God's you are one of mine
And who is the weaver's bonny.

What is whiter than milk?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And what is softer than silk?
And who is the weaver's bonny."

Snow is whiter than milk,
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And down is softer than silk,
And I am the weaver's bonny."

What is louder than a horn?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And what is sharper than a thorn?
And who is the weaver's bonny?

Thunder's louder than a horn,
Sing ninety-nine and ninety ;
And death is sharper than a thorn,
And I am the weaver's bonny.

What is higher than a tree?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And what is deeper than the sea?
And who is the weaver's bonny?

Heaven is higher than a tree,
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And hell is deeper than the sea,
And I am the weaver's bonny.

What's more innocent than a lamb?
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
What is meaner than woman kind?
And who is the weaver's bonny.

A babe's more innocent than a lamb,
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
And the devil is meaner than woman kind,
And I am the weaver's bonny."

You have answered my questions nine,
Sing ninety-nine and ninety;
So you are God's, you are none of mine,
And you are the weaver's bonny."

Kent


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:53 AM

I have been reading of medieval poetry and old ballads since 1967, and I've got to say that the line "what is meaner than woman kind" sounds all wrong. I'm sure it's totally spurious.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 07:06 PM

Whether the question "What is meaner than womankind?" is spurious or not, I don't know.

Considering that the Devil is the questioner, and that the one questioned is a woman, and considering that this is the ninth of nine questions to determine her fate, and considering that her answer is "the devil is meaner than womankind", it seems right to me.

Apparently it seemed right to at least the three women in the chain of transmission before Elizabeth LaPrelle. Concerning this version of the ballad, Mike Yates wrote, "We are told that Texas Gladden learnt her version of The Devil's Nine Question from the collector Alfreda Peel, who had previously noted the songs from a Mrs Rill Martin of Mechanicsburg, VA, before passing it on to Texas."
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/gladden2.htm

The same question occurs in the version sung by Nancy Philley of Fayetteville, Arkansas, as found in the Max Hunter collection http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/songinformation.aspx?ID=1495

Kent


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 10:55 PM

Regarding whether or not the question "What is meaner than womankind?" is spurious, it may be of interest to note that, in THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH POPULAR BALLADS, "Captain Wedderburn's Courtship" (Child #46), one may find the following questions and answers:

version A, (collection of anthologist David Herd, 1732-1810)
stanza 12 - "What's war than a woman's wish"         
stanza 13 - "The deil's war than woman's wish..."   

version B
stanza 16 - "O what is worse than woman's wish..."
stanza 17 - "The devil's waur than woman's wish..."

version C, Frederick Sheldon, MINSTRELSY OF THE ENGLISH BORDER, p.232
stanza 8 - "And what is worse than woman's voice..."
stanza 9 - "The devil's worse than woman's voice..."   

Kent


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 11:21 PM

Furthermore, regarding whether or not the question "What is meaner than womankind?" is spurious, it may also be of interest to note that, in THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH POPULAR BALLADS, "Riddles Wisely Expounded" (Child #1), one may find the following questions and answers"

version A
stanza 15 - "Or what is worse then a woman was?"
stanza 18 - "And the devil is worse than woman was."

version C, William Motherwell's MS, p. 647
stanza 13 - "Or what is waur not a woman was?"
stanza 18 - "And Clootie's waur not a woman was."
stanza 19 - "As sune as she the fiend did name,
             He flew awa in a blazing flame."

version D, Motherwell, p.142 (Motherwell lived from 1797 to 1835.)
stanza 5 - "And what is worse than woman was?"
stanza 10 - "And the Devil's worse than eer woman was."

Kent


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Ebbie
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 01:56 AM

If that song is an old one - a Child's - then 'meaner' probably had a different meaning than it does to Americans. We think of 'mean' as being unkind but the older meaning - still used in the UK? - means stingy, ungenerous. Nicht wahr?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 18 Sep 10 - 06:02 PM

Ebbie,

You are right that the word "meaner" can signify "more stingy" rather than "more unkind". In this case, however, I suspect that the word probably has the usual 20th century American meaning.

The Elizabeth Laprelle version I posted on 16 September uses the word "meaner", but it is based on Texas Gladden's version, which she learned from Alfeda Peel, who reportedly learned it from Mrs. Rill Martin. Mrs. Martin's version is the one in the DT (THE DEVIL'S NINE QUESTIONS, at the top of this thread). It does not use the word "meaner", but rather words the eighth question this way: "What is worse than womankind?". The answer the female protaganist gives the Devil is the expected: "The devil's worse than womankind".

Kent

P.S. That version lacks the ninth question. Instead of "And who is the weaver's bonny", it has "Say you're the weaver's bonny."

P.S.S. Here is a recording of Texas Gladden singing the song (and a picture of her): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9GVzDrMUj0
Listen to the very end, when she says (if I understand her correctly) "I learned that one from Alfreda". Whether she or Alfreda Peel introduced the word "meaner" to Mrs. Martin's ballad, or whether Mrs. Martin herself sang it both ways, I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Nov 10 - 09:11 AM

The devil has tricked you into asking the ninth's question.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 15 Nov 10 - 09:14 AM

Another meaning of 'meaner' is 'baser' ie of lower social rank.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 10 - 09:37 AM

> Listen to the very end, when she says (if I understand her correctly) "I learned that one from Alfreda". <

It does sound like that, Kent. Also she says that it's an English ballad from 40 years before the time of Columbus, which confirms that Alfreda Peel knew all about the 'Inter Diabolus et Virgo' version from 1445 that Child printed in an appendix, and mentioned it to Texas Gladden.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Mysha
Date: 30 Jan 11 - 07:18 PM

Hi Kent,

What does the wish/voice/was rhyme with?

                                                                   Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 08:09 PM

Sing ninety-nine and ninety
1,snow is whiter than the milk
2,down is softer than the silk
3,heavens higher than a tree
4,hell is deeper than the sea
5,thunder's louder than the horn
6,death is sharper than the thorn
7,a babe is more innocent than a lamb
8,the devil is worse than womankind?
Who are you? 9,I'm the weaver's bonny.
You are god's and none of mine? Yes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Max
Date: 29 Jun 11 - 02:24 AM

If you give no attention to these things Three... or Sing thirty-three and thirty
You'll be taken you off mudcat for life... Or could be the mudcat's bonny.

What is the significance and meaning of... singing "ninety-nine and ninety"?
Is there just the one correct answer for number 8? ...you might be the mudcat's bonnyI
And I choose bonny to mean favorite, looking for ninety-nine people to agree with me

The Devil's Questions version that takes the cake? still singing ninety-nine and ninety
Jean Ritchie & Paul Clayton's take from American Folk Tales & Songs is my bonny.
listen to me and track it down, you will delight ninety times out of ninety

and you ARE Max's bonny


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Max
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 09:54 PM

Refresh

Why 99 and 90?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Kent Davis
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 10:43 PM

Max,

I don't know why the refrain says "Sing ninety-nine and ninety".

That refrain occurs in the Elizabeth Laprelle/Texas Gladden/Mrs. Rill Martin versions (see the DT and a link in my post of 18 Sept 10) and in a version by Nancy Philley (link in my post of 16 Sept 10), but not in the versions in THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH POPULAR BALLADS. It is also missing from the first version I learned, the one that prompted me to start this thread, which was collected in West Virginia by Dr. Patrick Gainer.

In that version, the refrain is "And you so peart* and bonnie". http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/wvconline/patrickgainer.htm

Kent

*peart - cheerful and becoming


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Max
Date: 15 Apr 12 - 10:57 PM

Jean Ritchie and Paul Clayton have it titled "The Devil's Questions" and there is not nine of them. I joked earlier about there being more than one answer for #8. As it is, the ONLY thing meaner than womankind is the devil. With 2 ex-wives, I could believe that. What I am trying to say is even I wasn't comfortable with that answer and I am glad that Jean does not include that verse in her version.

The liner notes say:

THE DEVIL'S QUESTIONS (Sung by Paul Clayton and Jean Ritchie)
I first heard this ballad at one of the folk festivals on White Top Mountain in southwestern Virginia. The ballad is number one in Professor Francis James Child's great textual compilation, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, and is one of the oldest songs in the English language. The earliest version appears in a manuscript "in a hand of about 1450." and may be seen in the Bodelian Library in England.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 16 Apr 12 - 12:15 PM

Thanks, Max. How delightful to listen to a recording and understand every word!

I am, of course, impressed by the sight of a screen RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR POST. Does one have do be a Mudcat Great Panjandrum to do that?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 26 May 15 - 07:08 PM

What is hotter than the fire
Sing ninety nine and ninety
And what is man's foremost desire
And you were the weaver's bonney


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 May 15 - 03:26 AM

There are 14 questions and answers in a 16th century version. See Child Vol V p283.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 May 15 - 04:00 PM

Sorry I jumped a century. It should have read 15th century.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 May 15 - 04:01 PM

That last post should read 15th century.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,JB3b
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 04:17 AM

At Berea College, I learned the same words and tune that Clayton and Ritchie sing, here, but the last line is "and you're not the weaver's bonny," which the woman answers back: "and I AM the weaver's bonny." It certainly fits the tune better than "the crow flies over the white oak tree."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: GUEST,JB3b
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 04:20 AM

I'd heard that the "9th" question had to do with the soul: whether or not the person being questioned by the devil was saved, or not.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Devil's NINE Questions
From: Richie
Date: 17 Jul 15 - 09:06 PM

Here's one example of the ninth question from "The Devil's Nine Questions" sung by Mary Estep, Clay Co. KY 1958, known by her grandfather:

9. And this is the last of the nine
Are you are God's or mine?
I'm God's I'll have you know,
And with you I won't go.

Richie


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