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Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road

11 Feb 18 - 04:24 PM (#3905033)
Subject: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,Mathew

I understand the the song (most notably by Steeleye Span) is about a boy and the devil. The boy must answer a series of riddles to avoid hell.

I cant seem to figure out how the answers to these riddles make any sense. Love the song though.

Here are the lyrics for convenience


11 Feb 18 - 04:24 PM (#3905034)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,Mathew

"Oh, where are you going," says the false knight on the road
"I'm going to me school," says the wee boy and still he stood
"What is on your back," says the false knight on the road
"Me bundles and me books," says the wee boy and still he stood

"I came and walking by your door," says the false knight on the road
"That lay in your way," says the wee boy and still he stood
"Flung your dog a stone," says the false knight on the road
"I wish it was a bone," says the wee boy and still he stood

"Oh, what sheep and cattle's that," says the false knight on the road
"They're mine and me father's," says the wee boy and still he stood
"And how many shall be mine," says the false knight on the road
"The ones that have a blue tail," says the wee boy and still he stood

"Oh, then I get a share o' them," says the false knight on the road
"You cannot get a share of them," says the wee boy and still he stood
"And why the stick all in your hand," says the false knight on the road
"To keep me from all cold and harm," says the wee boy and still he stood

"Oh, I wish you were in younder tree," says the false knight on the road
"A ladder under me," says the wee boy and still he stood
"The ladder it'll break," says the false knight on the road
"And you will surely fall," says the wee boy and still he stood

"I wish you were in younder sea," says the false knight on the road
"A good boat under me," says the wee boy and still he stood
"The boat will surely sink," says the false knight on the road
"And you will surely drown," says the wee boy and still he stood

"Has your mother more than you," says the false knight on the road
"Oh, none of them for you," says the wee boy and still he stood
"I think I hear a bell," says the false knight on the road
"It's ringing you to hell," says the wee boy and still he stood


11 Feb 18 - 07:50 PM (#3905064)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: Gallus Moll

These words differ from the versions I have heard . . too late tonight for me to go and check my Child Ballads, probably someone else will answer before I manage!
.... but the whole point of this type of conversation is to have a clever answer for each question that turns the task back on to auld hornie; if the child could not give an answer, stand up to auld nick, then he (the child) would be lost!

Similar type of Q & A in ballads where a man (who may or may not be 'himsel' is trying to persuade a woman into bed -- - but she is cleverer than him, sets him impossible tasks in return and so retains her virginity (unless in the end she chooses to let him win-- is that the blacksmith one?!)


11 Feb 18 - 09:28 PM (#3905078)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,paperback

Ah,even a wee boy with calm resolve and simple grace can defeat the grand adversary of man.


11 Feb 18 - 11:18 PM (#3905090)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: RTim

I have never see those words before where do they come from???

Tim Radford


12 Feb 18 - 01:31 AM (#3905097)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,Mathew

Interesting, so its that he's quick enough to answer back?

Kind of reminds me of "The devils nine questions"


12 Feb 18 - 11:53 AM (#3905166)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: Steve Gardham

These wit-combat exchanges do relate to the more profound riddle-combats but ought perhaps to be more closely related to 'Arkansas Traveller' type exchanges.

There are subtle differences in the type of exchange from ballad to ballad. The idea behind 'The Elfin Knight' exchanges is you can get away with not performing impossible tasks by posing the setter equally impossible tasks, i.e., I will do your impossible task when you have done mine.


12 Feb 18 - 11:59 AM (#3905167)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: Reinhard

Tim, Martin Carthy sang these words in 1971 on Steeleye Span's album "Please to See the King".


12 Feb 18 - 12:05 PM (#3905172)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: RTim

Thank you Reinhard - just proves how little I have listen too Steeleye Span over the years - they were never my favourite band...........

Tim Radford


12 Feb 18 - 12:30 PM (#3905179)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: leeneia

Hi, Matthew. No wonder you don't understand all the riddles. That's because not all of the exchanges are riddles. And some of them don't actually make any sense.

Verse one just tells what's going on. The boy is going to school carrying books and bundles (of food, probably.)

2nd verse should say "I came a-walking by your door,"

"That lay in your way,"

Means that the door of the boy's home safely kept the devil out.

Verse 3: "Flung your dog a stone,"
"I wish it was a bone,"

I suppose you could say the boy is chiding the devil for being mean and throwing a stone rather than a bone. Hey, it rhymes.

Verse 4: "Oh, what sheep and cattle's that,"
"They're mine and me father's,"
"The ones that have a blue tail,"

Since none of them have blue tails, the devil loses out.

Verse 5.
Part 1 is not a riddle. He simply defies the devil.
"Oh, then I get a share o' them,"
"You cannot get a share of them," says the wee boy and still he stood


Part 2; "And why the stick all in your hand,"
"To keep me from all cold and harm,"

Not a riddle. It isn't good politics for the boy to tell the devil that he holds the stick to hit the devil with, so he fudges the truth here.


Verse 6:
"Oh, I wish you were in yonder tree,"
"A ladder under me,"
A clever response. (The devil hopes he will fall out of a tall tree.)

Part 2:
"The ladder it'll break,"
"And you will surely fall,"

This part is not so good. It ought to convey either that the ladder will fall on top of the devil or that the devil was climbing up the ladder when it broke under him.

Verse7:

"I wish you were in yonder sea," says the false knight on the road
"A good boat under me," says the wee boy and still he stood
"The boat will surely sink," says the false knight on the road
"And you will surely drown," says the wee boy and still he stood

Pretty good responses here, but the it would be better if we knew the devil was in the boat too.

Verse 8:

"Has your mother more than you," says the false knight on the road
"Oh, none of them for you," says the wee boy and still he stood

The devil is asking if his mother has more children than the boy. His reply is defiant but not a riddle.

Part 2
"I think I hear a bell," says the false knight on the road
"It's ringing you to hell," says the wee boy and still he stood

The bell is the school bell, of course. But the boy's reply, with its reference to hell, defeats the devil. This ties in with the superstition that if we know the real name of a supernatural foe, we defeat it. And that's the end of the song.

In the olden days, people did not want to actually say the devil's name. Good thing bell rhymes with hell!
===================
FYI, if you ever do encounter the devil on a lonely country road, the best way to defeat him is to say that Jesus and Mary will protect you. That produces instant results, or so I have read.


14 Feb 18 - 01:50 AM (#3905567)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,paperback

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.


14 Feb 18 - 02:30 AM (#3905576)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,paperback

False Knight: "I came a-walking by your door,"

-Oh dear, trying to disturb a wee boy by implying he 'knows where you live'. Typical.

Wee boy: "it was on
your way."

-Assuredly, False Knight, nobody at my house asked you to come over, you just happened to be walking by, so 'keep on truckin'.


14 Feb 18 - 03:49 AM (#3905584)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,Mathew

Thank you very much leeneia!

That was exactly what I wanted.

Well thought and explained responses like that are what keep me coming back to mudcat.

So interesting!

Thank you again


16 Feb 18 - 03:46 PM (#3906209)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: leeneia

You're welcome, Matthew. I'm glad you came back to see what I had written.

paperback, the door wasn't On the way, it was In the way - keeping the devil out of the house.


17 Feb 18 - 02:11 AM (#3906271)
Subject: RE: Explain Riddles-False Knight On The Road
From: GUEST,paperback

Oh, ok.