The Demon Lover (The House Carpenter)

This is the first of four posts on Child Ballad 243. The next three installments can be found here, here, and here. Well Met, Well Met What lengths will a singer go to in changing the song’s “facts” to keep closer to the song’s “truth”?  While I generally believe that … → read more

“Two Sisters” at the Movies, with Anthony Ladesich

When is a murder ballad high art?  Certainly when filmmaker and musician Anthony Ladesich and his creative compatriots get hold of it. Ladesich was kind enough to speak with me at length about a wonderful film project that he brought to fruition in 2011 with the help of a highly … → read more

Maid Freed from the Gallows | Gallows Pole (Child Ballad 95)

My chosen song this week has as its origins an English fairy tale about a girl who loses a nice toy and is punished for it. It is a tale that grew in at least two major branches. Along one branch, it became one of our most beloved fairy tales … → read more

Two Sisters Redux – Part 2

detail from Twa Sisters – quilt by Dan Willig So, as I introduced in my first post this week, I’m trying to add some depth and variety to my first series of entries from six months ago on the ballad known as Child 10, “Two Sisters”, “Wind and Rain”, etc.  You can find … → read more

Two Sisters Redux – Part 1

detail from Twa Sisters – quilt by Dan Willig Six months ago, my first post for this blog dealt with the ancient murder ballad “Two Sisters“, also known as “Wind and Rain” as well as several other names.  I’m happy with the work I did then, but as with any first attempt … → read more

The Natural and the Unnatural, Naturally

Study for “There Were Three Maidens Pu’d Flower” by Charles H. Mackie Death Before Dishonor?The themes in “Babylon” pointed me back to reviewing Pat’s excellent series of posts on “Edward,” (Child 13), particularly this one, which is a careful, reluctant, and thorough exploration of the incest theme in that ballad. … → read more

The Underbelly of Myth

Thereby Hangs a (Folk) Tale In the last post, I suggested that there seemed to be a certain implausible, or perhaps contrived, quality, to the narrative of   “Babylon,” “The Bonnie Banks o’ Fordie,” or “Fair Flowers of the Valley,” (Child 14).  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it … → read more


“The Bonnie Banks O’Fordie,” by Charles Hodge Mackie (1892) Fair Flowers of the Valley While it’s not exactly our intention to ring the changes on the varieties of family-based murder ballads, we’ll turn this week to Child Ballad 14, “Babylon” or “The Bonnie Banks of Fordie,”  in its various iterations … → read more

Edward / What Put the Blood? / The Blood on His Shirt Sleeve

  Cain Leadeth Abel to Death – Chromolithograph book plate, James Tissot, 1904 Note: This is Part 1 of a 4 part series – see also Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 This week we’re back in to the Child Ballads.  It’s been over a month since Ken’s last foray into this territory, so I … → read more

My heart it lies on him, it will not remove

The Lass of Loch Royal As Hamish Henderson noted in the link we discussed in the post that started this week with the deception May Margaret’s mother perpetrates on Willie matches that found in “Lord Gregory” (lyrics) or “The Lass of Loch Royal” (Child 76).  In “Lord Gregory,” a young woman … → read more