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Hester Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife (65* d) RE: Sheath and Knife 12 Nov 02


Hi, Malcolm:

I don't have a copy of Child on hand, and didn't realize that he had made a comparative analysis of the two ballads. I was working from on-line excerpts of just the ballad texts themselves. I shall be very interested to read both Child's original interpretation and his revision.

As for the "Sheath" ballad being older, I based that assumption simply on the numbering, which I had understood, from a comment by two Robin Hood scholars, reflected Child's attempt to put all the ballads into chronological order. ie. :

"This ballad is not recorded until the Percy folio, a badly damaged copy, in the mid-seventeenth century; the first full text is from the late eighteenth-century garland The English Archer of 1786, though, as Child notes, it itself "is in the fine old strain" (III, 103). Child prints the ballad early in his collection, as no. 120. This early placement can be justified: the author of the Gest knew the tradition of Robin's death. It is presumably one of the "tragedies" which Bower mentions in the 1440s; Grafton in 1569 refers in some detail to the story, and the Sloane Life concludes with it." (Knight and Ohlgren, 1997; http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/dearhint.htm)

I thus assumed that Child's numbering system represented a rough chronology.

Certainly the last arrow motif is not original to the tale of Robin's death, occuring in neither the Percy folio (Child's A version) or the Gest (Child 117). The motif must therefore have come from a source extraneous to the RH tradition, and the similarity between Robin's burial instructions and those of the sister in "Sheath" are striking, as is the apparently irrelevant reference to "broom" (which occurs in no other Robin Hood ballad as far as I am aware). There's nothing to say, however, that those elements didn't find their way into both ballads (#16 & #120) from a third, unknown source.

Cheers, Hester


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