Mudcat Café message #824586 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48317   Message #824586
Posted By: Hester
12-Nov-02 - 05:43 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Sheath and Knife
Subject: RE: Sheath and Knife
>>>I live not far from the places where many of the Hood stories are set; and there is certainly plenty of broom in the Kirklees area even today!<<<

Hi, Malcolm:

What a merry place to live! Here across the pond, with my aversion to flying, I feel a bit disconnected from the folk stories and customs I enjoy analyzing. Ah well, I'm sure I'll get there one day.

Since you are familar with broom in its native habitat, I wonder if you aware of any seasonal connotations with the plant?

As I mentioned, most RH ballads begin with a paean to spring. (Although there is one late example with a Yuletide setting). Spring, however, would obviously not set the appropriate tone of pathetic fallacy for the death ballad and so this standard paean is omitted. Indeed, early pseudo-historical references to Robin's death generally give a November or early December date for his death. I wondered if broom was ever associated with this time of year?

Although, a thought does come to mind. During the fall, broom would be in seed, would it not? And I've read several references to the problem of broom as an invasive weed where it has been introduced in North America, particularly because when touched, the seed pods will project the seed a long distance (much like an arrow from a bow). Indeed the shooting of the Robin's last arrow could be taken as a metaphor for ejaculation (shooting of semen, literally "seed"). Thus his burial would be more of a "planting", with regenerative implications. As you noted, broom often has sexual connotations in folklore (perhaps because of the "promiscuous" spreading of the plant's seed). And the Sheath and Knife ballad, and more particularly its close cousin Leesome Brand, both have strong a regenerative theme, and a close linking of birth and death. [Whew! Gives you an idea of the labyrinthine paths down which my mind wanders.]

Indeed, I've given a great deal of speculative structuralist thought to the regenerative motif in the Robin Hood death ballad, particularly in comparison to the crucifixion story:

The Dying Hero

Cheers, Hester