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Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss

DigiTrad:
GREAT SILKIE
HIROSHIMA
LADY ODIVERE (GREY SILKIE 3)
THE GREY SILKIE OF SULE SKERRY
WOMAN BY THE BAY


Related threads:
(origins) Origin: I Come and Stand at Every Door / Hiroshima (24)
(origins) Origins: The Great Silkie (68)
Folklore: Selkie/Selchie? & pronunciation (39)
Lyr Add: Silkie (as sung by Anne Lister) (12)
Tune Req: The Great Silkie (26)
Lyr Req: The silkie of skule skerry (closed) (9) (closed)
The Great Silkie "earthly norris..." (42)


Dave Rado 16 Apr 21 - 06:19 PM
RTim 16 Apr 21 - 06:59 PM
Dave Rado 17 Apr 21 - 04:21 PM
Helen 17 Apr 21 - 04:56 PM
GUEST 17 Apr 21 - 05:25 PM
leeneia 17 Apr 21 - 05:50 PM
Helen 17 Apr 21 - 07:45 PM
BobL 18 Apr 21 - 03:41 AM
GUEST,iains 18 Apr 21 - 08:48 AM
Monique 18 Apr 21 - 10:15 AM
Dave Rado 18 Apr 21 - 11:22 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: The Great Selkie
From: Dave Rado
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 06:19 PM

Many versions of The Great Selkie start with the line: "An earthly nouriss sits and sings".

Nouriss (more commonly spelt Nourice) is old Scots for wet nurse (see here).

But the woman in the song is the baby's mother! So any thoughts on why she is referred to in the opening line - and subsequently - as a wet nurse?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Great Selkie
From: RTim
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 06:59 PM

Almost more Info. on this site than any other....So fill your boots.

https://mainlynorfolk.info/steeleye.span/songs/greatsilkieofsuleskerry.html


Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: Dave Rado
Date: 17 Apr 21 - 04:21 PM

I had already read that article and many others but haven't seen the answer to my question. Have you?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: Helen
Date: 17 Apr 21 - 04:56 PM

Dave, the word "nouriss" probably also refers to a nursing mother, i.e. breastfeeding, so in that sense she was not the baby's wet nurse but in fact the baby's mother.

The line "little ken I my bairnie's father" (in one version of the song) would indicate that it is her own baby.

The word nouriss is derived from the Latin word nutrire meaning to feed or nourish

nourisher (English)

"nourish (English)

"Origin & history

"From Middle English, from Old French nouriss-, stem of one of the conjugated forms of norrir, from Latin nutrire ('to suckle, feed, foster, nourish, cherish, preserve, support')."


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Apr 21 - 05:25 PM

From the context I always interpreted it as 'a human mother'. Earthly meaning not supernatural, nurse (as I heard it) meaning mother as Helen suggests.


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: leeneia
Date: 17 Apr 21 - 05:50 PM

I've always taken that 'earthly nouriss' phrase to mean that the woman is not fond of the child because the child is not the result of a loving human relationship. She's just doing her duty.


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: Helen
Date: 17 Apr 21 - 07:45 PM

That's an interesting interpretation, leeneia. I never thought of it like that.

I still lean more towards the description of nouriss meaning that she is nourishing her child with milk, but I have only heard the version I quoted from above. I didn't realise that there are different lyrics which could lean towards different interpretations of how she ended up with a baby by a strange (in more ways than one) man.


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: BobL
Date: 18 Apr 21 - 03:41 AM

Why did I first read the thread title as "Earthly Morris"?


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: GUEST,iains
Date: 18 Apr 21 - 08:48 AM

. An earthly nourris sits and sings,
And aye she sings, "Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn's father,
Far less the land that he staps in.

From the Child ballad number 113(above) "my bairn" would state that the nourris is actually the mother. Other variants may lead to a different conclusion.


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: Monique
Date: 18 Apr 21 - 10:15 AM

From there, 1, c:
c. Applied more generally to the woman (or, in myths etc., female animal) who suckles or has suckled a child, including the natural mother and foster-mothers who are not hired nurses. (bold is mine)


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Subject: RE: Info: The Great Selkie - earthly nouriss
From: Dave Rado
Date: 18 Apr 21 - 11:22 AM

Thanks all, especially Monique - I had seen that webpage but hadn't noticed c.

Dave


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