We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Flowering Thorn

International Ballad Studies

Thomas McKean

Publication Year: 2003

The flowering thorn expresses the dual nature of the ballad: at once a distinctive expression of European tradition, but also somewhat tricky to approach from a scholarly perspective, requiring a range of disciplines to illuminate its rich composition. Most of this latter quality has to do with the very features that characterize ballads... or narrative songs. These include an appearance of fragmentation; a wide range of cultural and social referents; complex, evocative symbolic language; and variation. The notable multiformity of meaning, text and tune is mirrored in scholarship, too. The Flowering Thorn is therefore wide ranging, with articles written by world authorities from the fields of folklore, history, literature, and ethnology, employing a variety of methodologies—structuralism to functionalism, repertoire studies to geographical explorations of cultural movement and change. The twenty-five selected contributions represent the latest trends in ballad scholarship, embracing the multi-disciplinary nature of the field today. The essays have their origins in the 1999 International Ballad Conference of the Kommission fur Volksdichtung (KfV), which focused particularly on ballads and social context; performance and repertoire; genre, motif, and classification. The revised, tailored, and expanded essays are divided into five sections—the interpretation of narrative song; structure and motif; context, version, and transmission; regions, reprints, and repertoires; and the mediating collector's offering a range of examples from fifteen different cultures, ten of them drawing on languages other than English, resulting in a series of personal journeys to the heart of one of Europe's richest, most enduring cultural creations. —Thomas McKean, from the Introduction

CONTRIBUTORS: Mary Anne Alburger, David Atkinson, Julia C. Bishop, Valentina Bold, Katherine Campbell, Nicolae Constantinescu, Luisa Del Giudice, Sheila Douglas, David G. Engle, Frances J. Fischer, Simon Furey, Vic Gammon, Marjetka Golez-Kaucic, Pauline Greenhill, Cozette Griffin-Kremer, J. J. Dias Marques, William Bernard McCarthy, Isabelle Peere, Gerald Porter, James Porter, Roger de V. Renwick, Sigrid Rieuwerts, Michèle Simonsen, Larry Syndergaard, Stefaan Top, Larysa Vakhnina, Lynn Wollstadt

Published by: Utah State University Press

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (148.9 KB)
pp. 1-16

The flowering thorn expresses the dual nature of the ballad: at once a distinctive expression of European tradition,2 but also somewhat tricky to approach from a scholarly perspective, requiring a range of disciplines to illuminate its rich com- position. ...

read more

Now She's Fairly Altered Her Meaning: Interpreting Narrative Song

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.8 KB)
pp. 17-21

Songs have an infinite range of potential symbolic and functional meanings to both their singers and listeners. Scholars, like any other proactive ballad audience, bring a world of unique referents and a range of individual background information to the study of traditional song. ...

read more

Healing the Spider's Bite: "Ballad Therapy" and Tarantismo

pdf iconDownload PDF (131.2 KB)
pp. 23-33

In 1959, Ernesto De Martino, ethnologist and scholar of comparative religion, led what has become a near-legendary expedition to the Salento (southeastern-most tip of the heel of the Italian boot) to study the phenomenon of tarantismo.1 ...

read more

Music, Charm and Seduction in British Traditional Songs and Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (156.4 KB)
pp. 35-53

In this essay, I want to explore certain themes and intertextual elements in popular and traditional songs that circulated in Britain and Ireland, and wherever people from these islands went, roughly in the period from 1600 to 1850. ...

read more

"Places She Knew Very Well": The Symbolic Economy of Women's Travels in Traditional Newfoundland Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.1 KB)
pp. 55-66

My earlier work has focused upon “outings” as the recognition and examination of lesbian/gay/queer possibilities in traditional ballads in North America (1995, 1997a, 1997b). Here I will consider a rather different kind of outing, associated with individuals’ movements from place to place: travel. ...

read more

A Good Man Is Hard to Find: Positive Masculinity in the Ballads Sung by Scottish Women

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.5 KB)
pp. 67-75

This essay looks specifically at the way ballads popular among female singers construct masculinity, focusing on the intersections of gender, class, and power. Since large-scale ballad collection began in the eighteenth century, at least, both men and women have learned and passed on these traditional songs, so we may...

read more

Jesting with Edge Tools: The Dynamics of a Fragmentary Ballad Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.6 KB)
pp. 77-89

Carpenters and Joiners are not hard to find in English traditional song. James Madison Carpenter is beginning to be recognized as one of the most significant collectors of English, as well as Scottish, song, while one of the best traditional singers at the beginning of this century was Mrs. Joiner of Chiswell Green in Hertfordshire (we do not know her first name) (Bishop 1998). ...

read more

The Servant Problem in Child Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.7 KB)
pp. 91-99

The central characters in most Child ballads are members of the gentry, often the nobility, and are even, in some cases, royalty. Because they own property, enjoy substantial income, possess unlimited leisure time, and wield significant power over others, they tend to live interesting lives—that is to say, they enjoy experi-...

read more

May Day and Mayhem: Portraits of a Holiday in Eighteenth-Century Dublin Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (182.9 KB)
pp. 101-127

What could be more enthralling for someone involved in calendar studies than finding ballads that appear to recount events occuring during a major holiday— May Day, in this case—and, to add to the pleasure, to hear from the source that they were sung and resung as an integral part of the holiday’s celebration? ...

read more

Malign Forces That Can Punish and Pardon: Structure and Motif

pdf iconDownload PDF (230.2 KB)
pp. 129-134

Since the publication of key texts on structure and form in traditional narrative,1 ballad scholars have sought to apply their methodology to the similar genre of narrative song. The resulting studies have concentrated on two main areas of research: the re-creation of songs using formulas or commonplaces, and Propp’s...

read more

An Oddity of Catalan Folk Songs and Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (393.1 KB)
pp. 135-142

Catalonia lies on the Mediterranean coast, straddling the Pyrenees. Its people are very musical, and dancing in the streets is still commonplace. Anyone who has observed its national dance, the sardana, however, will have noticed a most peculiar feature: the dancers do not seem to dance in time to the music, yet the...

read more

"Barbara Allen" and "The Gypsy Laddie": Single-Rhyme Ballads in the Child Corpus

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.3 KB)
pp. 143-154

One summer, not long after graduating from college, I worked as assistant director of a YMCA camp in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. The camp nurse, Ida Lanning, was a local mountain woman retired from regular nursing practice. ...

read more

The Motif of Poisoning in Ukrainian Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.2 KB)
pp. 155-160

Poisoning for infidelity is a motif found throughout European tradition in both narratives and songs. One of the most popular ballads on this theme, "O Do Not Go, Hryts," is considered the classic example of its type and is found not only in the Ukraine but also in the ballad traditions of many other, particularly Slavic, ...

read more

Contexts and Interpretations: The Walled-Up Wife Ballad and Other Related Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.9 KB)
pp. 161-167

In Cântecul epic eroic, the catalog of Romanian verse narratives, Amzulescu listed no fewer than 211 types of heroic song and 173 of the "family ballad" (1981, 1983). Including the so-called oral journals, Fochi arrives at a total of 401 types, "the second largest stock, after Denmark, in the field of folk-epic poetry" and concludes that Romania should be added to the seven main "ballad areas" of ...

read more

Recapturing the Journey: Cruxes of Context, Version, and Transmission

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.9 KB)
pp. 169-173

Historical investigation is one of the classic ways of reading between the lines of ballad texts. Outside the contexts of performance and the text itself, a wealth of detail can be gained about the composers, their milieu, and, through interpolation, about the audience as well. ...

read more

The Life and Times of Rosie Anderson

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.1 KB)
pp. 175-181

In his note on the ballad of “Rosie Anderson,” twelve versions of which appear in his collection, Gavin Greig makes the following observations: ...

read more

Scholar, Antischolar: Sir Alexander Gray's Translation of the Danish Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (100.1 KB)
pp. 183-192

Sir Alexander Gray is already one of the most important translators of Danish ballads with his existing books, Four-and-Forty (1954) and Historical Ballads of Denmark (1958). ...

read more

"George Collins" in Hampshire

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.1 KB)
pp. 193-204

Shortly after George B. Gardiner published texts of “George Collins” collected in Hampshire (Journal of the Folk-Song Society 1909: 299–302), Barbara M. Cra’ster (1910) argued that the ballad should be considered more or less cognate with the Scottish “Clerk Colvill” (Child 42). ...

read more

From France to Brazil via Germany and Portugal: The Meandering Journey of a Tradition Ballad

pdf iconDownload PDF (200.9 KB)
pp. 205-218

During research on the popularity of the Middle Ages in nineteenth-century Portugal, I read a book published in 1848 by Gomes Monteiro, a translated anthology of German romantic poetry with a wide sampling of poems with medieval or folk themes, among which was the following by Ludwig Uhland (Text 1): ...

read more

"The White Fisher": An Illegitimate Child Ballad from Aberdeenshire

pdf iconDownload PDF (460.9 KB)
pp. 219-244

The James Madison Carpenter Collection was made principally in England and Scotland during the period 1929–35. This vast unpublished field collection contains a large number of ballads and other songs from the North East of Scotland, including some rare texts and tunes. ....

read more

Regions, Reprints, and Repertoires

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.0 KB)
pp. 245-248

Ballad and song collection had its main origins in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century search for regional and cultural identities in the face of sweeping political and cultural change; there is no better barometer of this trend than the song tradition itself. ...

read more

Ballad Singing in New Deer

pdf iconDownload PDF (266.5 KB)
pp. 249-256

In ballad scholarship and folk-song research in general, scholars often focus on the songs themselves and their collectors, rather than the singers who contributed them. This is especially true in historical research, where it is often difficult to gather sufficient information about singers. ...

read more

Old Flemish Songbook Reprints

pdf iconDownload PDF (85.9 KB)
pp. 257-264

In 1989 the reprint of Jan Frans Willems’s collection Oude Vlaemsche Liederen [Old Flemish Songs] appeared, the first in a new series of Old Flemish Songbook Reprints. Volume five in this series appeared in 1998. The decision to reprint these old collections was made by the Koninklijke Belgische Commissie voor...

read more

Chants Populaires Flamands (1879): A Scholarly Field Collection and an Early Individual Repertoire

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.4 KB)
pp. 265-284

The research project introduced here deals with performance and repertoire. While this prominent concern in modern ballad and folk-song research de facto mostly relates to synchronic tradition, personal fieldwork, and knowledge of the singer’s background and personality, the Flemish repertoire described here was...

read more

The Corpus of French Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (117.0 KB)
pp. 285-294

This essay aims simply to highlight some of the difficulties I encountered when trying to assess the range and importance of French traditional balladry, so I will mainly raise questions rather than suggest answers. ...

read more

The Slovenian Folk and Literary Ballad

pdf iconDownload PDF (269.3 KB)
pp. 295-305

For European folklorists, the definition of the term "ballad" has been more or less fixed since 1966, when it was codified by researchers in Freiburg as a narrative song with dramatic emphasis, irrespective of the ending, tragic or otherwise (Kumer 1998: 31). ...

read more

Scotland's Nordic Ballads

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.0 KB)
pp. 307-317

That traces of Scotland’s Nordic ballads could still be found in the last days of the nineteenth century is surprising, but there is nothing “commonplace” about the story of their texts, contexts, and what we know of them more than one thousand years after the Northmen came to Scotland. ...

read more

Simon Fraser's Airs and Melodies [1816]: An Instrumental Collection as a Source of Scottish Gaelic Songs

pdf iconDownload PDF (186.1 KB)
pp. 319-336

From the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to Nova Scotia, collectors of Scottish Gaelic1 songs, such as Francis Tolmie (1998), Margaret Fay Shaw (1955), and John Lorne Campbell (1990), had the singer and the song as the focus of their attention. ...

read more

"Purement scientifique et archeologique": The Mediating Collector

pdf iconDownload PDF (61.7 KB)
pp. 337-340

The work of ballad collectors is many faceted and, answering F. J. Child’s aspiration that he “should wish to sift that matter thoroughly” (Hustvedt 1970: 248), this section addresses their diverse legacies. ...

read more

The Case against Peter Buchan

pdf iconDownload PDF (108.5 KB)
pp. 341-351

It is a well-known fact that the North East of Scotland is particularly rich in traditional songs and ballads. In The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, almost one-third of Child’s A texts—those he considered the oldest and best examples of a specific ballad type—come from this area. ...

read more

Ballad Raids and Spoilt Songs: Collection as Colonization

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.5 KB)
pp. 353-362

I would like to start this discussion of collection as colonization with a quote from Jock Duncan, a singer from North East Scotland, talking about local songmaker Geordie Thomson and Gavin Greig as a collector: ...

read more

The Contribution of D. K. Wilgus to Ballad and Folksong Scholarship

pdf iconDownload PDF (113.0 KB)
pp. 363-375

D. K. Wilgus was a staunch member of the Kommission für Volksdichtung for many years. Donald Knight Wilgus died on Christmas morning, 1989, in Los Angeles, where he had served as professor of English and Anglo-American folk song at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1963 till his retirement on June 30, 1989. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (36.8 KB)
pp. 377

Notes on Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (76.0 KB)
pp. 379-382

General Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.9 KB)
pp. 383-386

Song Title Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.3 KB)
pp. 387-388

E-ISBN-13: 9780874214918
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874215687

Publication Year: 2003