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BRIAN BEBBINGTON Little Sir Hugh: An Analysis The ballad of Little Sir Hugh (Child 155) might be said to have a life of its own, independent of any historical events which may have given rise to it. It is very widely known throughout the English-speaking world, in part because of its early appearance in prominent folksong collections. Bishop Thomas Percy (1729-1811) included it as the third ballad in the first book of his celebrated Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765. Percy's Reliques is generally considered to be one of the landmark publications that sparked the beginning of the serious study of folklore. Percy's text, which came from a manuscript sent to him from Scotland, was introduced by a headnote in which Percy remarked that the ballad "is founded upon the supposed practice of the Jews in crucifying or otherwise murthering Christian children, out of hatred to the religion of theirparents: apractice, which hath been always alledged in excuse for the cruelties exercised upon that wretched people, but which probably never happened in a single instance ." Percy continues, "... we may reasonably conclude the whole charge to be groundless and malicious." Percy's Scottish text was translated into German by Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) so as to be included in Herder's 1778 anthology Volkslieder, another important folksong collection which influenced the development ofinternational interest in the genre. It is Herder, one must remember, who is usually credited with first coining the term Volkslied, "folksong." Reprinted from UNISA English Studies (Journal of the Department of English , University of South Africa19, no. 3 (September 19711: 30-36. 72 Little Sir Hugh Some of the highlights of the nineteenth-century scholarship devoted to the ballad are: Francisque Michel, "Ballade Anglo-Normande sur le meurtre commis par les Juifs sur un enfant de Lincoln," Memoires de la Societe Royale des Antiquaires de France 10 (1834): 358-92; Abraham Hume, Sir Hugh of Lincoln; or, an Examination of a Curious Tradition respecting the Jews, with a notice of the Popular Poetry connected with it (London: John Russell Smith, 1849); and Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1962), 3: 233-54 (first published in 1889). Twentieth-century studies include : James R. Woodall, "'Sir Hugh': A Study in Balladry," Southern Folklore Quarterly 19 (1955): 77-84; Faith Hippensteel , '''Sir Hugh': The Hoosier Contribution to the Ballad ," Indiana Folklore 2, no. 2 (1969): 75-140; and Neil C. Hultin, "'The Cruel Jew's Wife': An Anglo-Irish Ballad of the Early Nineteenth Century," Folklore 99 (1988): 189203 . For a substantial sampling of some 66 texts and tunes of the ballad, see Bertrand Harris Bronson, The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966),3: 72-104. There have also been some striking literary citations of the ballad. One of the most noteworthy is James Joyce's inclusion of a text as well as a melody of the ballad in a critical scene in Ulysses. His character Stephen, a Gentile, sings the anti-Semitic ballad just at the point in the novel when he has been invited to stay the night at the home of the Jew Bloom, who has a marriageable daughter. See James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Modern Library, 1934), pp. 674-76. Earlier in the novel, Joyce refers explicitly to ritual murder: "It's the blood sinking in the earth gives new life. Same idea those jews they said killed the christian boy" (p. 107). For further discussion of Joyce's use of the ballad, see Louis f. Edmundson, "Theme and Countertheme: The Function of Child Ballad 155, 'Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter,' in James Joyce's Ulysses" (Ph.D. diss., Middle Tennessee State University , 1975). For the Percy text, see Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient 73 Brian Bebbington English Poetry (London: J. Dodsley, 1765), 1:32-35; for Herder's translation, see J. G. von Herder, Volkslieder (Leipzig : Weygandschen Buchhandlung, 1778), 1: 120-23. The following literary analysis of the ballad uses a synoptic or composite text as a point of departure (rather than concentrating upon a single individual version), and for that reason the author is able to illuminate many of the varying motifs and details of the ballad, especially from a symbolic perspective. "Sir Hugh, or, the Jew's daughter" is an anti-Semitic English ballad about the ritual murder of a Christian boy by Jews. This essay will attempt an analysis of...


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