Folk-Lore/Volume 2/Childe Rowland

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CHILDE ROWLAND.


AMONG the English folk-tales that I have lately been collecting and investigating, by far the most interesting is that of "Childe Rowland". I have already called attention to some of the points of interest in my notes on the version of it that I published in my volume on English Fairy Tales, pp. 238-45. But it was impossible in such a way to deal at all adequately with the folk-lore aspects of the tale, and I am glad of the present opportunity to do so at more length. Especially I desire to make accessible the actual form in which the tale was published by Jamieson in his Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, 1814, pp. 397 seq. For the purposes of my book I had to deviate from the pristine form in various ways. I proceed at once to give it in its original form.


Rosmer Haf-Mand, or the Mer-Man Rosmer.

When on a former occasion, in "Popular Ballads and Songs", vol. ii, p. 22, the present writer laid before the public a translation of the first ballad of "Rosmer", he expressed an opinion that this was the identical romance quoted by Edgar in King Lear, which, in Shakespeare's time, was well known in England, and is still preserved, in however mutilated a state, in Scotland. Having the outline of the story so happily sketched to his hand, it would have required no very great exertion of talents or industry, for one exercised in these studies, to have presented this romance in a poetical dress, far more correct and generally engaging than that in which it can be expected to be found; but as he accounts an original, however imperfect, which bears the genuine marks of the age which produced it, and of the taste of those who have preserved it, much more interesting to the historian or antiquary than any mere modern tale of the same kind, however artfully constructed, he has preferred subjoining the Scottish legend in puris naturalibus, in the hope that the publication of it may be the means of exciting curiosity and procuring a more perfect copy of this singular relic:

"King Arthur's sons o' merry Carlisle
 Were playing at the ba';
And there was their sister Burd Ellen,
 I the mids amang them a'.


"Child Rowland kick'd it wi' his foot,
 And keppit it in his knee;
And ay, as he play'd out o'er them a',
 O'er the kirk he gar'd it flee.


"Burd Ellen round about the isle
 To seek the ba' is gane;
But they bade lang and ay langer,
 And she camena back again.


"They sought her east, they sought her west.
 They sought her up and down;
And wae were the hearts [in merry Carlisle],
 For she was nae gait found! "

At last her elder brother went to the Warluck Merlin (Myrddin Wyldt), and asked if he knew where his sister, the fair burd Ellen, was. "The fair burd Ellen," said the Warluck Merlin, "is carried away by the fairies, and is now in the castle of the King of Elfland and it were too bold an undertaking for the stoutest knight in Christendom to bring her back." "Is it possible to bring her back?" said her brother, "and I will do it, or perish in the attempt." "Possible? indeed it is," said the Warluck Merlin; "but woe to the man or mother's son who attempts it, if he is not well instructed beforehand of what he is to do."

Inflamed no less by the glory of such an enterprise than by the desire of rescuing his sister, the brother of the fair burd Ellen resolved to undertake the adventure; and, after proper instructions from Merlin (which he failed in observing), he set out on his perilous expedition.

"But they bade lang and ay langer,
 Wi' dout and mickle maen;
And wae were the hearts [in merry Carlisle],
 For he camena back again.

The second brother, in like manner, set out, but failed in observing the instructions of the Warluck Merlin, and—

"They bade lang and ay langer,
 Wi' mickle dout and maen;
And wae were the hearts [in merry Carlisle],
 For he camena back again."

Child Rowland, the youngest brother of the fair burd Ellen, then resolved to go, but was strenuously opposed by the good queen [Gwenevra], who was afraid of losing all her children.

At last the good queen [Gwenevra] gave him her consent and her blessing. He girt on (in great form, and with all due solemnity of sacerdotal consecration) his father's good claymore [Excalibar], that never struck in vain, and repaired to the cave of the Warluck Merlin.

The Warluck Merlin gave him all necessary instructions for his journey and conduct, the most important of which were that he should kill every person he met with after entering the land of Fairy, and should neither eat nor drink of what was offered him in that country, whatever his hunger or thirst might be, for if he tasted or touched in Elfland, he must remain in the power of the Elves, and never see middle eard again.

So Child Rowland set out on his journey, and travelled "on and ay farther on", till he came to where (as he had been forewarned by the Warluck Merlin) he found the King of Elfland's horse-herd feeding his horses. "Canst thou tell me", said Rowland to the horse-herd, "where the King of Elfland's castle is?" "I cannot tell thee", said the horse-herd, "but go on a little farther, and thou wilt come to the cow-herd, and he, perhaps, may tell thee." So Child Rowland drew the good claymore [Excalibar] that never struck in vain, and hewed off the head of the horse-herd. Child Rowland then went on a little farther, till he came to the King of Elfland's cow-herd, who was feeding his cows. "Canst thou tell me", said Child Rowland to the cow-herd, "where the King of Elfland's castle is?" "I cannot tell thee", said the cow-herd, "but go on a little farther, and thou wilt come to the sheep-herd, and he, perhaps, may tell thee." So Child Rowland drew the good claymore [Excalibar], that never struck in vain, and hewed off the head of the cow-herd. He then went a little farther, till he came to the sheep-herd. . . .

[The sheep-herd, goat-herd, and swine-herd are all, each in his turn, served in the same manner; and lastly, he is referred to the hen-wife.]

"Go on yet a little farther", said the hen-wife, "till thou come to a round green hill surrounded with rings {terraces) from the bottom to the top; go round it three times widershins, and every time say: 'Open, door! open, door! and let me come in'; and the third time the door will open, and you may go in." So Child Rowland drew the good claymore [Excalibar], that never struck in vain, and hewed off the head of the hen-wife. Then went he three times widershins round the green hill, crying: "Open, door! open, door! and let me come in"; and the third time the door opened, and he went in. It immediately closed behind him, and he proceeded through a long passage, where the air was soft and agreeably warm, like a May evening, as is all the air of Elfland. The light was a sort of twilight or gloaming, but there were neither windows nor candles, and he knew not whence it came, if it was not from the walls and roof, which were rough and arched like a grotto, and composed of a clear and transparent rock, incrusted with sheep's-silver and spar, and various bright stones. At last he came to two wide and lofty folding-doors, which stood ajar. He opened them, and entered a large and spacious hall, whose richness and brilliance no tongue can tell. It seemed to extend the whole length and height of the hill. The superb Gothic pillars, by which the roof was supported, were so large and so lofty (said my scannachy) that the pillars of the Chanry Kirk, or of Pluscardin Abbey, are no more to be compared to them than the Knock of Alves is to be compared to Balrinnes or Ben-a-chi. They were of gold and silver, and were fretted, like the west window of the Chanry Kirk,[1] with wreaths of flowers composed of diamonds and precious stones of all manner of beautiful colours. The key-stones of the arch above, instead of coats of arms and other devices, were ornamented with clusters of diamonds in the same manner. And from the middle of the roof, where the principal arches met, was hung, by a gold chain, an immense lamp of one hollowed pearl, perfectly transparent, in the midst of which was suspended a large carbuncle that, by the power of magic, continually turned round, and shed over all the hall a clear and mild light like the setting sun; but the hall was so large, and these dazzling objects so far removed, that their blended radiance cast no more than a pleasing lustre, and excited no other than agreeable sensations in the eyes of Child Rowland. The furniture of the hall was suitable to its architecture; and at the farther end, under a splendid canopy, seated on a gorgeous sofa of velvet, silk, and gold, and—

"Kembing her yellow hair wi' a silver kemb.
There was his sister burd Ellen;
She stood up him before."

Says —

"'God rue thee, poor luckless fode,[2]
What hast thou to do here?'


"And hear ye this, my youngest brither,
 Why badena ye at hame?
Had ye a hunder and thousand lives,
 Ye canno brook ane o' them.


"And sit thou down; and wae, O wae.
 That ever thou was born;
For come the King o' Elfland in,
 Thy leccam[3] is forlorn!"

A long conversation then takes place. Child Rowland tells her the news [of merry Carlisle] and of his own expedition, and concludes with the observation that, after his long and fatiguing journey to the castle of the King of Elfland, he is very hungry.

Burd Ellen looked wistfully and mournfully at him, and shook her head, but said nothing. Acting under the influence of a magic which she could not resist, she arose, and brought him a golden bowl full of bread and milk, which she presented to him with the same timid, tender, and anxious expression of solicitude.

Remembering the instructions of the Warluck Merhn. " Burd Ellen", said Child Rowland, "I will neither taste nor touch till I have set thee free!" Immediately the folding-doors burst open with tremendous violence, and in came the King of Elfland:

"With fi, fi, fo, and fum!
 I smell the blood of a Christian man!
Be he dead, be he living, wi' my brand
 I'll clash his harns frae his harn-pan! "

"Strike, then, Bogle of Hell, if thou darest! " exclaimed the undaunted Child Rowland, starting up, and drawing the good claymore [Excalibar], that never struck in vain.

A furious combat ensued, and the King of Elfland was felled to the ground, but Child Rowland spared him, on condition that he should restore him his two brothers, who lay in a trance in a corner of the hall, and his sister, the fair burd Ellen. The King of Elfland then produced a small crystal phial, containing a bright red liquor, with which he anointed the lips, nostrils, eyelids, ears, and finger-ends[4] of the two young men, who immediately awoke, as from a profound sleep, during which their souls had quitted their bodies, and they had seen, etc., etc., etc. So they all four returned in triumph to [merry Carlisle].

Such was the rude outline of the Romance of Child Rowland, as it was told to me when I was about seven or eight years old, by a country tailor then at work in my father's house. He was an ignorant and dull, good sort of honest man, who seemed never to have questioned the truth of what he related. Where the et cæteras are put down, many curious particulars have been omitted, because I was afraid of being deceived by my memory, and substituting one thing for another. It is right also to admonish the reader that "The Warluck Merlin, Child Rowland, and Burd Ellen" were the only names introduced in his recitation, and that the others inclosed within brackets are assumed upon the authority of the locality given to the story by the mention of Merlin. In every other respect I have been as faithful as possible.

It was recited in a sort of formal, drowsy, measured, monotonous recitative, mixing prose and verse, in the manner of the Icelandic Sagas, and as is still the manner of reciting tales and fabulas aniles in the winter evenings, not only among the Islanders, Norwegians, and Swedes, but also among the Lowlanders in the north of Scotland, and among the Highlanders and Irish. This peculiarity, so far as my memory could serve me, I have endeavoured to preserve; but of the verses which have been introduced, I cannot answer for the exactness of any, except the stanza put into the mouth of the King of Elfland, which was indelibly impressed upon my memory, long before I knew anything of Shakespeare, by the odd and whimsical manner in which the tailor curled up his nose, and sniffed all about, to imitate the action which "fi, fi, fo, fum!" is intended to represent.


Jamieson's reference to Shakespeare may lead us to direct our attention in the first place to the very distinguished literary history of our story, at least according to my opinion. Browning found in King Lear a line of dark import—

"Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower came,"

and made out of it a mystical poem. He little thought he was dealing with a fragment of a fairy tale. Yet there can be little doubt that Edgar, in his mad scene in King Lear, is alluding to our tale, which indeed has some faint analogy with its plot, when he breaks into the lines:

"Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower came ....
His word was still: 'Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British[5] man.'"
King Lear, act iii, sc. 4, ad fin.

The latter reference is to the cry of the King of Elfland. That some such story was current in England in Shakespeare's time, is proved by that curious mélange of nursery tales, Peele's The Old Wives' Tale. The main plot of this is the search of two brothers, Calopha and Thelea, for a lost sister, Delia, who has been bespelled by a sorcerer, Sacrapant (the names are taken from the Orlando Furioso). They are instructed by an old man (like Merlin in "Childe Rowland") how to rescue their sister, and ultimately succeed. The play has besides this the themes of the Thankful Dead, the Three Heads of the Well (which see), the Life Index, and a transformation; so that it is not to be wondered at if some of the traits of "Childe Rowland" are observed in it, especially as the name implies that it was made up of folk-tales.

But a still closer parallel is afforded by Milton's Comus. Here again we have two brothers in search of a sister, who has got into the power of an enchanter. But besides this, there is the refusal of the heroine to touch the enchanted food, just as Childe Rowland finally refuses. And ultimately the bespelled heroine is liberated by a liquid, which is applied to her lips and finger-tips, just as Childe Rowland's brothers are unspelled by applying a liquid to their eyelids, nostrils, lips, and finger-tips. Such a minute resemblance as this cannot be accidental, and it is therefore probable that Milton used the original form of "Childe Rowland", or some variant of it, as heard in his youth, and adapted it to the purposes of the masque at Ludlow Castle, and of his allegory. Certainly no other folk-tale in the world can claim so distinguished an offspring.

Whether this be so or no, these literary parallels prove at least that our tale has been told in these islands for at least 250 years, from Shakespeare's youth till

the date of the play; James I was declared King of Great Britain, October 1604. I may add that Motherwell, in his Minstrelsy, p. xiv, note, testifies that the story was still extant in the nursery at the time he wrote (1828).

Motherwell's time, who declares (supra, p. 189, n.) that it was recited in his day, 1828, in Scotch nurseries. This independent testimony saves us the trouble of investigating very closely the authenticity of Jamieson's version, even if his accompanying remarks did not prove, on the face of them, his obvious bona fides.

Here, then, we have happening in our own land what we folk-lorists so often assume to happen elsewhere. The story existed before Shakespeare, yet does not get written down till 200 years after his death. The mere fact that it is ultimately written down in the Lowlands of Scotland need not, I think, disturb us from the conclusion that it existed in Elizabethan England, for I have been able to trace every one of the folk-stories which are preserved in Lowland Scotch either to England or to the Highlands. The story of "Childe Rowland" does not, therefore, arise in Lowland Scotland, and as it is known by Shakespeare's quotation to have been in England in the sixteenth century, it is, notwithstanding all Saturday Reviewers may say, an English fairy tale. But it bears within it marks of still higher antiquity than the sixteenth century. Here we reach those points of contrast between Folk-tale and Customary Archæology with which Messrs. Gomme, Hartland, and Lang have familiarised us. We may profitably, I think, devote some attention to the "survivals" of archaic life, which are, I believe, to be found in unusual profusion in "Childe Rowland".

I. Unction of Extremities.—We may dismiss rather curtly the youngest antiquity. Jamieson has already noticed that the way in which Burd Ellen's elder brothers are restored to life by anointment of the seats of the five senses—"unction of the extremities" we might call it—is derived from the extreme unction of the Roman Catholic Church. This involves that the tale received its final form while England was still Roman Catholic, i.e., before the sixteenth century. It does not necessarily follow that this touch was a part of the original when first composed. We shall soon see, I think, that its atmosphere was not within the Christian fold. Jamieson remarks, in an off-hand manner, that extreme unction with blood was in use among the Goths long before the introduction of Christianity, but I have failed to find any authentic justification for this statement. It will be observed, however, that it was with "a bright red liquor" that the unction of the extremities was performed in our tale.

II. We may next take the notion contained in the curious word widershins. In my book I adopted a friend's suggestion that this word is derived from the words wider, against, and shine, "the course of the sun". For this I have been taken to task by my friend Mr. J. Gollonez in the Academy, who informs us, with an appalling array of Teutonic learning, that it is rather from wider, and a word sinn, equivalent to "sense", but the very existence of which in English has to be assumed ad hoc; so that the word simply means " contrariwise". On my pointing out that this does not explain the sh in "widershins", nor the special sense "opposite to the sun's course", Mr. Gollonez allows that "shine" had some influence on the word as a folk-etymology. "'Twas Tweedledum," I said. "No," says Mr. Gollonez, "'tis Tweedledee, with only an infusion of Tweedledum." But that etymology is so exact a science, one would feel tempted to smile.

But whether "contrariwise" or "counterclockwise", as the mathematicians say, the idea attached to zvidershins is ancient, though not archaic. It points to a time of opposition between Christendom and paganism. To do things in a way opposite to the Church way was to league oneself with the enemies of the Church. Hence the door of the Dark Tower opens to him that has gone round it three times widershins, just as the Devil appeared to those who said the Paternoster backwards. This element in the story points, then, to a time when Christianity was introduced into these islands, and had the upperhand.

III. Yet there are, seemingly, elements in it which must trace back long before that time for their origin. Our hero is the youngest of three brothers, yet he is called the childe or heir. Have we here a trace of the time when the youngest son was the heir?[6] That custom has left traces even upon English land, where it is known as "Borough English", and exists still, I believe, in some few English manors. Yet it most probably traces from the very earliest times when Englishmen were still wandering, and had not settled into tuns.

IV. The taboo against taking food in the enemy's land has something savage and archaic about it, as is the case with all taboos. It is an incident tolerably frequent in folk-tales or fairy tales, and there is a classical example of it in the myth of Persephone. Mr. Hartland, who has recently studied the matter, comes to the conclusion that there is some relation between the taboo against taking food in Elfland and that against eating the food of the dead. If we carried out this explanation in the present instance, it would follow that the Dark Tower—if we may so call the hilly palace of the Erlkönig of our tale—is the Underworld peopled by the dead, and the King of Elfland is a variant of Pluto. Our story would thus be another instance of the well-known theme of the Descent to Hell. This involves, of course, that Fairies are Ghosts, which needs an explanation why people should believe both in fairies and ghosts.

V. Against this there are certain indications in our story that tell for a recent theory of fairies that is more substantial in so far as it supposes them to have really existed. I refer to the recently published work of Mr. D. MacRitchie, The Testimony of Tradition (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.) i.e., of tradition about the fairies and the rest. Briefly put, Mr. MacRitchie's view is that the elves, trolls, and fairies represented in popular tradition are really the mound-dwellers, whose remains have been discovered in some abundance in the form of green hillocks, which have been artificially raised over a long and low passage leading to a central chamber open to the sky. Mr. MacRitchie shows that in several instances traditions about trolls or "good people" have attached themselves to mounds, which have afterwards on investigation turned out to be evidently the former residence of men of smaller build than the mortals of to-day. He goes on further to identify these with the Picts—fairies are called "Pechs" in Scotland—and other early races, but with these ethnological equations we need not much concern ourselves. It is otherwise with the mound-traditions and their relation, if not to fairy tales in general, to tales about fairies, trolls, elves, etc. These are very few in number, and generally bear the character of anecdotes. The fairies, etc., steal a child, they help a wanderer to a drink, and then disappear into a green hill; they help cottagers with their work at night, but disappear if their presence is noticed; human midwives are asked to help fairy mothers, fairy maidens marry ordinary men, or girls marry and live with fairy husbands. All such things may have happened, and bear no such à priori marks of impossibility as speaking animals, flying through the air, and similar incidents of the folk-tale pure and simple. If, as archæologists tell us, there was once a race of men in Northern Europe, very short and hairy, that dwelt in underground chambers artificially concealed by green hillocks, it does not seem unlikely that odd survivors of the race should have lived on after they had been conquered and nearly exterminated by Aryan invaders, and should occasionally have performed something like the pranks told of fairies and trolls.

VI. Certainly the description of the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland in "Childe Rowland" has a remarkable resemblance to the dwellings of the "good folk" which recent excavations have revealed. Mr. MacRitchie gives illustrations of one of the most interesting of these, the Maes How of Orkney; by his kindness I was enabled to reproduce this in my English Fairy Tales, page 243. This is a green mound some 100 feet in length and 35 in breadth at its broadest part. Tradition had long located a goblin in its centre, but it was not till 1861 that it was discovered to be pierced by a long passage 53 feet in length, and only two feet four inches high, for half of its length. This led into a central chamber 15 feet square and open to the sky.

Now it is remarkable how accurately all this corresponds to the Dark Tower of "Childe Rowland", allowing for a little idealisation on the part of the narrator. We have the long dark passage leading into the well-lit central chamber, and all enclosed in a green hill or mound. Mr. MacRitchie in a private communication points out that the brilliant decorations of the interior may have some connection with the brightly decorated mats hung on the walls of Esquimaux huts. This is perhaps going a little too much into minutiæ.

VII. Even such a minute touch as the terraces on the hill in our story have their bearing, I believe, on Mr. MacRitchie's "realistic" views of Faerie. For in quite another connection Mr. G. L. Gomme, in his recent Village Community (W. Scott), pp. 75-98, has given reasons and examples[7] for believing that terrace cultivation along the sides of hills was a practice of the non-Aryan and pre-Aryan inhabitants of these isles. Here, then, from a quarter quite unexpected by Mr. MacRitchie, we have evidence of the association of the King of Elfland with a non-Aryan mode of cultivation of the soil. By Mr. Gomme's kindness I was enabled to give an illustration of this in my English Fairy Tales, p. 244.

If there is anything in these points, our story may have a certain amount of historic basis, and give a record which history fails to give of the very earliest conflict of races in these isles. I do not wish to press the point unduly, but it certainly seems to me that it would be worth while seeing if there are any sufficient number of terraced hills with enclosed chambers that are associated in the popular mind with the fairies, elfs, pixies, "good folk", and the thousand-and-one other names the people give to these enigmatic beings. I have myself collected a list of the local names which are thus associated with fairies, and the near future may perhaps lead to something more tangible about the fairies than might be expected.

VIII. I have left to the last a trait that certainly seems archaic and savage, though I have no theory to account for it. It is the curious "off with their head" method by which Childe Rowland rewards the service of the herds and the hen-wife for telling him his way. Why this should be done on any folk-lore principles I am at a loss to understand.

The story of Childe Rowland would thus be an idealised account of a marriage by capture—another savage trait—by one of the pre-Aryan dwellers, with an Aryan maiden, and her recapture by her brothers, an incident which was probably not uncommon when the two races dwelt side by side, but in a state of permanent hostility. That is the conclusion that some of the above indications would lead us to if we study the tale merely with the view of tracing "survivals".

But there is another way of looking at it, that of the Science of Fairy Tales properly so-called, which deals with tales as tales, and without reference to their archæological references. This has first to do with the origin of the tale in the sense of asking when and where it was first told as a tale. Luckily here our problem is simple. There is nothing exactly parallel to the whole story outside England, so England was its original home.[8] The nearest parallel is the story of the Red Ettin, where we have the enchanted castle and the successful youngest brother. The latter trait is of course one of the most frequent of folk-tale formulæ; I have drawn out a list extending to some hundreds of tales in which the youngest son or daughter is successful after the elder ones had failed, but I am convinced that the choice of the youngest son as a hero is due to artistic, not archæological causes. But there is one contribution that the science of the folk-tale may make to the problem of antiquity which we have been hitherto discussing, and that is by directing our first attention to the form of "Childe Rowland".

This begins with verse, then turns to prose, and throughout drops again at intervals into poetry in a friendly way, like Mr. Wegg. Now this is a form of writing not unknown in other branches of literature, the cante-fable, of which "Aucassin et Nicolette" is the most distinguished example. Nor is the cante-fable confined to France. Many of the heroic verses of the Arabs contained in the Hamâsa would be unintelligible without accompanying narrative, which is nowadays preserved in the commentary. The verses imbedded in the Arabian Nights give them something of the character of a cante-fable, and the same may be said of the Indian and Persian story-books, though the verse is usually of a sententious and moral kind, as in the gâthas of the Buddhist Jatakas. The contemporary Hindoo storytellers, Mr. Hartland remarks, also commingle verse and prose. Even as remote as Zanzibar, Mr. Lang notes, the folk-tales are told as cante-fables. There are even traces in the Old Testament of such screeds of verse amid the prose narrative, as in the story of Lamech or that of Balaam. All this suggests that this is a very early and common form of narrative.

Among folk-tales there are still many traces of the cante-fable. Thus, in Grimm's collection, verses occur in Nos. 1, 5, 11, 12, 13, 15, 19, 21, 24, 28, 30, 36, 38a, b, 39a, 40, 45, 46, 47, out of the first fifty tales, 36 per cent. Of Chambers' twenty-one folk-tales, in the Popular Rhymes of Scotland, only five are without interspersed verses. Of the forty tales contained in my volume, thirteen contain rhymed lines, while four contain "survivals" of rhymes, and two others are rhythmical if not rhyming. As most of the remainder are drolls, which have probably a different origin, there seems to be great probability that originally all folk-tales of a serious character were interspersed with rhyme, and took therefore the form of the cante-fable. It is indeed unlikely that the ballad itself began as continuous verse, and the cante-fable is probably the protoplasm out of which both ballad and folk-tale have been differentiated, the ballad by omitting the narrative prose, the folk-tale by expanding it. In "Childe Rowland" we have the nearest example to such protoplasm, and it is not difficult to see how it could have been shortened into a ballad or reduced to a prose folk-tale pure and simple.

Thus a consideration of its form confirms our impression of the antiquity of our story even in its present form, and combines with our folk-lore discussion of the archaic elements of the tale to prove that in "Childe Rowland" we have the oldest of extant English fairy tales. That it is connected with such names as Shakespeare, Milton and Browning enables me to contend as I did at the beginning of this paper that "Childe Rowland" is the most interesting of our native fairy tales.

Joseph Jacobs.


  1. The Cathedral of Elgin, naturally enough, furnished similes to a man who had never in his life been twenty miles distant from it.—Jam.
  2. Fode—man.
  3. Leccam—body.
  4. This anointing the seats of the five senses seems borrowed from the sacrament of extreme unction in the Catholic Church; but extreme unction (with blood), lustration by water, the sign of the cross, breaking of bread, and drinking of wine, etc., were in use among the Goths long before the introduction of Christianity; and the Mitres of our bishops are lineally descended from the radiated turbans of the priests of Mithra, the Persian God of the Sun. The Rosary is used by the followers of Lama, among the Kalmucks, etc. —Jamieson.
  5. "British'" for "English". This is one of the points that settles the date of the play; James I was declared King of Great Britain, October 1604. I may add that Motherwell, in his Minstrelsy, p. xiv, note, testifies that the story was still extant in the nursery at the time he wrote (1828).
  6. Not too much stress need be laid upon this, however, owing to the conventional use of "Childe" in the Romances.
  7. To these may be added Iona (cf. Duke of Argyll, Iona, p. 109).
  8. The formula "Fee fi fo fum" is essentially English, though analogous ones occur almost everywhere, and can be traced as far back as Æschylus.