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The Cruel Mother

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Performer: Brazil, Danny
Place Collected: Staverton
Date collected: 1979 (19 Feb)
Roud Number: 9
Other Numbers: Child 20

This widespread, popular English ballad was first printed towards the end of the seventeenth century by Jonah Deacon in London as The Duke’s Daughter’s Cruelty. It is there set in York and this setting has proved quite constant in later versions. Some time in the eighteenth century stanzas from Child 21 The Maid and the Palmer were appended to it in Scotland. These stanzas have the mother asking for and being given complex penances for her crime. The ballad was translated into Danish c1840 and then passed into Danish oral tradition. Highly modernised children’s versions were collected from oral tradition in the twentieth century.

Notes by Steve Gardham