List of the Child Ballads

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"The Twa Corbies", an Arthur Rackham illustration of Child ballad 26.

The Child Ballads is the colloquial name given to a collection of 305 ballads collected in the 19th century by Francis James Child and originally published in ten volumes between 1882 and 1898 under the title The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. [1]

The ballads[edit]

Child ballads
Number Title Synopsis
1 Riddles Wisely Expounded A knight refuses to marry a young woman unless she can answer the riddles he poses. Or the Devil threatens to carry off a young woman (or women) unless his riddles are answered.
2 The Elfin Knight A man and woman ask each other to do a series of seemingly impossible tasks.
3 The Fause Knight Upon the Road A riddling exchange between a schoolboy and a "false knight," the devil in disguise.
4 Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight A man courts a woman and intends to kill her, but she turns the tables and kills him instead.
5 Gil Brenton
6 Willie's Lady A rank witch enchants her hated daughter-in-law so her baby will never be born. "Baby" is then made from loaf of wax, curses are overheard and removed, and a son is eventually born.
7 Earl Brand The hero, who may be Earl Brand, Lord Douglas, or Lord William, flees with the heroine, who may be Lady Margaret. A Carl Hood may betray them to her father, but they are always pursued. The hero kills the pursuers and is mortally wounded. He gets the heroine to his mother's house, but when he dies, she dies of sorrow.
8 Erlinton Erlinton imprisons his daughter in her bower, to keep her from sinning. She persuades her sister to go to the woods with her, and escapes her with her lover Willie. They are attacked, by knights or outlaws, but he fights and kills them all, and they escape.
9 The Fair Flower of Northumberland A knight persuades the Earl's daughter, the fair flower, to free him and come with him to Scotland, by promising to marry her. As soon as they reach his home, he tells her to return to Northumberland as he already has a wife and children. She pleads with him to take her as a servant, or to kill her, both of which he refuses. Terrified, she returns.
10 The Twa Sisters [or Minnorie or Binnorie] A man courts the eldest of a group of sisters while falling in love with the youngest. The eldest sister murders the younger out of jealousy, but the eldest is often punished in the end.
11 The Cruel Brother
12 Lord Randall A young man has a conversation with his mother in which it is revealed that he has been poisoned by his sweetheart.
13 Edward A young man has a conversation with a female relative in which it is revealed that he had killed a male relative. He then pronounces a punishment upon himself.
14 Babylon; or, The Bonnie Banks o Fordie A man meets three sisters and threatens to kill each one in turn if she will not be his wife. He kills the first two, but when he tries to kill the youngest, he finds that he is their brother and takes his own life.
15 Leesome Brand Leesome Brand went to court when ten years old. An eleven-year-old girl fell in love with him, but nine months later, called on him to saddle horses, take her dowry, and flee with her. They headed to his mother's house, but she went into labour on the way. He went off to hunt, but violated a prohibition she laid on him, either not to hunt a milk-white hind, or to come running when called, and she and his son died. He went home and lamented this to his mother.
16 Sheath and Knife A sister is pregnant with her brother's child. She asks him to kill her, or dies in childbirth. He buries both of them and grieves. The sheath and knife represent his sister and child.
17 Hind Horn A man leaves his sweetheart while in possession of a ring which will turn pale when she is unfaithful to him. When the ring grows pale, he comes back and finds that she is about to be married to someone else. He exchanges clothes with a beggar, begs for wine from her, and slips the ring in the glass. She recognizes him and abandons her bridegroom.
18 Sir Lionel
19 King Orfeo King Orfeo's wife is stolen away by the fairies. He plays his instrument for the fairies in order to win her back.
20 The Cruel Mother A young woman becomes pregnant while unmarried. She kills her child after it's born and later sees its ghost. Sometimes there are two children.
21 The Maid and the Palmer (The Samaritan Woman) A palmer begs a cup from a maid who is washing at the well, so that he could drink from. She says she has none. He says that she would have, if her lover came. She swore she had never had a lover. He says that she has borne six babies and tells her where she buried the bodies. She begs some penance from him. He tells her that she will be transformed into a stepping-stone for seven years, a bell-clapper for seven, and spends seven years in hell.
22 St. Stephen and Herod Depicts the martyrdom of Saint Stephen as occurring, with wild anachronism, under Herod the Great, and claims that that was the reason for St. Stephen's Day being the day after Christmas.
23 Judas Christ gives Judas 30 pieces of silver to buy food for the Apostles; on his way to the market, Judas is waylaid by his sister, who lulls him to sleep and steals the money. Unwilling to confess his loss, Judas sells Christ to the Romans for the same amount.
24 Bonnie Annie Annie, a merchant's daughter, falls in love with a sea captain and goes to sea with him, in some variants while pregnant. Something goes wrong, and they determine that Annie is the cause of it. She makes the captain throw her overboard. They escape, recover her body, and bury her.
25 Willie's Lyke-Wake Willie sets up his wake and lies in his winding cloth. His love discovers this and pleads with her father to let her go. When he does, and she enters the room, Willie rouses himself and declares that he will marry her at once.
26 The Three Ravens (or Twa Corbies) A number of ravens see a dead knight and speculate about how they either cannot eat him because his hawk, hounds, and lady are watching him, or can eat him because he has been abandoned.
27 The Whummil Bore The narrator served the king seven years and "saw his daughter only once" - meaning saw her naked, through a whummil bore. She was being dressed by her maids.
28 Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane Burd Ellen is weeping. Young Tamlane tells her to rock her son. She tells him to rock the child himself, she has done more than her share. Instead, he goes to sea, with her curse.
29 The Boy and the Mantle A boy comes to King Arthur's court with an enchanted mantle that can not be worn by an unfaithful wife. Guinevere dons it, and so does every other lady in the court; only one can wear it, and only after she confesses to kissing her husband before their marriage. Other boys also bring a wild boar, that can not be cut by a cuckold's knife, and a cup that a cuckold can not drink from without spilling it, and these also reveal that every wife at court has been unfaithful.
30 King Arthur and King Cornwall After bragging about the excellence of his famed Round Table, King Arthur is told by Guinevere that another king has an even better one. Arthur and his company leave their kingdom (here Brittany rather than Great Britain) in disguise searching for this king, and eventually come to Cornwall, where the resident monarch offends them with a series of boasts about his magical items, the child he fathered on Guinevere, and Arthur's comparative mediocrity. All go off to bed, and the Knights of the Round Table make a series of vows against Cornwall's boasts, such as Gawain's declaration that he will make off with Cornwall's daughter.
31 The Marriage of Sir Gawain Gawain marries a loathly lady in order to save King Arthur from death. It is later revealed that she is a beautiful lady under a spell.
32 King Henry
33 Kempy Kay
34 Kemp Owyne The heroine is turned into a worm (dragon), usually by her stepmother, who curses her to remain so until the king's son comes to kiss her three times. When he arrives, she offers him a belt, a ring, and a sword to kiss her, promising the things would magically protect him; the third time, she turns back into a woman. In some variants, he asks who enchanted her, a werewolf or mermaid; she says it was her stepmother and curses her into a monstrous creature, permanently.
35 Allison Gross It tells the story of "the ugliest witch in the north country" who tries to persuade a man to become her lover and then punishes him by a transformation.
36 The Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea A young man, transformed into a laily (loathly, or loathsome) worm, tells his story: his father married an evil woman as his stepmother, and she transformed him into a worm and his sister into a mackerel. His sister combed his hair every Saturday. He has killed seven knights, and if the man he was speaking to was not his father, he would be the eighth. His father sends for the stepmother, who claims his children are at court. He makes her use her silver wand to turn his son back, and then her magic horn to summon the fish, although the daughter holds back rather than let the stepmother transform her again. The father burns the stepmother at the stake.
37 Thomas Rymer A minstrel meets an elfin lady under a tree and has to serve her in elf land for seven years.
38 The Wee Wee Man The narrator meets with a wee, wee man. He lifts an enormous stone and throws it, and she thinks that if she were as strong as Wallace, she could have lifted it to her knee. She asks him where he lives, and he has her come with him to a hall where there is a lady, sometimes explicitly called the fairy queen, and her ladies, usually twenty-four and so beautiful that the ugliest would make a fit queen of Scotland, but they, and the wee, wee man, instantly vanish.
39 Tam Lin A young woman saves her lover from being used for the teind on Hallows Eve.
40 The Queen of Elfan's Nourice A mortal woman laments being taken from her four-day-old son. The Queen of Elfland promises that if she nurses the queen's child, she will be returned. The Queen then points out their path: the road to Elfland, rather than to Heaven or Hell.
41 Hind Etin Lady Margaret goes to the woods, and her breaking a branch is questioned by Hind Etin, who takes her with him into the forest. She bears him seven sons, but laments that they are never christened, nor she herself churched. One day, her oldest son goes hunting with Hind Etin and asks him why his mother always weeps. Hind Etin tells him, and then one day goes hunting without him. The oldest son takes his mother and brothers and brings them out of the woods. In some variants, they are welcomed back; in all, the children are christened, and their mother, churched.
42 Clerk Corvill Clerk Colvill, ignoring the advice of his lady or his mother, goes to a body of water, where a mermaid seduces him. His head starts to ache, and the mermaid tells him he will die of it. He goes home and dies. In some variants, she offers that he may go to sea with her instead of dying, at the end, and he refuses.
43 The Broomfield Hill A man and a woman make a wager, that she can not visit him in the greenwood without losing her virginity, or she makes a tryst and realizes she can either stay and be foresworn, or go and lose her virginity. She goes, sometimes after advice from a witch-wife, and puts him in an enchanted sleep; then, leaving tokens that she had come and gone. He wakes and taxes those with him—his goshawk, his servingmen, his horse, or his hound—that they did not wake him, but they answer it was impossible. He is angry that he did not manage to take her virginity and, in many variants, murder her afterward.
44 The Twa Magicians A blacksmith threatens to deflower (take the virginity of) a lady, who vows to keep herself a maiden. A transformation chase ensues, differing in several variants, but containing such things as she becomes a hare, and he catches her as greyhound, she became a duck and he became either a water dog or a drake. In the Child version of the ballad she does not escape, but in other common renderings, she does.
45 King John and the Bishop
46 Captain Wedderburn's Courtship Versions differ, but generally a captain meets a lady walking in the woods or through an estate. Sometimes he takes her to where he is staying. In all variants, she says she will not marry or sleep with him without his answering riddles. She asks them. He answers them all, and they are married and/or he takes her to bed.
47 Proud Lady Margaret A man arrives at the heroine's castle to woo her. She is frequently critical of him, on the grounds that his clothing shows him to be no gentleman. In most variants, he taxes her with riddles such as "What's the first thing in flower?" (primrose), and in the end, she accepts his suit. He reveals that he is her brother and a ghost, sometimes after she has said she will go with him and he must forbid, as it will kill her. He tells her he has come to curb her haughtiness.
48 Young Andrew Andrew seduces Helen and tells her he will fulfill his promise to marry her only if she brings him her father's gold. She does. He robs her not only of it but all her clothing. She goes home, naked. Her father is furious. Her heart breaks, killing her, and her father regrets it. Meanwhile, Andrew encountered a wolf in the woods, and it killed him; the gold still lies by his body.
49 The Twa Brothers Two brothers are wrestling when a blade that one of them is carrying mortally wounds the other; occasionally, one of them stabs the other intentionally. Attempts to staunch the blood are not successful, and the dying brother tells the living one (usually) how to bury him, and (always) a long list of excuses to give the rest of the family, about his traveling to distant locations, to avoid admitting his death, ending with the injunction to tell his true love the truth.
50 The Bonny Hind A squire persuades a maiden to lie with him. Afterward, she asks his name, and he reveals that he is a lord's son. She calls him a liar: she is that lord's daughter. The horror-struck son reveals that he was long at sea. She stabs herself to death, and he buries her. He goes home and grieves for a "bonny hind" whatever his father can do to distract him.
51 Lizie Wan The heroine—Lizie, Rosie, Lucy—is pregnant with her brother's child. Her brother murders her. He tries to pass off the blood as some animal he had killed—his greyhound, his falcon, his horse—but in the end must admit that he murdered her. He sets sail in a ship, never to return.
52 The King's Dochter Lady Jean The heroine goes to the woods. A man meets her, tries to woo her, and rapes her. He asks her name, and they learn that they are brother and sister. In some variants, he kills her; in most, she goes home, and is tasked by her family for why she ails, and she and her brother both die when they meet there.
53 Young Beichan [or Young Bekie]
54 The Cherry-Tree Carol Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks her husband Joseph to pick her fruit from a tree. When he refuses, Jesus causes the tree to bend its branches down to her.
55 The Carnal and the Crane A carnal tells a crane about the birth of Jesus: that he was born in a stable, of a virgin, and slept in a manger; that the Magi told King Herod of the birth, Herod said that if it were true, the cock on his table would revive and crow, and the cock did so; that Herod ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, that St. Joseph had to flee to Egypt and beasts worshiped Jesus on the way; that a husbandman's seed were miraculously sown and brought to harvest when Jesus passed, he reported that to Herod, and Herod, assuming that the growth has been natural, pulled back because he would never have been able to catch them if they were three-quarters of the year ahead.
56 Dives and Lazarus The rich man Dives or Diverus makes a feast. The poor man Lazarus comes to Dives' door and repeatedly begs 'brother Dives' to give him something to eat and drink. Dives answers that he is not the brother of Lazarus, denies Lazarus food and drink, and sends his servants to whip him and his dogs to bite him. However, the servants are unable to whip Lazarus, and the dogs lick his sores instead of biting him. As both men die angels fetch Lazarus to heaven, and serpents take Dives to hell. In version A, Dives asks Lazarus for a drop of water, and complains about his eternal punishment.
57 Brown Robyn's Confession Brown Robyn goes to sea. On shipboard, they are unable to see any lights in the sky. They "cast kevels"[clarification needed] which indicated that it was because of Brown Robyn. He confesses to incestous relations with his mother (who bore him two children) and his sister (who bore five), or, in other variants, to killing his father. He tells them to tie him to a piece of wood and let him sink or swim. He swims. Our Blessed Lady, with her "dear young son", appears to him and asks him if he would return to his men or come to heaven with her and her child. He asks to go to heaven. She tells him that it is not for any good he has done but for confessing his sin that he may come.
58 Sir Patrick Spens Sir Patrick is ordered by the king to bring the King of Norway's daughter home. A storm comes up while they are sailing back to Scotland from Norway and the crew of the ship are drowned.
59 Sir Aldingar Sir Aldingar is spurned by the queen and attempts to get revenge on her by putting a leper in her bed. A child saves her from the stake by championing her in a trial by combat.
60 King Estmere King Estmere's brother Alder the Younger urges him to marry King Adland's daughter, and suggests that he look at the lady himself, rather than be deceived by any description. Once there, King Adland warns them that she put off the King of Spain, but he has her come down and she agrees to marry him, despite the threats of the King of Spain. King Estmere leaves, the King of Spain attacks, and the daughter sent a page after King Estmere to warn him of her danger. Adler is the son of a magician-woman and enchants King Estmere into the shape of a harper and himself into his boy. They infiltrate the castle, Alder kills the King of Spain, and the two fight off all his men. King Estmere and the daughter marry.
61 Sir Cawline
62 Fair Annie A lord tells Fair Annie to prepare a welcome for his bride, and to look like a maiden. Annie laments that she has borne him seven sons and is pregnant with the eighth; she can not look like a maiden. She welcomes the bride but laments her fate, even wishing her sons evil, that they might be rats and she a cat. The bride comes to ask her why she grieves, and then asks her what her family was before the lord stole her. Then she reveals that she is Annie's full sister and will give her her dowry, so that Annie can marry the lord instead of her; she is a maiden still and so can return home.
63 Child Waters
64 Fair Janet
65 Lady Maisry
66 Lord Ingram and Chiel Wyet
67 Glasgerion
68 Young Hunting
69 Clerk Saunders
70 Willie and Lady Maisry
71 The Bent Sae Brown
72 The Clerk's Twa Sons O Owsenford
73 Lord Thomas and Fair Annet
74 Fair Margaret and Sweet William
75 Lord Lovel A lord tells his lady he is going away. After a time he longs to see her so he returns, hears of her death and dies of grief. They are buried together and a lovers' knot grows.
76 The Lass of Roch Royal
77 Sweet William's Ghost
78 The Unquiet Grave
79 The Wife of Usher's Well
80 Old Robin of Portingale
81 Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (or "Matty Groves") A noble lady seduces a commoner. They are caught in bed by her husband who kills her lover in a duel. He then also kills her after she expresses a continuing preference for the lover over him.
82 The Bonny Birdy
83 Child Maurice
84 Bonny Barbara Allen
85 Lady Alice
86 Young Benjie
87 Prince Robert
88 Young Johnstone
89 Fause Foodrage
90 Jellon Grame
91 Fair Mary of Wallington
92 Bonny Bee Hom
93 Lamkin
94 Young Waters
95 The Maid Freed from the Gallows
96 The Gay Goshawk
97 Brown Robin
98 Brown Adam
99 Johnie Scot
100 Willie O Winsbury
101 Willie O Douglas Dale
102 Willie and the Earl Richard's Daughter
103 Rose the Red and White Lily
104 Prince Heathen
105 The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington
106 The Famous Flower of Serving-Men
107 Will Stewart and John
108 Christopher White
109 Tom Potts
110 The Knight and Shepherd's Daughter
111 Crow and Pie
112 The Baffled Knight
113 The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
114 Johnie Cock Despite his mother's warning, the titular character goes poaching in woods. He is betrayed to a group of foresters, but fights them off.
115 Robyn and Gandeleyn
116 Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly
117 A Gest of Robyn Hode
118 Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne
119 Robin Hood and the Monk
120 Robin Hood's Death
121 Robin Hood and the Potter
122 Robin Hood and the Butcher
123 Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
124 The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield
125 Robin Hood and Little John
126 Robin Hood and the Tanner
127 Robin Hood and the Tinker
128 Robin Hood and the Newly Revived
129 Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon
130 Robin Hood and the Scotchman
131 Robin Hood and the Ranger
132 The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood
133 Robin Hood and the Beggar, I
134 Robin Hood and the Beggar, II
135 Robin Hood and the Shepherd
136 Robin Hood's Delight
137 Robin Hood and the Pedlars
138 Robin Hood and Allan-a-Dale
139 Robin Hood's Progress to Nottingham
140 Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires
141 Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly
142 Little John a Begging
143 Robin Hood and the Bishop
144 Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford
145 Robin Hood and Queen Katherine
146 Robin Hood's Chase
147 Robin Hood's Golden Prize
148 The Noble Fisherman, or, Robin Hood's Preferment
149 Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding, Valor and Marriage
150 Robin Hood and Maid Marian
151 The King's Disguise, and Friendship with Robin Hood
152 Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow
153 Robin Hood and the Valiant Knight
154 A True Tale of Robin Hood
155 Sir Hugh, or, The Jew's Daughter
156 Queen Elanor's Confession
157 Gude Wallace
158 Hugh Spencer's Feats in France
159 Durham Ford
160 The Knight of Liddesdale
161 The Battle of Otterburn
162 The Hunting of Cheviot (The Ballad of Chevy Chase)
163 The Battle of Harlaw
164 King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France
165 Sir John Butler
166 The Rose of England
167 Sir Andrew Barton
168 Flodden Field (describes the Battle of Flodden Field)
169 Johnie Armstrong
170 The Death of Queen Jane
171 Thomas Cromwell
172 Musselburgh Field
173 Mary Hamilton
174 Earl Bothwell
175 The Rising of the North
176 Northumberland Betrayed By Douglas
177 The Earl of Westmoreland
178 Captain Car, or, Edom o Gordon
179 Rookhope Ryde
180 King James and Brown
181 The Bonny Earl of Murray
182 The Laird O Logie
183 Willie MacIntosh
184 The Lads of Wamphray
185 Dick o the Cow
186 Kinmont Willie
187 Jock o the Side
188 Archie o Cawfield
189 Hobie Noble
190 Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead
191 Hughie Grame
192 The Lochmaben Harper
193 The Death of Parcy Reed
194 The Laird of Wairston
195 Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight
196 The Fire of Frendraught
197 James Grant
198 Bonny John Seton
199 The Bonnie House o Airlie
200 The Gypsy Laddie
201 Bessy Bell and Mary Gray
202 The Battle of Philiphaugh
203 The Baron of Brackley
204 Jamie Douglas
205 Loudon Hill, or, Drumclog (recounts the events of the Battle of Drumclog)
206 Bothwell Bridge
207 Lord Delamere
208 Lord Derwentwater
209 Geordie
210 Bonnie James Campbell
211 Bewick and Graham
212 The Duke of Athole's Nurse
213 Sir James the Rose
214 The Braes o Yarrow
215 Rare Willie Drowned in Yarrow, or, the Water o Gamrie
216 The Mother's Malison, or, Clyde's Water
217 Broom of the Cowdenknowes
218 The False Lover Won Back
219 The Gardener
220 The Bonny Lass of Anglesey
221 Katharine Jaffray
222 Bonny Baby Livingstone
223 Eppie Morrie
224 The Lady of Arngosk
225 Rob Roy
226 Lizie Lindsay
227 Bonny Lizie Baillie
228 Glasgow Peggie
229 Earl Crawford
230 The Slaughter of the Laird of Mellerstain
231 The Earl of Errol
232 Richie Story
233 Andrew Lammie
234 Charlie MacPherson
235 The Earl of Aboyne
236 The Laird o Drum
237 The Duke of Gordon's Daughter
238 Glenlogie, or, Jean o Bethelnie
239 Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie
240 The Rantin Laddie
241 The Baron o Leys
242 The Coble o Cargill
243 James Harris (The Daemon Lover)
244 James Hatley
245 Young Allan
246 Redesdale and Wise William
247 Lady Elspat
248 The Grey Cock, or, Saw You My Father?
249 Auld Matrons
250 Henry Martyn [aka Henry Martin]
251 Lang Johnny More
252 The Kitchie-Boy
253 Thomas o Yonderdale
254 Lord William, or, Lord Lundy
255 Willie's Fatal Visit
256 Alison and Willie
257 Burd Isabel and Earl Patrick
258 Broughty Wa's
259 Lord Thomas Stuart
260 Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret
261 Lady Isabel
262 Lord Livingstone
263 The New-Slain Knight
264 The White Fisher
265 The Knight's Ghost
266 John Thomson and the Turk
267 The Heir of Linne
268 The Twa Knights
269 Lady Diamond
270 The Earl of Mar's Daughter
271 The Lord of Lorn and the Flas Steward
272 The Suffolk Miracle
273 King Edward the Fourth and a Tanner of Tamworth
274 Our Goodman
275 Get Up and Bar the Door
276 The Friar in the Well
277 The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin
278 The Farmer's Curst Wife
279 The Jolly Beggar
280 The Beggar-Laddie
281 The Keach i the Creel
282 Jock the Leg and the Merry Merchant
283 The Crafty Farmer
284 John Dory
285 The George Aloe and the Sweepstake
286 The Sweet Trinity (The Golden Vanity)
287 Captain Ward and the Rainbow
288 The Young Earl of Essex's Victory over the Emperor of Germany
289 The Mermaid
290 The Wylie Wife of the Hie Toun Hie
291 Child Owlet
292 The West Country Damosel's Complaint
293 John of Hazelgreen
294 Dugall Quin
295 The Brown Girl
296 Walter Lesly
297 Earl Rothes
298 Young Peggy Peggy secretly meets her lover, Jamie, against her family's wishes. They run away to get married. Peggy's father gives chase but by the time he catches up the wedding papers are signed.
299 Trooper and Maid
300 Blancheflour and Jollyflorice
301 The Queen of Scotland
302 Young Bearwell
303 The Holy Nunnery
304 Young Ronald
305 The Outlaw Murray


  1. ^ Fumerton, Patricia; Guerrini, Anita; McAbee, Kris (2010). Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500–1800. Ashgate Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 0-7546-6248-9.