The Fause Knight Upon the Road

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The Fause Knight Upon the Road is a British ballad, collected and published as Child ballad 3, Roud 20. It features a riddling exchange between a schoolboy and a "false knight," the devil in disguise.[1]


The knight asks the boy where he is going, and what he is carrying (books). He asks after the sheep, which belong to the boy and his mother, and how many belong to the knight—as many as have blue tails. The knight may wish him in a tree, the boy to have a ladder, the knight to have it break, and so on.

Throughout any exchange, the boy is described as standing fast. This appears to be the condition that will save him.


The boy's ability to evade the devil may spring from the devil's inability to dumbfound him; gaining power over people by this means is a motif found in other folktales.[2]

A Swedish variant features the little boy, but an old woman, presumably a witch, in the place of the knight.[2]

Recordings and Settings[edit]



  • Set by Benjamin Britten in his Eight Folk Song Arrangements (for high voice and harp). There is a recording of this by Philip Langridge and Osian Ellis on #13 of the Naxos English Song Series (8.557222 - Originally released by Collins Classics)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "The Fause Knight Upon the Road"
  2. ^ a b Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 20, Dover Publications, New York 1965

External links[edit]