Young Beichan

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Illustration by Arthur Rackham: Young Beckie in prison.

"Young Beichan" is a ballad, which with a number of variants and names such as "Lord Baker", "Lord Bateman", and "Young Bekie", was collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century, and is included in the Child ballad as number 53 (Roud 40).[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Illustration by Arthur Rackham: Burd Isobel woken by Belly Blin, with the warning that Young Beckie is about to marry.

Beichan is born in London but travels to far lands. He is taken prisoner, with different captors appearing in different variations, usually being a Moor, though sometimes the king of France after Beichan fell in love with his daughter. Lamenting his fate, Beichan promises to be a son to any married woman who will rescue him, or a husband to an unmarried one. The daughter of his captor rescues him, and he leaves, promising to marry her.

He does not return. She sets out after him — in some variants, because warned by a household spirit, Belly Blin, that he is about to marry — and arrives as he is marrying another. In some variants, he is constrained to marry; often he is fickle. His porter tells him of a woman at his gate, and he instantly realizes it is the woman who rescued him. He sends his new bride home and marries her.

Variants[edit]

Elinborg waiting for Paetur, in a Faroese variant.

This ballad is also known in Norse, Spanish, and Italian variants.[2]

A Scandavian variant, "Harra Pætur & Elinborg", the hero set out on a pilgrimage, after asking the heroine, his betrothed, how long she would wait for him; she says, eight years. After the eight years, she sets out and the rest of the ballad is the same, except that Paetur has a reason for his fickleness: he was magically made to forget.[3]

The motif of a hero magically made to forget his love and remembering her on her appearance is common; it may even have been dropped from "Young Beichan", as the hero always returns to the heroine with a promptness of an enchantment breaking.[4] Other folktales with this motif include Jean, the Soldier, and Eulalie, the Devil's Daughter, The Two Kings' Children, The Master Maid, Anthousa, Xanthousa, Chrisomalousa, Snow-White-Fire-Red, The True Bride, and Sweetheart Roland.

Recordings[edit]

In 1908 Percy Grainger visited Brigg and used a wax cylinder recording machine to make two recordings of this song. One was by Joseph Taylor (born 1832) and another by a "Mr Thompson". They are among the earliest known recordings of folk songs.

It was recorded by:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "Young Beichan"
  2. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 459, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  3. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 459-61, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 461, Dover Publications, New York 1965

External links[edit]