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]


  • The Blue Velvet Band recorded this song as “The Knight Upon the Road” on Sweet Moments (1969).
  • Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded this song as “False Knight on the Road” on "Summer Solstice" (1971).
  • Steeleye Span recorded this song as “False Knight on the Road” on ‘’Please to See the King’’ (1971) and ‘’Live at Last’’ (1978).
  • The School of Scottish Studies issued three fragments sung by Bella Higgins, Duncan McPhee and Nellie MacGregor on “The Muckle Sangs: Claasic Scots Ballads" (1975).
  • Oysterband recorded this song on the CD ‘’The Oxford Girl & Other Stories (2008) and on the CD Single "This Is The Voice" (1999).
  • Jane Siberry recorded her own variant of the song on her 2000 album Hush. The song was retitled "False False Fly" and the boy protagonist recast as a girl.
  • Stephan Said recorded "The False Knight on the Road" and a version re-written as an anti-war anthem on the 2002 EP The Bell which included Pete Seeger and Tara Nevins.
  • Fleet Foxes recorded this song as the b-side to the 7" release of "Mykonos" in 2009. This version features different lyrics to the original.
  • Richard Thompson has performed a version of this song on recent[when?] tours.
  • Matt Ender issued an album "Miles of Skye" with this song titled "The False Fly."
  • Barry Gleeson issued an album "Path across the ocean" with this song titled "The false, false fly."
  • Gilmore & Roberts recorded an arrangement of this song on their 2012 album The Innocent Left. It was entitled False Knight and again recast the protagonist as a girl.
  • John Langstaff recorded a version of this song on Nottamun Town (EMI 1964, remaster 2003).


  • Runa recorded this song as "The False Knight on the Road" on "Current Affairs" in 2014.
  • 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]