The Twa Brothers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"The Twa Brothers" is Child ballad 49, Roud 38. existing in many variants.[1]


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.

Some variants end there.

In others, the living brother is taxed with the blood—as in "Edward" and "Lizie Wan"—and attempts to tell false tales do not work. He usually leaves, never to return.

In still others, the true love laments him so long that it disturbs the dead man in his grave, or she wants a kiss from the dead man—as in "The Unquiet Grave" or some variants of "Sweet William's Ghost"—and he asks her to stop and let him rest, or refuses it because it will kill her. In the American variant "The Rolling of the Stones", she "charmed her true love out of his grave."


This ballad, in several variants, contains most of the ballad "Edward", Child 13.[2]



  1. ^ Francis James Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, "The Twa Brothers"
  2. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 167, Dover Publications, New York 1965

External links[edit]