Thank you, James Frances Child.
Born in 1825, this son of a sailmaker* went to Harvard on scholarship and later put his passion into studying and collecting the folk songs of Scotland and England. Starting in 1882, he published ten volumes of English and Scottish Ballads with notes and side-by-side commentary about multiple versions of 305 songs.
He categorized the ballads by theme ("Supernatural Beings," "Tragic Other than Love," "Humor," etc.) and numbered them. For example, Child #26 is "The Twa Corries" also "The Three Ravens," a song from before 1600 about carrion birds discussing their future meal of the body of a fallen knight.
Child #39 is "Tam Lin," which has a dozen versions of the story in which a spunky maiden must save the handsome human knight she loves from his doom as a prisoner of the court of Elfland. Some may remember Sandy Dennys of Fairport Convention singing it. The story of Janet (or Margaret, depending on the version) and her knight has inspired a handful of recent novels, including two that I like very much:
It's funny and suspenseful and –– like so many of Jones' novels –– very cleverly plotted. As I lift the book from my shelf, I see that I purchased it from The Strand Bookstore for $2.
Chosen simply because it was published by Greenwillow Books, which was then run by one of my publishing idols, Susan Hirschman, it has been a happy find and a great bargain.
A sort of literary child of Child.
(* No, really...
Which make these also the grandkids of a sailmaker.)
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