Jul. 9th, 2016

ritaxis: (hat)
I was just singing along to myself and I hit upon the deeply weird little ballad "The Lady of Carlisle"--a high-tone lady chooses between suitors by asking them to retrieve her fan from a lion's den, and one of them accepts--and I started thinking about the song in a new and different way. Literary types like to have the brave fellow retrieve the item (which might be a glove or a handkerchief rather than a fan) and give it to the lady along with a refusal to marry her on the grounds that a woman who would do that is not one you'd want to spend your life with. Folk tradition usually has her throw herself in his arms saying "Here's the prize that you have won," the end, implied happy ever after.

But I was thinking about this other detail in the traditional versions. Before the toss, she "lies speechless on the ground" for half an hour while the fellows stand around gaping. I started wondering about this. The introductory verses explain that she's pretty reluctant to marry in the first place. What if the whole thing is either an expression of that reluctance, or possibly an attempt to get both her suitors to give up in disgust and leave her free to continue in spinsterhood? She's be able to say, "Well, I tried, but nobody would meet me halfway..."

And then she doesn't have to subject herself to the whim of the bold sea captain or the brave lieutenant!

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