The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 1/Notes, Queries, Notices, and News (pp. 166-8)


Notes on the Robin-cycle.—In Mélusine, pp. 193-196, there is printed a Breton song, "Les Noces du Roitelet," which is evidently connected with the English Robin and Wren cycle. All the birds are bidden to the wren's wedding, and each one is to bring some gift, as the bridegroom is not rich. The cock comes and sings before the wedding procession, the rook brings bread, the crow a lighted torch? the magpie a piece of meat, the jay a flask of wine, the woodcock acts as priest, the snipe as bell-ringer, the cuckoo comes with a drum, the nightingale sings songs, the sparrowhawk is water-carrier, the black-bird brings money, the thrush will beg for them, the starling will carry a faggot, the kite comes with the dove, the lark sings across the river, the yellow-hammer near the door, the swallow on the house-top, linnet and starling come together, finch and hoopoe, all birds were present, but one stayed away. This song is apparently only found in Brittany, at least I have not met with it in any purely French collection. The points of contact with the two English rhymes, "The Wedding of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren" and "The Death and Burial of Cock Robin" are too obvious to need pointing out in detail.—An Irish friend told me many years ago a sequel to the "Death of Cock Robin." Each part of Robin's body is mentioned, and it is asked what shall be done with it. The answers run thus:

What shall we make of his blood?
"Paint, paint," said Flibbertigibbet;
"Paint, paint," said Tippetywitchet;
"Paint, paint," said Peter Malone;
And "Paint, paint," said everyone.

A spoon is made of his beak, quill pens of his feathers, &c. Can any one tell me if this has been printed, or point out a song with a similar refrain?Alfred Nutt.

The Witch Spell on Cattle (p. 57).—In connection with Mr. Gregor's story, an extract from Ellis's Modern Husbandman[1] should be noted. Although in the case there cited the charm had no effect, the modus operandi shows that a belief similar to that given by Mr. Gregor was to be found in Huntingdonshire about 1750.

Ancient Superstitions in Tiree.—Mr. J. Sands, who has been spending some time in the Island of Tiree, says that certain houses are still believed to be haunted by fairies, although it is only gifted individuals who can see them. In one cabin they were wont to sit in swarms upon the rafters, and had the impudence even to drop down now and again and seize a potato out of the pot. Eventually they became such a nuisance that the tenant of the house determined to build a new dwelling and to abandon the old one. Unfortunately, when the new cabin was almost finished, be took a stone out of the haunted hut, with the result that all the fairies came along with it, so that his new home was as much infested as the old one had been. This is only a sample of many ancient superstitions which, according to Mr. Sands, still linger among the people of Tiree. Marriage parties, for example, still take care to turn to the right hand, and not to the left, when they enter the church; and the same rule is observed when a body is laid in the grave. When boats are launched from the shore the bow is brought round, although it may be a little inconvenient, agreeably to the apparent course of the sun. Nine is regarded as a sacred number. Water taken from the crests of nine waves, and in which nine stones had been boiled, is an infallible cure for the jaundice. The shirt of the patient, after being dipped in this magic infusion, is put on wet. Mr. Sands says he was personally acquainted with a man on whom this remedy was recently tried, but without effect, as he was on the brink of death. Water taken from nine springs or streams in which cresses grow is also believed to be an effectual cure for jaundice. On the west side of the island there is a rock with a hole in it through which children are passed when suffering from whooping-cough or other complaints. Sick cattle are treated in a curious way. The doctor being provided with a cog of cream and an oatcake, sits on the sick cow or other animal, and repeats a verse nine times, nine times taking a bit and a sup between each repetition of the rhyme. The cream and the bannock are the doctor's fee. Mr. Sands asserts that about five years ago a woman left her child, which she supposed to be a changeling, upon the shore, that it might be taken away by the fairies and her own infant restored; and he adds that at the present time a minister on the island has refused to baptise the children of a parishioner because he swears that a woman has bewitched his cows, and abstracted the virtue from the milk.—North British Mail (Glasgow), March 20th, 1883.

Les Litteratures populaires de toutes les nations:—Vol. xi., Littérature orale de la Basse-Normandie, par Jean Fleury,—Vol. xii., Gargantua dans les traditions populaires, par Paul Sébillot. Paris. Maisonneuve. 1883.

The two works of which the titles are given above are the latest additions to Messrs. Maisonneuve's excellent folk-lore library, and are in every way worthy of being placed by the side of the previous volumes. M. Fleury gives a choice of local traditions, folk-tales, folk-songs, with and without music, proverbs and riddles, many of which present new and interesting features. M. Sébillot's work is devoted to proving the traditional existence of Gargantua, and to classifying the facts concerning him which the author has collected from every part of France. M. Sébillot's researches leave little room for doubt as to the genuine folk-character of the traditions about Rabelais' hero.

Folk Tale Tabulation.—Mr. Edward Clodd has undertaken to tabulate Miss Frere's Old Deccan Days, and Miss Stokes's Indian Fairy Tales. The following tabulations have been received: "The Crimson Rock," "Uncle Curro and his Club," "Spirits of the Departed," "Lucifer's Ear," "Dame Fortune and Sir Money," "John Soldier," "Good and Bad Fortune," from Caballero's Cuentos y Poesias Populares Andaluces, by Mr. J. William Crombie; and "The Beautiful Glutton," "The Fairies' Sieve," "The Three Golden Apples," "The Little Convent of Cats," from Tuscan Fairy Tales; "Story of Long Snake," "The Lion and the Ostrich," "Story of Little Red Stomach," and three others without titles from South African Folk-Lore Journal, by Mr. G. L. Apperson.

Messrs G. Bell and Sons have issued the second volume of Stallybrass's translation of Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie.

In Messrs. Macmillan and Go's four-and-sixpenny series will appear a volume of Folk-Tales of Bengal, by the Rev. Lai Behari Day, author of Bengal Peasant Life.

  1. Folk-Lore Record, vol. iii. p. 86.