Bonny Helen Symon
DESCRIPTION: "There are three lads into this braes... They made an oath to take her frae us, I do mean Helen Symon." They want her not for money but for her beauty. They take her away on a horse. She eventually marries (one of them,) George
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (broadside, according to Lyle)
KEYWORDS: abduction horse beauty foreignlanguage
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Emily Lyle, _Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition_, Wissenschaflicher Verlag Trier, 2007, pp, 253-254, "The Abduction of Nelly Symon" (1 short text, perhaps partly Gaelic); pp. 255-257, "Bonny Helen Symon" (1 text plus a reduced copy of a British Library broadside)
NOTES [156 words]: The extant copies of this song don't really make it clear what is going on -- just what role was Helen Symon's role in this? Was she willing to be abducted? And who did she choose to marry, and how? Unless additional versions come to light, we may not be able to find out. Lyle thinks she married one of her abductors, which is indeed the most obvious interpretation, but as I read the broadside, it seemed to me that there was a gap where a verse had probably been lost, and this missing verse might have had her marry one of her rescuers instead.
Lyle considers this to be earlier than any of the four abduction ballads with which she links it: "Bonny Baby Livingston" [Child 222]; "Eppie Morrie" [Child 223]; "The Lady of Arngosk" [Child 224]; and "Rob Roy" [Child 225].
Abductions for dowry were not rare in Scotland. Abductions of a woman for her looks, especially with three or four men involved, strike me as much more peculiar. - RBW
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