Kemp Owyne [Child 34]
DESCRIPTION: When her mother dies, Isabel's father marries a vile woman who abuses and enchants her till Kemp Owyne shall rescue her. Owyne comes and sees a hideous beast. Despite her appearance, despite threats, he kisses her three times and restores her
EARLIEST DATE: 1783/1799 (GordonBrown/Rieuwerts)
KEYWORDS: shape-changing magic separation love rescue stepmother
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Child 34, "Kemp Owyne" (3 texts)
Bronson 34, "Kemp Owyne" (1 version)
BronsonSinging 34, "Kempion" (1 version)
GordonBrown/Rieuwerts, pp. 168-173, "Kempion" (2 parallel texts plus a photo of the badly-transcribed tune; also a reconstructed tune on p. 278)
Leach, pp. 126-128, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 22-24, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
OBB 13, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 21, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
PBB 26, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
Gummere, pp. 280-282+359, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
DBuchan 26, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
TBB 33, "Kemp Owyne" (1 text)
DT 34, KEMPOWYN KEMPOWN2*
cf. "The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs"
NOTES [374 words]: "Kemp Owyne" means "Owen the Champion"; he appears in some of the medieval grail romances. (We should probably note that "Kemp" is not really a Welsh term, however; Rowling, p. 18, reports that it is from Old English "Cempa," and observes that "Owen" is a Celtic version of the name "Hugh." So, if you translate back enough, "Kemp Owyne" is arguably "Sir Hugh.")
There were a number of Welsh heroes named Owen/Owain (LindahlEtAl, p. 306), the most important being Owain ab Urien, the one-time ruler of Rheged, described by Taliesin as defending his kingdom from Saxon invaders. He became the hero of much poetry, eventually entering the Arthurian corpus (LindahlEtAl, p. 307).
Child claims the plot of this is from an Icelandic saga, but for once his citations are sufficiently vague that I am not certain what he is referring to. The most famous Owen is surely the hero of the Welsh romance of Owain ("The Lady/Countess of the Fountain"), found in (although not properly part of) the Mabinogion; that tale is believed to be from the thirteenth century (Lacy, p. 412); he would appear as "Yvain" in Chretien's romance of the same name.
The story also eventually produced an English romance version, "Ywain and Gawain." This is evidently a modified translation of Chretien's version of the story, reducing the total length to about 60% of Chretien's original (Mills, p. xi).
It is interesting to see him here restoring a woman, since in "Owain" the hero himself develops amnesia and has to be restored by magic. Also, the Owyne of "Owain" has pity on a dangerous beast -- in this case, a lion, and not a transformed animal, but there is a certain similarity.
Given the relative obscurity of the English version (only one manuscript; Mills, p. xii), I wonder if the author of this ballad didn't hear the story of Owein in some form, and remember the name and a few details but not the general plot, and filled it out from the Scandinavian version Child points out.
For a good deal more on magical transformation and restoration by love, sex, or kissing, see the notes to "The Marriage of Sir Gawain" [Child 31].
Child prints "The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs" as an appendix to this ballad, and later added a second version in his addenda. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Lacy: Norris J. Lacy, Editor, The Arthurian Encyclopedia, 1986 (I use the 1987 Peter Bedrick paperback edition)
- LindahlEtAl: Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, and John Lindow, editors, Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, 2000 (I use the 2002 one-volume paperback edition)
- Mills: Maldwyn Mills, Ywain and Gawain, Sir Percyvell of Gales, The Anturs of Arther, J. M. Dent/Everyman, 1992
- Pickering: David Pickering, The Cassell Dictionary of Folklore, Cassell, 1999
- Rowling: Marjorie Rowling, The Folklore of the Lake District, Rowman and Littlefield, 1976
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