Queen of Elfan's Nourice, The [Child 40]

DESCRIPTION: The Queen of Elfland awakens to hear her child's (wet)-nurse weeping. The Queen of Elfland asks the reason; the nurse says that she is crying for her own son. The Queen of Elfland sets the nurse on the right road home (and on to heaven).
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1802/3 (Skene ms.)
KEYWORDS: separation children magic abduction
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Child 40, "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's (#1)}
Bronson 40, "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" (1 version)
BronsonSinging 40, "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" (1 version)
GreigDuncan2 328, "The Queen o' Elfin's Nourice" (2 fragments, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #1}
Wells, p. 240, "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson does not print this tune but calls it a "happy borrowing from a Gaelic song on the theft of a child by the fairies}
OBB 7, "The Queen of Elfland's Nourice" (1 text)
Montgomerie-ScottishNR 136, "(I heard a cow low, a bonnie cow low)" (1 fragment of two stanzas, with no plot; it simply mentions the lowing cow, and might be an independent item grafted into the Child ballad)
DT 40, ELFANURS*
ADDITIONAL: Emily Lyle, _Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition_, Wissenschaflicher Verlag Trier, 2007, pp, 142-145, (no title) (1 text, 1 tune with variant forms)

Roud #3723
NOTES: Tradition has it that fairies much preferred to have human women nurse their babies; according to Marc Alexander, A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain, Sutton Publishing, 2002, p. 184, the earliest recorded English tale of a changeling was the story of Malekin, which was recorded by Ralph Coggeshall in the 1200s. Hence the legends about changelings and also odd stories such as this one about a human woman being kidnapped to Elfland. It strikes me that even the well-known tale of Rumpelstiltskin might be a variation on this.
For discussion of this see Emily Lyle, Fairies and Folk: Approaches to the Scottish Ballad Tradition, Wissenschaflicher Verlag Trier, 2007, p. 128
Lyle discusses this ballad in particular on pp. 140-148. On pp. 140-141, she observes that Bronson's discussion of his one tune is not entirely accurate, because he did not have full details of how it was collected. See now Lyle's account for the correct history.
Lyle also suggests (p. 145) that the last ten lines of the text in the Skene manuscript (Child's sole text) do not belong with this ballad but come from "Tam Lin" [Child 39]. Child thinks they are from "Thomas Rymer" [Child 37]. Certainly they are inessential, as they discuss the roads to heaven and hell, whereas presumably the Queen of Elfland could simply set the nurse on the direct path and not reveal these secrets. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C040

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