Lizie Wan [Child 51]

DESCRIPTION: (Geordy) finds his sister (Lizie Wan) crying. When he asks why, he is told that she is pregnant by him. He kills her to hide his crime. He is revealed by the blood on his sword, and is forced away from home
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Herd)
KEYWORDS: incest homicide pregnancy questions exile brother
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland,England(South)) US(Ap,NE,SE)
REFERENCES (15 citations):
Child 51, "Lizie Wan" (2 texts)
Bronson 51, "Lizie Wan" (7 versions plus the #10 text of "Edward," which is actually "Lizie Wan")
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 51, "Lizie Wan" (2 versions: #2, #4)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume1 46, "Rosianne" (1 text)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 14 "Lizzie Wan" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #153, "Lizie Wan" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Flanders/Olney-BalladsMigrantInNewEngland, pp. 143-145, "Fair Lucy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5b}
Flanders-AncientBalladsTraditionallySungInNewEngland1, pp. 332-338, "Lizie Wan" (2 texts, 2 tunes, which differ though both informants cited the same source) {A1=Bronson's #5b, A2=#4}
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 167-169, "Lizie Wan" (2 texts)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 159, "Lizie Wan" (1 text)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 38, "Lizie Wan" (1 text)
Niles-BalladBookOfJohnJacobNiles 21, "Lizie Wan" (1 text, 1 tune)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, p. 65, "Lucy Wan" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
Purslow-TheConstantLovers, pp. 81-82, "Rosie Ann" (1 composite text, 1 tune -- probably longer than any actual text of this song)

Roud #234
Jeanie Robertson, "My Son David" (on LomaxCD1700)
cf. "Sheath and Knife" (plot)
cf. "The Bonnie Hind" [Child 50] (theme)
cf. "Edward" (lyrics)
Lizie May
NOTES [387 words]: John Jacob Niles claims that, in his experience, the only people willing to sing this song were men. He points out that Sharp's informant was a man; so was the singer who gave the song to Flanders. As usual, though, one must wonder about Niles's sources. In any case, Bronson lists four versions from women. - RBW
Niles may claim that the only informants willing to sing the song are men, but VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs's version was collected from a Mrs. Dann of Cottenham, Cambs. Lloyd notes, however, that this was the only version of the ballad found in oral tradition in England, and that no new Scottish version has been reported since 1827. -PJS
(Which requires the caution, however, that the ending of "Lizie Wan" is indistiguishable from "Edward" (Child 13), so some versions that people have filed as the former might be this.
On the scientific evidence that brothers and sisters raised apart are particularly likely to fall in love, and some further speculation as to why, see the notes to "Babylon, or, The Bonnie Banks o Fordie [Child 14]."
It appears very likely that Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) knew some form of this piece as a very young man. One of his earliest poems, written while he was still a schoolboy, is called "The Two Brothers," and the opening is quite similar to "The Twa Brothers" [Child 49]; it begins
There were two brothers at Twyford school,
And when they had left the place,
It was, "Will ye learn Greek and Latin?
Or will ye run me a race?
Or will ye go up to yonder bridge,
And there will we angle for dace?"
Later verses are more reminiscent of "Edward" [Child 13] or "Lizzie Wan" [Child 51]:
"Oh what bait's that upon your hook,
Dear brother, tell to me?"
"It is my younger brother," he cried,
"Oh woe and dole is me?"
[ ... ]
"And when will you come back again,
My brother, tell to me?"
"When chub is good for human food,
And that will never be!"
(for a photo of these verses, see Robert Douglas-Fairhurt, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, Belknap/Harvard, 2015, p. 75)
The final verse might be from "It Was A' For Our Rightful' King" or similar:
She turned herself right round about,
And her heart brake into three,
Said, "One of the two will be wet through and through,
And 'tother'll be late for his tea."- RBW
Last updated in version 5.0
File: C051

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