Lamkin [Child 93]

DESCRIPTION: (Lamkin) rebuilt a lord's castle, but was never paid. As the lord sets out on a journey, he warns his wife to beware of Lamkin. The precautions are in vain; Lamkin (helped by a false nurse) steals in and kills the lord's child (and wife) (and is hanged)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1775 (Percy)
KEYWORDS: death theft revenge children punishment homicide cannibalism
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord),England(Lond,South,West)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (53 citations):
Child 93, "Lamkin" (25 texts)
Bronson 93, "Lamkin" (30 versions (some with variants)+3 in addenda)
BronsonSinging 93, "Lamkin" (6 versions: #2, #5a, #8, #12, #27, #29)
ChambersBallads, pp. 234-239, "Lammikin" (1 text)
GordonBrown/Rieuwerts, pp. 256-258, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Greig #40, p. 2, "Lamkin" (1 fragment)
GreigDuncan2 187, "Lambkin" (3 texts)
Lyle-Crawfurd1 9, "Lord Meanwell" (1 text)
Leather, pp. 199-200, "Young Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #19}
RoudBishop #121, "Lambkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 200-206, "Lamkin" (1 text plus 1 fragment, 1 tune; also extensive notes on version classification) {Bronson's #16}
Randolph 23, "False Lamkin" (1 text with variants, 1 tune) {Bronson's #25}
Eddy 17, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
Gardner/Chickering 127, "Lamkin" (2 texts plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune) {Bronson's #15}
Flanders/Olney, pp. 104-107, "Squire Relantman" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Flanders-Ancient2, pp. 297-316, "Lamkin" (7 texts plus 3 fragments, 4 tunes) {C=Bronson's #7)
Linscott, pp. 303-305, "Young Alanthia" (1 text, 1 tune)
Beck-Maine,pp. 90-91, "Lamkin the Mason" (1 text, with no indication of source)
Davis-Ballads 26, "Lamkin" (3 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune entitled "Lampkin") {Bronson's #10}
Davis-More 28, pp. 214-220, "Lamkin" (1 text)
BrownII 29, "Lamkin" (1 text plus assorted excerpts)
BrownSchinhanIV 29, "Lamkin" (4 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 42, "Lamkins" (1 text, apparently a fragment of Child #93 (containing only a threat of cannibalism) plus three "My Horses Ain't Hungry" stanzas)
Moore-Southwest 26, "Bow Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #10, "Lamferd" (1 text, 1 tune)
MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 62-64, "Bolakin (Lamkin)" (1 text)
Brewster 16, "Lamkin" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
Creighton-Maritime, pp. 20-21, "Lamkin" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 806-807, "Bold Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 13, "Lamkin" (1 text, 4 tunes)
Lehr/Best 35, "False Limkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 288-295, "Lamkin" (4 texts)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 116-119, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Leach-Labrador 6, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 199, "Lamkin" (1 text)
OBB 78, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Warner 102, "Bolamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 27, "Lamkin" (5 texts, 5 tunes){Bronson's #11, #14, #12, #4, #9}
Sharp-100E 27, "False Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
PBB 64, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Niles 38, "Lamkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 60-61, "Long Lankin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 258-259, "False Lanky" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves-Circle 80, "Lamkin" (1 text)
Hodgart, p. 64, "Lamkin" (1 text)
DBuchan 16, "Lamkin" (1 text)
TBB 19, "Lamkin" (1 text)
SHenry H735, p. 133, "Lambkin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 241-248, "Lammikin" (5 texts)
Darling-NAS, pp. 63-64, "Bo Lamkin" (1 text)
Morgan-Medieval, pp. 18-21, "Lamkin" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Bob Stewart, _Where Is Saint George? Pagan Imagery in English Folksong_, revised edition, Blandford, 1988, pp. 127-128, "Long Lankin" (1 text)

Roud #6
Jim Bennett, "Bold Lamkin" (on PeacockCDROM)
Ben Butcher, "Cruel Lincoln" (on FSB4, Voice03)
George Fosbury, "False Lamkin" (on FSBBAL1)
Frank Proffitt, "Bo Lamkin" (on Proffitt03)

Bodleian, Harding B 25(1048), "The Lambkin," J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844
cf. "Batson" [Laws I10] (plot)
NOTES: John Jacob Niles claims that this song was once sung in the Louisville schools. One can only wish he had offered supporting evidence.
Anne G. Gilchrist examines the development of this ballad in "Lambkin: A Study in Evolution" (first printed in the Journal of the Emglish Folk Dance and Song Society, I, 1932; see now MacEdward Leach and Tristram P. Coffin, eds, The Critics and the Ballad, pp. 204-224).
Gilchrist finds two basic forms of the ballad. In one, primarily Scottish, Lamkin is a mason defrauded of his pay by the lord whose castle he built. In the other, Northumbrian and English, Lamkin is simply a ruffian or a border raider, seeking loot or perhaps the hand of the lord's daughter.
Gilchrist believes the Scottish form to be older, and believes that the other arose when the first stanza (in which the lord's fraud is described) was lost. She argues that the name "Lambkin" is diminutive of the Flemist name Lambert, and speculates that it may have been based on a (hypothesized) incident at Balwearie in Fife -- a site mentioned in some versions of the ballad, and located near a Flemish colony.
Some versions mention Lamkin catching the infant's blood in a bowl. This has caused all sorts of speculation about ritual, or perhaps about some sort of trick to further punish the child (because, according to the Bible, the blood is the life). Obviously some such explanation is possible -- but I think we have to allow the possibility that he's just a nut, or trying to avoid leaving a trail.
James Reed, in his article "Border Ballads," included in Edward J. Cowan, editor, The People's Past: Scottish Folk, Scottish History 1980 (I use the 1993 Polygon paperback edition), discusses this ballad on pp. 24-25, and considers it most unusual among border ballads because it features a class conflict (between the lord and Lamkin). It's an interesting point -- but the question then arises whether the song is really a border ballad. The mere fact that it has been widely collected along the border between England and Scotland does not make it one. - RBW
Whitelaw-Ballads is one of Child's sources for composite text D. - BS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C093

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