Robyn and Gandeleyn [Child 115]
DESCRIPTION: Robyn hunts deer. Just after felling one he is himself slain by an arrow. His knave Gandeleyn seeks its source, finds Wrennok the Dane, challenges him, and avenges Robyn.
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1430 (British Museum -- Sloane MS. 2593); printed by Ritson 1790
KEYWORDS: hunting death fight revenge
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Child 115, "Robyn and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
Leach, pp. 332-334, "Robin and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
OBB 112, "Robyn and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
DT 115, RHGANDYN
ADDITIONAL: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, _Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw_, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976, pp. 256-257, "Robyn and Gandelyn" (1 text)
Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren, editors, _Robin Hood and Other Oudlaw Tales_, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2000, pp. 227-234, "Robyn and Gandelyn" (1 text, newly edited from the sources)
Celia and Kenneth Sisam, _The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse_, Oxford University Press, 1970; corrected edition 1973, #194, p. 437, "Robin and Gandelein" (1 text)
Brown/Robbins, _Index of Middle English Verse_, #1317
Digital Index of Middle English Verse #2194
NOTES [1667 words]: Dobson/Taylor, p. 255, declare -- correctly, I think -- that "Few medieval lyrics have been subjected to more diverse and often ludicrous interpretations" than this song They mention Ritson's connection with one Robin Lyth who lived near Flamborough, and Robert Graves's suggestion that it is a New Year's wren song!
Chambers, p. 131, thinks that this is a sort of proto-Robin Hood ballad, with Gandelyn to eventually become "Young Gamwell" or "Gamelyn." Child dismisses this notion, and rightly I think. Dobson/Taylor, p. 256, also deny any connection with Robin Hood.
Chambers more significantly observes that the source (Sloane MS. 2593) contains many carols, and believes that this was intended to be sung at Christmas. This is basically bunk (it doesn't help that Chambers literally hasn't the sense to tell what is a carol, or even what is a traditional song).
Sloane MS 2593 *does* contain many religious works, including the well-known "Adam Lay Ybounden" and "I Syng of a Maiden That Is Makeles" and "Lullay My Liking" and others, as well as "Saint Stephen and Herod" [Child 22] -- but it has plenty of secular works as well, including "I Have a Yong Suster" (the earliest form of "I Gave My Love a Cherry"), some drinking lyrics, and at least a few riddles. Plus some rather dirty items, including "I Have a Gentil Cock" -- in fact, as the facsimile on p. 35 of Fletcher shows, "I Have a Gentil Cock" immediately follows "I Syng of a Maiden." (Although I note that the text of the manuscript clearly reads "I haue a gentil COOK." Not much doubt about what is meant, however.)
The manuscript is dated c. 1450 by Child, a date followed by Dobson/Taylor, p. 255, and by Knight/Ohlgren, p. 227, but c. 1400 by Fletcher, p. 34; "earlier fifteenth century" by Davies, p. 153; and "fifteenth century" by Luria/Hoffman, p. 236. I have used the compromise date of c. 1430. The manuscript is quite plain, and the writing appears to have been done rather quickly (it is much less elegant than the court hands of the period); I frankly think most of these datings rather more precise than the handwriting justifies.
If this isn't a Robin Hood song, it may nonetheless have some very indirect connections with that corpus. As with several of the older Child ballads ("Hind Horn" [Child 17], "King Orfeo" [Child #19], "Blancheflour and Jellyflorice" [Child 300]), this may connect with a Middle English romance.
The romance in this case is "Gamelyn," which can be found e.g. in Sands, pp. 156-181 (who mentions a critical edition published by Skeat in 1884 as The Tale of Gamelyn; there are a number of reprints. For a bibliography of "Gamelyn," see Joanne A. Rice, Middle English Romance: An Annotated Bibliography, 1955-1985, Garland Publishing, 1987, pp. 259-262).
The plot in brief: Sir John of Boundys, dying, leaves his property to his sons John, Ote, and Gamelyn. Gamelyn is set aside. Placed in bondage by his brother, he is freed by Adam the Spencer; they take revenge and flee to the greenwood. The oldest brother, now sheriff, declares him an outlaw. Gamelyn comes to the court, is taken prisoner, but is set free when Ote stands his bail. Gamelyn attacks the court, gains his freedom, and is pardoned by the King.
The similarities of "Gamelyn" to the Robin Hood cycle are obvious, and it is possible that "Robyn and Gandelyn" is a worn down version of the romance; they are about as close as "Hind Horn" and "King Horn" (i.e. not very). But that doesn't make the ballad an ancestor of the Robin Hood corpus; rather, it is at best a cousin.
More interesting is the relationship between "Robin and Gandelyn" and "Gamelyn." The author of "Gamelyn" is unknown, but the "language is generally that of Chaucer's time" (Sands, p. 155). This would make "Robyn and Gandelyn" more recent than "Gamelyn," but not by much. This does not of course tell us which plot is older.
"Gamelyn" is one of the best-attested of the Middle English romances, though the reason is "bizarre" (Chaucer/Benson, p. 1125): It's included in many manuscripts of Chaucer! The Cook's Tale ends abruptly (Keen, p. 78, speculates that Chaucer decided the story he had in mind was too raunchy to use), and it appears that some scribes, feeling the need to supply a complete story, plugging in this account -- a rather poor fit; the the seven-stress lines don't match the rest of the Canterbury Tales, and it features a lot of alliteration (Keen, p. 80), which is not at all typical of Chaucer. The temptation is to think that it is a modification of a poem in alliterative verse, presumably springing from the fourteenth century alliterative revival that produced "Piers Plowman" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."
There are some 16 manuscripts in Manley and Rickert's "c" and "d" groups of The Canterbury Tales, the two groups which include "Gamelyn," though not all of these copies are complete; we also find it, e.g., in the well-known Harley 7334.
Keen, p. 89, remarks that Gamelyn is a rough, common man, an opponent of the aristocracy -- a character who would certainly not appeal to Chaucer, who (while not a nobleman himself) spent his whole life in their company.
Keen, p. 79, also notes that "Gamelyn" is an unusual romance in that it is surprisingly real -- it's about common people, living ordinary lives, and there is no magic. It even goes into details about the problems of moving about in an untended forest. This, obviously, is another reason why it is rather unlike Robin Hood; the core Robin Hood ballads ignore the difficulties of living in the greenwood.
None of this, to be sure, has any real connection to "Robin and Gandelyn."
Knight/Ohlgren, pp. 227, connect "Robin and Gandelyn" to Robin Hood not on the basis of the name Robin but rather the name "Gandelyn," plus the mention of Wrennock, which has associations with the tale of Fulk Fitzwarin, often considered a source for the "Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117]. In the tale of Fulk, Wrennock was the son of Morris of Powys, one of Fulk's enemies.
I wonder personally if there isn't more going on here. I don't think the poem is about wrenning, but could Wrennock be a diminutive for a wren name? After all, Jenny Wren was the wife of Cock Robin. I do not claim that this is a song about a love triangle between Robin, Wren(nock), and Gandelyn, but it's easy to see how such an idea could arise.
And where is Donne? Doncaster? Any answers must be speculative, but it might be worth investigating.
The text of this ballad, existing in only one copy, is in rather bad shape. Not that there appears to be much missing, but there are a number of oddities in the text. Child made a number of emendations, some accepted by those who came after him, some not. Among these:
Stanza 1, line 4: "Thynge" (subject, matter) for MS. "gynge" (gang, company?). A reasonable conjecture, but if "gynge" can mean "company," it is perhaps not needed.
Stanza 4, line 5: "gode Robyn." The MS. omits "Robyn." This might be an error, but perhaps another word is meant. We might even read "Gandelyn" instead of "gode Robyn."
Stanza 7, line 6: "Til I se [his] sydis blede." Not really a necessary conjecture on Child's part; if we add the word "his," then the line means, in effect, "Till I see [the murderer's] sides bleed"; if we omit, we have "Till I see [someone's] sides bleed."
Stanza 13, line 3: "sanchothys." An obscure word, and others have read the writing differently anyway. It seems pretty clear that it means the region between the legs, however.
As a final note, I've been told that this is among the hardest Child ballads to understand. So here is my attempt at a non-poetic version in Modern English:
Robin lies in [the] green wood bound.
1. I heard a song of a clerk
All at yon wood's end,
Of good Robin and Gandelyn
There was no other subject.
Robin lies in [the] green wood bound.
2. Active thieves those young men were not,
But bowmen good and noble;
They went to the wood to get some meat
If God would send it to them.
3. All day those two young men travelled
And meat found they none.
Until it was close to evening;
The young men wanted to go home.
4. Half a hundred of fallow deer
They came upon,
And all of them were fair and fat, I know,
But none of them were marked;
"By dear God," said good [Robin],
"Of these we shall have one."
5. Robin set his jolly bow,
Therein he set an arrow;
The fattest deer of all,
Its heart he cleft in two.
6. He had not flayed the deer
Not half out of its hide
[Before] there came an arrow out of the west
That felled Robert's pride.
7. Gandelyn looked east and west,
To every side,
"Who has my master slain?
Who has done this deed?
I shall never from the greenwood go
Until I see his sides bleed.
8. Gandelyn looked east and looked west
And searched under the sun;
He saw a little boy,
He was named Wrennok of Donne.
9. A good bow in his hand,
A broad arrow therein,
And four and twenty good arrows
Bound up in a sheaf.
"You beware, you [be]ware, Gandelyn,
Or you'll get some of this.
10. "You beware, you [be]ware, Gandelyn,
You'll get plenty of this."
"I'm up for another [contest]," said Gandelyn;
"Misadventure to the one who flees!"
11. "Where shall our target be?"
"Each at the other's heart!"
Said Wrennock again.
12. "Who shall fire the first shot?"
"And I shall fire before,"
Said Wrennock again.
13. Wrennock shot a very good shot,
And didn't shoot very high;
[It went] through the fork of his breeches;
It touched neither thigh.
14. "Now have you fired the first [shot at] me";
Thus to Wrennock he spoke.
"And through the power of Our Lady
A better shot I shall fire at you."
15. Gandelyn bent his good bow
And set therein an arrow;
He shot through his green kirtle;
His heart he cleft in two.
16. "Now you shall never boast, Wrennock,
At ale or at wife,
That you have slayne good Robin
And his knave Gandelyn.
17. "Now you shall never boast, Wrennock,
At wine or at ale,
That you have slain good Robin
And Gandelyn his knave." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Chambers: E. K. Chambers, English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages, Oxford, 1945, 1947
- Chaucer/Benson: Larry D. Benson, general editor, The Riverside Chaucer, third edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1987 (based on F. N. Robinson, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which is considered to be the first and second editions of this work)
- Davies: R. T. Davies, editor, Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology, 1963
- Dobson/Taylor: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976
- Fletcher: Chris Fletcher, 1000 Years of English Literature: A Treasury of Literary Manuscripts, Harry N. Abrams, 2003
- Keen: Maurice Keen, The Outlaws of Medieval Legend, Dorset, 1961, 1977, 1987
- Knight/Ohlgren: Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren, editors, Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2000
- Luria/Hoffman: Maxwell S. Luria & Richard Hoffman, Middle English Lyrics, a Norton Critical Edition, Norton, 1974Sands: Donald B. Sands, editor, Middle English Verse Romances, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1966
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