Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly [Child 116]
DESCRIPTION: Three outlaws live in the forest. William visits his wife, is arrested, is rescued by the others. They seek pardon from the king, succeed by the queen's intervention, then show their archery prowess, including cleaving an apple on a child's head.
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1536 (print from John Byddel's press, according to Child); there is a Stationer's Registry entry of Adam Bell from 1557/58, and Copland's edition (the earliest complete text) was in print by 1568
KEYWORDS: outlaw pardon royalty
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Child 116, "Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (2 texts)
Bronson 116, "Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (1 version, though Bronson doubts the connection of the tune with the printed ballad)
Percy/Wheatley I, pp. 153-179, "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley" (1 text)
Bell-Combined, pp. 28-52, "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (1 text)
OBB 114, "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (1 text)
Morgan-Medieval, pp. 130-147, "Adam Bell, Clim O' the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, _Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw_, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976, pp. 260-273, "Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (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. 235-267, "Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly" (1 text, newly edited from the sources)
Katherine Briggs, _A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language_, Part A: Folk Narratives, 1970 (I use the 1971 Routledge paperback that combines volumes A.1 and A.2), volume A.2, pp. 369-374, "Adam Bel, Clym of the Clough and William of Cloudesly" (a prose version; compare the following)
Katherine Briggs, _British Folktales_ (originally published in 1970 as _A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales_), revised 1977 (I use the 1977 Pantheon paperback edition), pp. 68-74, "Adam Bel, Clym of the Clough and William of Cloudesly" (a prose version of the tale; compare the preceding)
cf. "Auld Matrons" [Child 249] (theme)
NOTES: For the connection of this song with the Robin Hood legend, see the notes on "A Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117]. There are both general links (the greenwood legend) and quite specific connections (the rescue of William has many similarities to the rescue of Robin Hood in "Robin Hood and the Monk" [Child 119], for instance). There are even some textual parallels. As a result, many scholars have gone so far as to see "Adam Bell" as a source of the Robin Hood tales. But it is much more likely that the dependence is the other way -- indeed, Chambers, p. 159, goes so far as to declare this piece "almost a burlesque of Robin Hood."
Dobson/Taylor, p. 258, declare this "the most dramatically exciting of all English outlaw ballads." It might perhaps be clearer to say that it is more original in incident than most of the others, since it lacks the endless repetition in the Robin Hood ballads (see, e.g. the several dozen "Robin Hood Meets His Match" ballads).
Dobson/Taylor, p. 259, claim there is an allusion to the song in Act I, scene 1 of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" (lines 258-259 in the Riverside edition, spoken by Benedick). The Riverside edition thinks this "probably" refers to Adam Bell, since there was a mention of ballad-makers a few lines earlier. The Signet Classic Shakespeare also refers it to Adam Bell, and the New Pelican says it is Adam Bell but does not mention ballads. The text however refers only to "Adam," so the matter must be less than certain.
There is a clear mention in Ben Jonson (Dobson/Taylor, p. 259).
We are told that Queen Elizabeth was present when this song was performed in the household of Robert Earl of Leicester in 1575 (Holt, p. 140). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.0
- Chambers: E. K. Chambers, English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages, Oxford, 1945, 1947
- Dobson/Taylor: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976
- Holt: J. C. Holt, Robin Hood, second edition, revised and enlarged, Thames & Hudson, 1989
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.