Robin Hood and Allen a Dale [Child 138]
DESCRIPTION: Robin observes a young man cheery one day, downcast the next. He is Allen a Dale; his bride-to-be has been betrothed to another. Robin goes in disguise to the church on the wedding day, calls in his men, and ensures she marries Allen after all.
EARLIEST DATE: 1663 (garland)
KEYWORDS: Robinhood disguise love marriage
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Child 138, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale" (1 text)
Bronson 138, comments only; cf. Chappell/Wooldridge I, p. 173, "[Drive the cold winter away]"
Bell-Combined, pp. 65-68, "Robin Hood and Allen-a-Dale" (1 text)
GlenbuchatBallads, pp. 220-223, "Allan Adale" (1 text)
Greig #89, p. 1, "Allen-a-Dale" (1 text)
GreigDuncan2 272, "Allen-a-Dale" (1 text)
Leach, pp. 397-400, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale" (1 text)
OBB 121, "Robin Hood and Alan a Dale" (1 text)
PBB 68, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale" (1 text)
DBuchan 51, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale" (1 text)
BBI, RZN8, "Come listen to me, you gallants so free"
DT 138, RHALANAD\
ADDITIONAL: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, _Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw_, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976, pp. 173-175, "Robin Hood and Allen a Date" (1 text, from a garland)
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. 486-492, "Robin Hood and Allin a Dale" (1 text)
cf. "Robin Hood and the Bride" (plot)
NOTES: For background on the Robin Hood legend, see the notes on "A Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117].
This particular part of the Robin Hood story seems to have arisen in the seventeenth century. In the earliest versions of the legend (Sloane MS.), the betrayed lover is not Allen but Scarlock (Holt, p. 165), and Robin did not disguise himself as a minstrel but as a beggar (Dobson/Tarylor, p. 172). But by the nineteenth century, Allen's name had become a regular part of the legend.
The gimmick of the song, of a minstrel sneaking into the enemy camp to gather information, is of course far older than the song itself. In English tradition, we in fact find a story of King Alfred the Great of Wessex sneaking into the Viking camp in the guise of an entertainer to spy out their plans (Hindley, pp. 192-193). This is, however, a late anecdote -- and even if King Alfred would take such a risk, and even if he had the musical skills to pull it off (unlikely), there is the non-trivial problem that Old English and Old Norse, while related, were distinct languages by this time; a Norse army would not be likely to want to hear an English singer.
(To be sure, Hindley, p. 211, says that Alfred was fascinated by "Saxon songs," but it appears that this is simply based on Asser's story -- in the Life of Alfred, section 23; AsserAlfredEtc, p. 75 -- that Alfred, in his early life, was fascinated by the *appearance* of a book of English poetry, which he memorized and so induced his mother to give it to him. That might explain Alfred's interest in literature, but it doesn't make him a musician.)
Better-attested is the tradition that Richard I the Lion-Hearted was a troubadour -- and it is a simple fact that he once used disguise to try to sneak through Germany (Gillingham, pp. 223-224). I also read, somewhere, a report that, after his return from the Crusade, he disguised himself to recapture Nottingham. The attempt to sneak across Germany was, however, a complete failure; Richard was captured. The business did, however, cement the link of the king with minstrels, since a legend arose that a troubadour named Blondel wandered around Germany seeking Richard (Gillingham, p. 224), and locating him when Richard sang back a song that they, but no one in Germany, would know.
The first account of Blondel, however, occurs in a document written more than a half century after Richard's death. This tale, like the tale of Alfred, is merely folklore -- but it may have suggested plots like this one. It is interesting to note that the tale of Fulk Fitzwarin, which has many close links to the Robin Hood legend (again, see the information on the "Gest of Robyn Hode") contains a tale of a minstrel going to a castle in disguise and singing a song a prisoner is sure to recognize (Cawthorne, p. 107). This tale, surely, is related to the Blondel legend. Whether this particular item ever played a role in the Robin Hood story is altogether another matter.
Knight/Ohlgren, p. 486, claim that this plot became a Ballad Opera in 1751 -- but, given that the lovers were Leander and Clorinda and the old man who is Clorinda's unwanted fiancee is Sir Humphrey Wealthy, I incline to think that less a version of this ballad than just another retelling of the legend. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.8
- AsserAlfredEtc: Alfred the Great, consisting of Asser's Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources, transated with introduction and notes by Simon Keynes andMichael Lapidge, Penguin, 1983
- Cawthorne: Nigel Cawthorne, A Brief History of Robin Hood: The True History Behind the Legend, Running Press, 2010
- Gillingham: John Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart, Times Books, 1978
- Hindley: Geoffrey Hindley, A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation, Carroll & Graf, 2006
- Holt: J. C. Holt, Robin Hood, second edition, revised and enlarged, Thames & Hudson, 1989
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