Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin, The [Child 277]

DESCRIPTION: A craftsman has married a wife above his station. She, being of good birth, refuses to do housework. Since she is gentle, he cannot beat her -- but he covers her in a sheepskin, thrashes THAT, and causes her to start working
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: humorous wife abuse husband nobility
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West),Scotland(Aber,Bord)) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So)
REFERENCES (53 citations):
Child 277, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (5 texts)
Bronson 277, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (63 versions)
BronsonSinging 277, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (7 versions: #1, #2, #5, #15, #29, #37, #49)
HarrisLyleMcAlpineMcLucas, p. 116-119, "Robin/Robin He's Gane to the Wude" (2 texts)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 322-325, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #33}
Belden, pp. 92-94, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
Randolph 35, "Dan-Doo" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #51}
Arnold, pp. 110-111, "The Old Man in the West" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #48}
Flanders/Brown, pp. 222-225, "Cooper of Fife," "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #17, #9}
Flanders/Olney, pp. 221-222, "Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #45}
Flanders-Ancient4, pp. 76-98, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (9 texts plus 5 fragments, 9 tunes) {D=Bronson's #17, J=#45, M=#9}
Fowke/MacMillan 79, "Jenny Go Gentle" (1 text, 1 tune)
Davis-Ballads 45, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (12 texts, several quite fragmentary, 2 tunes entitled "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin," "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin or Dandoo") {Bronson's #38, #50}
Davis-More 39, pp. 305-315, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (5 texts, 2 tunes)
BrownII 44, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (2 texts plus 2 excerpts)
BrownSchinhanIV 44, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (4 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Morris, #172, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text, 1 tune, which breaks off before the actual beating but which appears to be this rather than "Risselty, Rosselty, Now, Now, Now") {Bronson's #40}
Hudson 23, p. 123, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (1 text)
HudsonTunes 12, "The Old Man Who Lives in the West" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #37}
Moore-Southwest 52, "Dandoo" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster 23, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (3 texts, though two are short)
Peters, pp. 170-171, "Dan Doo" (1 text,1 tune)
Grimes, p. 83, "Dandoo (The WIfe Wrapt in Wether's Skin)" (1 text)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 94-95, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #24}
Bennett-Downey 26, pp. 150-151, "Wee Cooper o' Fife" (1 fragment)
Leach, pp. 658-660, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (3 texts)
McNeil-SFB2, pp. 58-63, "The Wife in Wether's Skin -- Dandoo!"; "Geely Don Mac Kling Go" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Ford-Vagabond, pp. 192-194, "The Wee Cooper o' Fife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
Greig #122, pp. 1-2, "The Wife in the Wether's Skin" (1 text)
GreigDuncan7 1282, "The Wife in the Wether's Skin" (5 texts plus a single verse on p. 501, 4 tunes) {A=Bronson's #5, C=#13, D=#16, E=#3}
Friedman, p. 449, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin" (2 texts)
Warner 44, "The Old Wether's Skin" {Bronson's #29}; 103, "Dan Doo" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {cf. Bronson's 42a/b, from the same informant (Frank Proffitt) but not quite the same in text or tune}
FSCatskills 136, "Tinna Clinnama Clinchama Clingo" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Korson-PennLegend, pp. 41-42, "The Wee Cooper of Fife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #10}
SharpAp 39, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (5 texts, 5 tunes) {Bronson's #38, #43, #25, #31, #44}
Wells, p. 121, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's#25}
Ritchie-Southern, p. 70, "Gentle Fair Jenny" (1 text, 1 tune, with a chorus perhaps from "Riddles Wisely Expounded," and a text which may well mix this with "The Holly Twig" [Laws Q6]; I thought seriously about filing it there) {Bronson's #32}
Lomax-FSNA 85, "Gentle Fair Jenny" (1 text, 1 tune, claiming to be from Jean Ritchie, but Lomax does not cite a recording and the song bears very little resemblance in text or tune to Ritche's recorded version)
Sharp-100E 70, "Ruggleton's Daughter of Iero" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #36}
Hubbard, #16, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Niles 59, "The Unwilling Bride" (1 text, 1 tune, possibly of this ballad but, in my opinion, more likely a form of "The Holly Twig" [Laws Q6])
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 23, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #43}
Chase, pp. 122-123, "Nickety Nackety" (1 text, 1 tune)
DBuchan 63, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text)
JHCox 29, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (5 texts)
JHCoxIIA, #13A-C, pp. 57-60, "The Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin," "Dandoo" (3 texts, 1 tune, but the "B" text omits the beating and has the husband run away; it may well be a version of "Risselty, Rosselty, Now, Now, Now" although it might alternately have mixed with "Devilish Mary" [Laws Q4] or something like it) {Bronson's #26}
Gainer, pp. 90-91, "Dandoo" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 167-169, "The Wife in Wether's Skin -- Dandoo!" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #46}
LPound-ABS, 6, pp. 16-17, "The Wife Wrapped in a Wether's Skin"; pp. 17-18, "Dandoo" (2 texts)
Whitelaw-Song, pp. 333-334, "The Cooper of Fife' (1 text)
Darling-NAS, pp. 80-81, "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 174, "The Wee Cooper Of Fife" (2 texts)

Roud #117
Jerome Downey, "Wee Cooper o' Fife" (on NFJDowney01)
Warde Ford, "As the Dew Flies Over the Green Valley" (AFS 4197 B1, 1938; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell) {Bronson's #19a; cf. 18, 19b}
Frank Proffitt, "Dan Doo" (on Proffitt03) {Bronson's #42a/b}
Jean Ritchie, "Gentle Fair Jenny" (on JRitchie02) {Bronson's #32}

cf. "Risselty, Rosselty, Now, Now, Now" (theme, plot, lyrics)
cf. "The Holly Twig" [Laws Q6] (plot)
cf. "The Wicked Wife o' Fife" (theme)
cf. "The Daughter of Peggy-O" (plot)
cf. "The Wife Who Wouldn't Spin Tow" (theme)
cf. "Upside Down" (theme)
cf. "Come All You Young Ladies and Gentlemen" (theme)
The Cooper of Fife
The Wee Cooper of Fife
Gentle Virginia
Kitty Lorn
Kitty Alone
The Old Man Who Lived in the West
NOTES: It has been speculated (see, e.g., Warner) that this ballad inspired Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." Evidence is, of course, completely lacking, though some Shakespeare authorities also mention the connection. The piece probably does go back to Elizabethan times; according to J. C. Holt, Robin Hood, revised edition, Thames & Hudson, 1989, p. 140, one Robert Langham heard an entertainment in July 1575 at the Earl of Leicester's palace of Kenilworth which featured the "Wife Wrapped in Wether's Skin."
Barry et al have an even stranger theory, that this song, which occasionally has the sort of "plant refrain" we know best from "Riddles Wisely Expounded" and "The Elfin Knight," is actually a description of an exorcism, in which the herbs and the beating both play a part!
American forms of this ballad are often much simplified, omitting, e.g., the mention of the wife's noble origin and/or the sheepskin. Ritchie's version is typical of this; such texts are hard to distinguish from degenerate forms of "The Holly Twig" [Laws Q6]. (Pound's "I Bought Me a Wife" seems almost to be mixed with "The Swapping Song.")
Typical of these degenerate forms is "Risselty, Rosselty, Now, Now, Now," which we originally lumped with this song, but which we have now split off. For full details on how to separate them, see the notes to "Risselty, Rosselty." The basic distinction is that, in "The Wife Wrapt," he beats her; in "Risselty, Rosselty," he merely complains. But there are other indications which can be used for fragments. - RBW, (PJS)
To add to the confusion, there is a nursery song, apparently from Halliwell, beginning "I married a wife by the light of the moon, A tidy housewife, a tidy one." This is not either "The Wife Wrapt" or "Risselty-Rosselty," but it details the wife's strange and "slovenly" habits. And several lines of it, including the first, are found in various versions of Child 277, including e.g. the "B" version in Flanders-Ancient. - RBW
Whitelaw-Song pp. 333-334 is Child's source for text 277C.
Bennett-Downey: "There can be few field-working folklorists who have not run out of tape or suddenly found that the batteries failed, putting an abrupt end to a recording session.... It is included in this collection partly because it is the only Classic Ballad recorded from Jerome's repertoire.... Without the complete recording of Jerome's singing it is not now possible to know which verses he sang.... It is not so much for the text as for the tune that it is included here, however, as Jerome sings a catchy and unusual variant, a little gem, which I had not come across elsewhere." Downey's fragment on the CD is "... not bake and she would not brew/ Nickety, nackety, now, now, now, / For spoiling of her comely hue/ Hey Willie Wallacky, ho John Dugall/ Alane quo' Rushety, row, row, row [rhymes with 'now']" - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
File: C277

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