Farmer's Curst Wife, The [Child 278]

DESCRIPTION: The Devil comes to claim a farmer's wife. She causes great trouble in Hell, attacking the imps with all the vigor she had once used on her family. For safety's sake, the Devil is forced to return her to her family (not necessarily to their joy)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1846 (Dixon-AncientPoemsBalladsSongsOfThePeasantryOfEngland)
KEYWORDS: family Devil humorous Hell wife feminist
FOUND IN: US(All) Britain(England(Lond,North,South),Scotland(Aber,Bord)) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (83 citations):
Child 278, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #41}
Bronson 278, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (71 versions+2 in addenda)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 278, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (10 versions: #2, #7, #18, #26, #33, #42, #52, #67, #68, #69)
Dixon-AncientPoemsBalladsSongsOfThePeasantryOfEngland, Song #24, pp. 210-211, "The Farmer's Old Wife" (1 text)
Bell-Combined-EarlyBallads-CustomsBalladsSongsPeasantryEngland, pp. 424-425, "The Farmer's Old Wife" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan2 320, "Kellyburn Braes" (2 texts, 1 tune); also p. 575 (1 fragment) {Bronson's #48}
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 40, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (6 texts plus 1 fragment, 7 tunes) {Bronson's #31, #54, #53, #35, #56, #66, #50}
Barry/Eckstorm/Smyth-BritishBalladsFromMaine pp. 326-333, "The Farmer's Cursed Wife" (4 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune) {Bronson's #61}
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 94-97, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts)
Randolph 36, "The Old Man under the Hill" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #63}
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 63-66, "The Old Man Under the Hill" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 36A) {Bronson's #63}
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, pp. 152-154, "Tee Roo" (1 text, 1 tune)
Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads, pp. 226-228, "The Scolding Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #13}
Flanders/Olney-BalladsMigrantInNewEngland, pp. 49-51, "Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #60}
Flanders-AncientBalladsTraditionallySungInNewEngland4, pp. 99-135, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (15 texts plus 5 fragments, 13 tunes) {L=Bronson's #60, M=#13}
Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, pp. 188-191, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Davis-TraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 46, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (13 texts, 7 tunes; 2 more versions mentioned in Appendix A) {Bronson's #37, #54, #11, #46, #24, #36, #25}
Davis-MoreTraditionalBalladsOfVirginia 40, pp. 316-327, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (7 texts plus a fragment, 5 tunes) {BB=Bronson's #33; EE=#10}
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 45, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 45, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts plus 2 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Chappell-FolkSongsOfRoanokeAndTheAlbermarle 20, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 fragment)
Jones-MinstrelOfTheAppalachians-Bascom-Lamar-Lunsford, p. 193, "The Old Man Lived under a Hill (The Farmer's Curst Wife)" (1 text, 1 tune) {same source as Bronson's #29, but the transcriptions are somewhat different}
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #173, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 24, pp. 124-125, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts)
Moore/Moore-BalladsAndFolkSongsOfTheSouthwest 53, "Farmer Jones's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-1ed, pp. 54-56, "The Devil's Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, pp. 36-38, "The Devil's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee 22, pp. 42-43, "The Old Farmer" (1 text, 1 tune)
Burton/Manning-EastTennesseeStateCollectionVol1, pp. 36-37, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Burton/Manning-EastTennesseeStateCollectionVol2, pp. 72-73, "The Old Devil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Shellans-FolkSongsOfTheBlueRidgeMountains, pp. 18-19, "The Evil Woman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wells-TheBalladTree, p. 122, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {from the same informant, although not the same session, as Bronson's #67}
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 24, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #65}
Beck-LoreOfTheLumberCamps 54, "The Curst Wife" (1 text)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 154, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (4 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #27, #23}
Grimes-StoriesFromTheAnneGrimesCollection, p. 94, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Carey-MarylandFolkLegendsAndFolkSongs, p. 105, "There Was an Old Man Lived Under the Hill" (1 text)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 95-99, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (5 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #4, #38}
Creighton-SongsAndBalladsFromNovaScotia 9, "Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
Pottie/Ellis-FolksongsOfTheMaritimes, pp. 158-160, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
Peacock, pp. 265-268, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Mackenzie-BalladsAndSeaSongsFromNovaScotia 15, "The Devil's Song" (1 text)
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 660-662, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts)
Leach-HeritageBookOfBallads, p. 124, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 452, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Fowke/Johnston-FolkSongsOfCanada, pp. 172-173, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan-PenguinBookOfCanadianFolkSongs 75, "The Farmer and the Devil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner-TraditionalAmericanFolkSongsFromAnneAndFrankWarnerColl 89, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer-FolkSongsOfTheCatskills 137, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Korson-PennsylvaniaSongsAndLegends, pp. 39-42, "Old Jokey Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #64}
Niles-BalladBookOfJohnJacobNiles 60, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Sharp/Karpeles-EightyEnglishFolkSongs 27, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #54}
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 14, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #18}
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, p. 211, "There Was an Old Farmer in Sussex Did Dwell" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 471)
VaughanWilliams/Lloyd-PenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs, pp. 34-35, "The Devil and the Ploughman" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #79, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 54, "The Women Are Worse Than the Men" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Hayward-UlsterSongsAndBalladsOfTheTownAndCountry, pp. 33-35, "The Ould Man of Killyburn Brae" (1 text)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 152-154, "The Farmer's Curst Wife (The Devil and the Farmer)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 92, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ritchie-SingingFamilyOfTheCumberlands, pp. 131-132, "[Little Devils]" (1 text, 1 tune) {cf. Bronson's #52}
Ritchie-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernAppalachians, p. 25, "The Little Devils" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #52}
Roberts, #8, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bronner/Eskin-FolksongAlivePart1 3, "Farmer's Curst Wife"; "Old Scolding Kate" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #17, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #44}
Dunson/Raim/Asch-AnthologyOfAmericanFolkMusic, p. 26 "Old Lady and the Devil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Whiting-TraditionalBritishBallads 39, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Beck-SongsOfTheMichiganLumberjacks 43, "The Curst Wife" (1 text)
Beck-TheyKnewPaulBunyan, pp. 191-192, "The Curst Wife" (1 text)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 164, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (1 text)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol1, pp. 82-85, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Gainer-FolkSongsFromTheWestVirginiaHills, pp. 92-93, "The Farmer's Wife and the Devil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, pp. 5-7, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Seeger-AmericanFavoriteBallads, p. 58, "The Devil And The Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abrahams/Foss-AngloAmericanFolksongStyle, pp. 99-101, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 81-83, "The Farmer's Curst Wife"; "Randy Riley" (2 texts)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 22, "The Devil and The Farmer's Wife" (1 text)
SongsOfAllTime, p. 55, "Little Devils" (1 text, 1 tune)
Olson-BroadsideBalladIndex, ZN960, "Give eare, my loving countrey-men"
DT 278, DEVLWIFE DEVLWIF2* DEVLWIF3* DEVLWIF4*
ADDITIONAL: MacEdward Leach and Henry Glassie, _A Guide for Collectiors of Oral Traditions and Folk Cultural Material in Pennsylvania_, Pennsylvania historical and Museum Commission, 1973, pp. 28-29, "(Old Jokey Song)" (1 text)
Leslie Shepard, _The Broadside Ballad_, Legacy Books, 1962, 1978, p. 179, "The Women are worse than the Men" (reproduction of a broadside print of a short version)
Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 274-275, "Killyburn Brae" (1 text)

Roud #160
RECORDINGS:
James "Iron Head" Baker, "The Rich Old Lady" (AFS 201 B1, 204 A1, 206 A1, all 1934); "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (AFS 617 A4, 1936)
Horton Barker, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (on Barker01) {Bronson's #33}
Ollie Conway, "Lord Gregory" (on IROConway01, IREarlyBallads)
Billy Cox & Cliff Hobbs, "The Battle Axe and the Devil (Vocalion 04811/Conqueror 9220, 1939)
George Davis, "Buggerman in the Bushes" (on GeorgeDavis01)
Margaret Dunne, "There Was an Old Woman from Conner in Hell" (on IREarlyBallads)
Texas Gladden, "The Devil and the Farmer" (Disc 6082, 1940s; on USTGladden01) (AFS 9833 B, 1938; on USTGladden01)
Carrie Grover, "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" (AFS, 1941; on LC58) {Bronson's #67}
Thomas Moran, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (on FSB5, FSBBAL2)
Howard Morry, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (on PeacockCDROM)
Maggie Murphy, "Killyburn Brae" (on IRHardySons)
Lawrence Older, "Randy Riley" (on LOlder01)
Bill & Belle Reed, "Old Lady and the Devil" (Columbia 15336-D, 1928; on AAFM1) {Bronson's #32}
Jean Ritchie, "Little Devils" (on JRitchie02) {cf. Bronson's #52}
Pete Seeger, "The Farmer's Curst Wife" (on PeteSeeger16) (on PeteSeeger24); "Old Woman and the Devil" (on AschRec2)
Pete Steele, "Lack Fol Diddle I Day" [fragmentary version] (AFS, 1938; on KMM)

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 25(1855), "The Sussex Farmer", J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Devil Came to My Door" (plot)
cf. "The Massacre of Glencoe" (tune,according to Greig/Duncan2)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Old Woman and the Devil
The Farmer and the Devil
The Carle o' Killyburn Braes [Burns]
The Battle Axe and the Devil
The Farmer's Wife
NOTES [222 words]: Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland lists this as being sung to "Liliburlero," but Bronson (who was aware of though he did not print Linscott's version; it's his "g") says it is "not so close to our pattern here." - RBW
Dixon-AncientPoemsBalladsSongsOfThePeasantryOfEngland, like Linscott, writes "[t]he tune is 'Lilli burlero.'"
Compare, for example, Bill & Belle Reed, "Old Lady and the Devil" verse 1 ("There was an old man lived the foot of the hill If he ain't moved away he's a-living there still") with Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 541, "There was an old woman" ("There was an old woman Lived Under a hill, And if she's not gone She lives there still"). [Also in Baring-Gould-AnnotatedMotherGoose #4, p. 28. - RBW] Neither of Child's versions use this verse (earliest date in Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes is 1714). - BS
The idea of a conflict between a man's wife and the Devil goes back at least to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; in the Prologue to the Merchant's Tale (lines 1218-1220 in the Riverside edition), the Merchant says bitterly of his wife: "I have a wyf, the worste that may be, For thogh the feend to hire ycoupled were, She wolde hym overmacche, I dar wel swere" -- "I have the worst that may be, For though the fiend to her coupled were, She would him overmatch, I dare well swear." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.3
File: C278

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.