Little Carpenter (I), The
DESCRIPTION: Singer is courted successively by an old man, a blacksmith (who gives her a handkerchief and a finger ring) and a handsome young man (from Scarlet town!); she rejects all, preferring the little carpenter who, "hews with his broadaxe all day and sits by me
EARLIEST DATE: 1886 (William Henry Long, _Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect_)
KEYWORDS: love courting rejection magic lover worker
FOUND IN: US(Ap) Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (2 citations):
ADDITIONAL: W H Long, A Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect to which is appended ... Songs Sung by the Peasantry" (London, 1886 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 112, "The Little Cappender"[sic] ("I'll zing you a new zong, that lately has been maade") (1 text) [Not yet indexed as Long-Wight p. 112]
ST DTLitCar (Full)
Blind James Howard, "The Little Carpenter" (AAFS 1376 B2, 1933; on KMM)
New Lost City Ramblers, "The Little Carpenter" (on NLCR06, NLCRCD2)
NOTES: I've included the keyword, "magic" because the appearance of the handkerchief and finger ring hint at now-lost magical elements. Curiously, the field recording cited under, "Earliest Date" is the only time the song has been found, although its diction and images make it sound European. - PJS
Lyle Lofgren, who did a detailed examination of this song for a historical column, agrees. He notes several indications that the song is old: The change from third to first person, the "props" such as finger rings, the pentatonic melody (centering on the fifth rather than the tonic), and the general tone. One scholar speculated that it is a religious song in disguise. (Jesus, recall, was the son of a carpenter.)
The other very faint possibiility that occured to me was that it was about the historical Cherokee chief Attakullakulla, known as "Little Carpenter," who lived at the time of the French and Indian Wars and ended up surrendering some land in the region of South Carolina after a nasty campaign in which both sides suffered significant casualties. I can, by twisting very hard, make some of the references here make sense in his context.
But Virgil Philpott wrote to Lyle Lofgren in 2011 with additional information that seems to clarify the matter (largely confirmed by Ben Schwartz) -- and eliminated both Cherokee chiefs and religious motifs:
"I live on the Isle of Wight and sing traditional songs from Southern England in harmony in a trio called The Dollymopps. Over the last 18 months we have been researching the Island's traditional songs and in doing so came across a song called 'The Little Cappender' in a recreation of an old Hooam Harvest celebration in William Henry Long's Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect published in 1886.
"WH Long was from a West Wight farming family and the songs he includes in his Dictionary were all 'collected from the mouths of the peasantry' on the Island in the early part of the Nineteenth Century."
This still doesn't explain what it's about, but we can obviously eliminate any thoughts of an American origin! - RBW
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