Lady Margaret and Sweit Willie
DESCRIPTION: Willie rapes Lady Margaret. He asks her to marry. She warns him not to press the issue. He persists and tells of his riches, including his ships. She curses his riches and would have him drown on his ship. Her curses are realized and he drowns.
EARLIEST DATE: 1828 (Lyle-Crawfurd2)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Willie follows and rapes Lady Margaret. He asks her to marry. She rejects the offer and warns him not to press the issue. He lists his inventory of riches: a dozen cows that have not calved, a dozen ewes that haven't lambed, a dozen mares that haven't foaled, a dozen mills that have never failed, and a dozen ships upon the sea. He asks her to marry. She curses his cows to never calve, his ewes to never lamb, his mares to cast their foals, his mills to fail, and his ships to "rock and row and tumble ye in the sea." She says again that, having taken her maidenhead "ye'd better let it be." His cows never calve, ewes never lamb, mares cast their foals, mills fail, his ships "rock and row and drounit him in the sea" because he took her maidenhead and would not "let it be."
KEYWORDS: rape rejection warning punishment drowning curse
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Bord))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Lyle-Crawfurd2 103, "Lady Margaret and Sweit Willie" (1 text)
NOTES: Lyle classifies Lyle-Crawfurd2 #103, "Lady Margaret and Sweit William" as Child 110. Only Child 110E [see Lyle-Crawfurd2 p. xxxiv], from Buchan's "Earl Richard, the Queen's Brother" comes close and only in the part of Child 110 preceeding the rape [Peter Buchan, Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1875 (reprint of 1828 edition)), Vol II, pp. 81-91, "Earl Richard, the Queen's Brother"; compare this to Vol II, pp. 91-102, "Earl Lithgow," a more typical Child 110 text; see the note on p. 318 explaining that "the two [versions] which are given here [are] from the recitation of very old people"].
Judge for yourself.
"Earl Richard ..." LONG DESCRIPTION: Earl Richard meets a woman "with towers of gold upon her head" and offers "my bonnie ship to get your maidenhead." She says "I wish your bonnie ship rent and rise and drown you in the sea" because no ship could mend her lost maidenhead; he says a lost maidenhead is not so great a loss. He offers her his twenty-four mills; she repeats her curse on his ship [she should have cursed his mills]. He offers -- in turn -- twenty-four cows "all calved in a day," twenty-four steeds "all foaled in a year" and as much gold as they can carry. She repeats the curse on his ship [rather than on the cows and horses] and spurns his gold. Then he says, he'll have her without the gold, and he rapes her. [Here any similarity ends and the usual Child 110 tale continues: she asks his name, she recognizes that it is Richard, he rides away, she follows him, crosses a stream by magic, follows him to the castle and pleads her case before the queen; the queen's brother Richard is forced to marry her. He cries in bed but becomes happy when he learns that she is "the king o' Scotland's fair dochter."] Her curse is never realized.
A note from Steve Gardham in this regard: "['Earl Richard'] has nothing in common with genuine versions of 110. Buchan was notorious for fabricating ballads particularly in ABNS. Nicol of Strichen is no more trustworthy. As far as I can see Buchan could easily have fabricated his version from the obviously genuine piece in Crawfurd and other versions of 110. Child was quite rightly highly suspicious of Buchan's later publications. There are no surviving manuscripts as such. All that survives is 'finished' material ready for publication -- no field notes and precious few attributions."
Are there similar curses, realized or not? Greig-Duncan2 215BB, "The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow" includes the verse "Oh father dear, ye ha'e twenty kye Calfies a' te follow And I wish you as much good o' them As I got o' my marrow"; we don't know if this curse is realized, but it may not have begun as a curse. The only similar verse in Child is in 214E,F,G and H -- "Take hame your oxen, tak home your kye, They've bred to me great sorrow; I wish they had all now gone mad First when they came to Yarrow" -- indicating only that they may have been the cause of the dispute. - BS
There are somewhat similar-sounding curses in the Bible, such as Jotham's curse on Abimelech (Joshua 9) and Elisha's curse on the children who teased him (2 Kings 2:23-24). Both those curses were effective. We also have two instances of rape followed by effective retribution (Shechem's rape of Dinah, in Genesis 24, and Amnon's rape of Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13). Neither of those involves the girl cursing, however. Still, the idea of active curses seems to be very old -- it has been hypothesize that some of the very oldest artifacts found in cities are "curse tablets," used in a sort of voodoo against an enemy. - RBW
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