Hunt the Wren
DESCRIPTION: "Let's go to the wood, said Robin-the-Bobbin, Let's go to the wood, said Richard to Robin. Let's go to... said John Tullane, Let's go to... said everyone." They hunt, kill, and eat the wren, and argue over disposing of the body
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1744 (Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, Volume II)
KEYWORDS: wren hunting foreignlanguage
FOUND IN: Britain(England(Lond,North,South),Scotland(Bord),Wales) US(Ap,NE,SE)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, pp. 184-185, "Richat and Robet" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 167)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 78, "Helg yn Dreean [Hunt the Wren]" (1 Manx Gaelic text+translation, 1 tune, plus fragments and a text of "The Cutty Wren" in the notes)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #143, "Hunting the Wren" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardham-EastRidingSongster 2, pp. 6, 42, "I've Fun' a Bod's Nest" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Pound-AmericanBalladsAndSongs, 117, pp. 235-236, "Let's Go to the Woods" (1 text)
Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, pp. 230-233, "Let's Go to the Woods or The Hunting of the Wren" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, pp. 108-109, "Roberty Boberty" (1 text, 1 tune)
Smith-SouthCarolinaBallads, #XVI, pp. 164-166, "Hunting the Wren or 'Let Us Go to the Woods'" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 447, "We will go to the wood, says Robin to Bobbin" (1 text)
Baring-Gould-AnnotatedMotherGoose #29, p. 41-44, "(We will go to the Wood)"
Montgomerie/Montgomerie-ScottishNurseryRhymes 16, "The Hunting of the Wren" (1 text)
Delamar-ChildrensCountingOutRhymes, pp. 175-177, The Wren Hunt" (1 text)
DT, HNTWRN2 HUNWREN2
ADDITIONAL: Robert Chambers, The Popular Rhymes of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1870 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 37-38, "The Hunting of the Wren"
Jack Elliott, "Billy the Bob" (on Elliotts01)
cf. "The Wren (The King)" (subject)
cf. "Billy Barlow" (form)
cf. "Cricketty Wee" (form)
cf. "The Cutty Wren" (form, subject)
NOTES [167 words]: Many have identified this song with "Billy Barlow," "Cricketty Wee," or (especially) "The Cutty Wren," but while the form is similar, and in the latter case even the subject is the same, the plot is distinct enough that the Index splits them.
In some cases, e.g. the Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland text, I'll admit this is doubtful, but some of the Digital Tradition texts are more distinct, and even pick up pieces of "The Wren (The King)." In another Digital Tradition text (HNTWRN2), the plot doesn't even involve a wren; it's just a bunch of kids(?) finding a bird's next; that one seems to have some "Billy Barlow" in its ancestry (or, more likely, the reverse).
In the case of the Opie "We Will Go to the Wood" text, it seems not unlikely that someone took a "Cutty Wren" text and made it a nursery song. This might explain the complex relationship between the texts.
For a little information, and a lot of speculation, on the history of wrenning, see the notes to "The Wren (The King)." - RBW
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