Children in the Wood, The (The Babes in the Woods) [Laws Q34] --- Part 01

DESCRIPTION: Two young orphaned children are left in the care of their uncle. He decides to murder them for their money. One of the hired killers has pity and spares them, but then abandons them. They die. The uncle meets countless disasters till his crime is revealed
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1595? (title of piece in Stationer's Register)
KEYWORDS: orphan money death abandonment family children
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England) Australia Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (42 citations):
Laws Q34, "The Children in the Wood (The Babes in the Woods)"
Percy/Wheatley-ReliquesOfAncientEnglishPoetry III, pp. 169-176, "The Children in the Wood" (1 text -- the long form)
Rimbault-Musical IllustrationsOfBishopPercysReliques LXIII, p. 109, "The Children in the Wood" (2 partial texts, 2 tunes)
Ritson-AncientSongsBalladsFromHenrySecondToTheRevolution, pp. 278-283, "The Children in the Wood; or, The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament" (1 text -- the long form)
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, p. 217, "Two Babes in the Wood" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 229)
Palmer-EnglishCountrySongbook, #56, "The Babes in the Wood" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Copper-ASongForEverySeason, pp. 198-199, "Babes in the Wood" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Flanders/Ballard/Brown/Barry-NewGreenMountainSongster, pp. 234-238, "The Children in the Wood" (1 text, 1 tune -- the long form)
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 106-107, "The Babes in the Wood" (2 texts -- the short form)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 147, "The Babes in the Wood" (1 text)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #215, "The Babes in the Wood" (2 texts, 1 tune; the "A" text is the long form, the "B" text and tune are the short)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 139, p. 285, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text -- the short form)
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, p. 57, (no title) (1 text, quite short, but it appears to be a fragment of the long form)
Carey-MarylandFolkLegendsAndFolkSongs, p. 117, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text -- the short form)
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 71, "Babes in the Wood" (1 text -- the short form)
List-SingingAboutIt-FolkSongsInSouthernIndiana, pp. 58-65, "Two Babes in th Woods" (2 texts, 2 tunes -- the short form -- plus many excerpts including an older print edition)
Grimes-StoriesFromTheAnneGrimesCollection, p. 144, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text -- the short form)
Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan 141, "The Babes in the Woods" (1 text -- the long form)
Randolph 92, "The Babes in the Woods" (5 texts, 2 tunes -- the short form)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 113-115, "The Babes in the Woods" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 92A)
Abernethy-SinginTexas, pp. 21-22, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Cox/Hercog/Halpert/Boswell-WVirginia-A, #22, pp. 89-90, "Babes in the Wood" (1 text, 1 tune -- perhaps a fragment of the long form)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 47, "The Babes in the Wood" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, p. 106, "The Orphans (Babes in the Woods)" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Meredith/Covell/Brown-FolkSongsOfAustraliaVol2, p. 210, "(The Babes in the Wood)" (1 fragmentary text); pp. 295-296, "Babes in the Wood" (1 text+tune of the short form, plus an excerpt from the long form)
Creighton-FolksongsFromSouthernNewBrunswick 87, "Babes in the Wood" (1 short text, 1 tune; although only a fragment, it is clearly derived from the long form)
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 174, "The Children in the Wood" (1 text -- the long form)
Abrahams/Foss-AngloAmericanFolksongStyle, pp. 121-122, ""The Babes in the Woods (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Pound-AmericanBalladsAndSongs, 115, pp. 233-234, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text -- the short form)
Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 285-286, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
Baring-Gould-AnnotatedMotherGoose #226, pp. 148-149, "(My dear, do you know)" (the short form)
Olson-BroadsideBalladIndex, ZN1966, "Now ponder well you parents dear"
Chappell-PopularMusicOfTheOldenTime, pp. 200-201, "The Children in the Wood" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Chappell/Wooldridge-OldEnglishPopularMusic I, p. 92, "[The Two Children in the Wood]" (1 tune)
Brumley-LamplitinTimeInTheValley 56, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text, 1 tune -- the short form)
ADDITIONAL: Iona & Peter Opie, The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse, pp. 42-46, "The Babes in the Wood" (1 text -- the long form)
Katherine Briggs, _A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language_, Part A: Folk Narratives, 1970 (I use the 1971 Routledge paperback that combines volumes A.1 and A.2), volume A.2, pp. 390-391, "The Children in the Wood" (a short prose summary of the long form, with the father of the children being "A gentleman of Norfolk")
Leslie Shepard, _John Pitts, Ballad Printer of Seven Dials, London 1765-1844_, Private Library Association, 1969, p. 114, "THE CHILDREN IN THE WOOD, Or the Norfolk Gentelman's last Will and Testament" (reprint of a Pitts broadside)
Steve Roud "A Note on the Song 'The Babes in the Wood' (Roud 288/Laws Q34)," article in _Missouri Folklore Society Journal_, Volume 27-28 (cover date 2005-2006, but published 2015), pp. 146-154 (1 text plus reprints of several field collections and broadsides; the purpose of the article is to show that it is NOT the case that short forms of the ballad are American and long are English)
[No author listed,] _The Old Ballad of The Babes in the Wood_, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone and brief historical notes by Kathleen Lines, Henry Z. Walck, Inc., New York, 1972 (1 text, the long form, a part of a series of folktales with historical notes, although the notes in this case are much too short to be useful)
Suzi Jones, _Oregon Folklore_, University of Oregon/Oregon Arts Commission, 1977, p. 31, "Babes in the Woods" (1 text, 1 tune, the short form)

Roud #288
Dorothy Howard, "Babes in the Wood" (on USWarnerColl01 -- the short form)
Bodleian, Harding B 4(30), "The Children in the Wood" or "The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament," W. and C. Dicey (London), 1736-1763; also Harding B 4(31), Harding B 4(34), Harding B 4(36), Johnson Ballads 2400, Harding B 30(2), Harding B 4(35), Harding B 4(37), Harding B 4(38), "The Children in the Wood" or "The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament"
cf. "Dunbar the Murderer" (plot)
cf. "Three Lost Babes of Americay" (plot)
cf. "The Lost Babes" (plot)
NOTES [755 words]: Laws notes, "A three stanza lament on the fate of the children called 'The Babes in the Wood' is widely known in American tradition, but the long ballad is rarely met with." At first glance these two songs are hardly related (they don't even use the same metrical form), but Laws seems to want them lumped. Though we note that he lists only occurrences of the long form. But splitting seems inappropriate in the circumstances.
According to Waring, p. 14, "Interestingly enough, stage people believe that Robin Hood and The Babes in the Wood are ill-omened pantomimes, while Cinderella promises nothing but good.
Hales believes this piece to be by the same author as "The Lady's Fall." - RBW
The Creighton-FolksongsFromSouthernNewBrunswick 87 is clearly a fragment of the Bodleian broadside version. - BS
The history and content of this song have inspired extensive discussion over the course of several centuries. It raises many difficult questions, both as to history and as to purpose. The result is a very long entry. I have therefore broken it up into the following sections, divided among four different entries in the Ballad Index. which you can search for if you don't want to read the whole thing. These aren't really chapters; the note is meant to be read continuously. But it may help you to find the part you most want. The larger part of this note is about the actions of Richard III and his usurpation of the English throne. You don't need to know all about that to be able to understand the part at the end about "The Legend of the Princes and the Content of the Song." You merely need to know that there is much debate about Richard III, and that Shakespeare's picture is impossibly one-sided. The great question is whether it is *completely* one-sided....
*** Included in this entry:*
* Full References for the song
* Bibliography
*** Included in the Entry "Children in the Wood, The (The Babes in the Woods) [Laws Q34]" --- Part 02 (File Number Link LQ34A):*
* Speculations about the Origin of the Song
* The Historical Problem: The Black Legend of Richard III
* The Historical Sources
* Richard's Rediscovered Body
* The Background: The Wars of the Roses
*** Included in the Entry "Children in the Wood, The (The Babes in the Woods) [Laws Q34]" --- Part 03 (File Number Link LQ34B):*
* The Death of Edward IV and the Government of the Realm
* The Character of Richard III
*** Included in the Entry "Children in the Wood, The (The Babes in the Woods) [Laws Q34]" --- Part 04 (File Number Link LQ34C):*
* The Usurpation
* The Unknown Fate of the Princes
*** Included in the Entry "Children in the Wood, The (The Babes in the Woods) [Laws Q34]" --- Part 05 (File Number Link LQ34D):*
* Richard's Government and Tudor Government
* The Battle of Bosworth and the Death of Richard III
* The Legend of the Princes and the Content of the Song
Note on the Bibliography:
In my previous version of this article (the third), I gave a detailed annotated bibliography, trying to cite all the prejudices of each author. In an attempt to shorten things, I have now reduced this to two ratings: Pro-Richardness (on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being Shakespeare, who can see no good in Richard, and 10 being Markham, who made him a saint. I have not cited any "10" sources). I would consider sources in the 3 to 7 range to be rational, with the truth most likely at 6 and the next most likely position being 3. A book with a 1, 2, 8, or 9 shows research but much influence by emotion; a book which is a 0 or a 10 is pure emotion with little use for facts. The level of research I have rated Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Lousy (or variations upon that description). These ratings refer *only* to the material on Richard. I have omitted the ratings for books which are not directly concerned with Richard.
For what it's worth, the average Pro-Richardness of the 27 books I rated when I first instituted the system is almost exactly 4; the quality of research just a hair below "fair." There is effectively no correlation between pro-Richardness and research quality -- the correlation coefficient between the two is only .23. What is noteworthy is that I rated 9 books good or excellent in research, and seven of them have pro-Richardnesses in the 3-6 range; the other two are Hicks (2) and Kendall (8). No one with an extreme pro- or anti-Richard value has better than "fair" research.
Of the early sources, More, Rous, Hall, and Shakespeare would rate a 0, Vergil a 1, Croyland and Mancini about a 3 in Pro-Richardness.
Bibliography Last updated in version 6.2
File: LQ34

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