Creepy Folk Songs

I memorized this when I was in grade school. Then Mom and Dad pulled Sib and I out of class for two weeks and we toured the battlefields of the American Civil War. Which may explain a great deal…

Many of the Child Ballads—the British and Irish songs and ballads collected by Francis James Child— are not happy. Ian and Sylvia sang a version that I also imprinted on.

Not the most cheerful of songs, are they? On the other hand, “Greenwood Sidie-o” and its variants makes a point – if a woman has sex outside of marriage, and gets rid of the evidence, she’s going to face a horrible fate. Which was true in society at the time.

You also should not leave your husband and child for a wild rover, despite the song “Raggle Taggle Gypsie-o.” “The House Carpenter” tells the rest of the tale, and is another that I grew up with. Some sources (Alan Lomax) have speculated that it was popular in Appalacia because it justified remaining faithful even after the men left to work elsewhere, sometimes never to return.


6 thoughts on “Creepy Folk Songs

  1. Then there’s Heather Alexander’s take on running away with a gypsy, and the likelihood that he’d still be around in the morning. “Black Jack’s Lady”, and the intro thereto: a fine caution to would-be gypsies.

  2. The great Gaels of Ireland are the men the gods made mad,
    For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.

    • “the men that God made mad”, I believe. The story opens with “Before the gods that made the gods Had seen their sunrise pass The White Horse of the White Horse Vale Was cut out of the grass.”

      Mostly I’m just miffed you got the quote out before I did.

  3. I came across a quote the other day: “It doesn’t have to be nice to be true”.

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