“The Beggar-Laddie”

Author: unknown
Keywords: work home courting money disguise
Found in: Britain(Scotland(Aber))


A girl asks the shepherd what his trade is. He tells her, then declares that he loves her "as Jacob loved Rachel of old." She decides to go with him despite his poverty. He takes her home with him and reveals that he is actually well-to-do


The reference to Jacob loving Rachel, or vice versa, is to Gen. 29:18 and following; it is probably offered as an example because Jacob served Laban (Rachel's brother) for seven years to win her hand (and actually wound up working for Laban for fourteen years, because he got Rachel's sister Leah also).

The reference to Judas loving gold is more of a stretch; we are told that Judas was given thirty pieces of *silver* (Matt. 26:15), and the less explicit accounts of Mark (14:11) and Luke (22:5) also mention only silver (usually rendered "money" in English translations). These references seem to be corruptions of the reading in Child's "A" text, which refers to the classical legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece. (Compare Ord's text, in which it is Jesse, not Judas, who loves "cups of gold.")

The repartee also has a strange parallel in Lewis Carroll's _Through the Looking Glass_. The White Knight sings a song which includes these lines:

"Who are you, aged man," I said.

"And how is it you live?"

And his answer trickled through my head

Like water through a sieve.

He said, "I look for butterflies

That sleep among the wheat....

And that's the way I get my bread --

A trifle, if you please." - RBW

Cross references


  1. Child 280, "The Beggar-Laddie" (5 texts)
  2. Bronson 280, "The Beggar-Laddie" (18 versions)
  3. Ord, pp. 382-383, "The Beggar's Dawtie" (1 text)
  4. Roud #119
  5. BI, C280