“The Fause Knight Upon the Road”

Alternate titles: “The Devil and the Schoolchild”; “The False Knight”; “The Smart Schoolboy”; “The Knight on the Road”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1827 (Motherwell, _Minstrelsy: Ancient and Modern_)
Keywords: contest Devil virtue questions
Found in: Britain(Scotland) US(Ap,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar) Ireland

Description

A grown man (knight, churl, demon) meets a schoolboy on the road. The schoolboy matches wits with the man, finding a defense or matching insult for each thrust, and so survives

Notes

One of Child's three texts is "Harpkin," which he places in an appendix. The two are distinct in plot ("Harpkin" is apparently a contest between two rivals; "The Fause Knight" involves an innocent youth), but the form of the two is so similar that they cannot be reliably distinguished.

Bertrand Bronson discusses the original form of this ballad in "The Interdependence of Ballad Tunes and Texts" (first printed in the _California Folklore Quarterly_, II, 1944; see now MacEdward Leach and Tristram P. Coffin, eds, _The Critics and the Ballad_. The relevant discussion is on pages 80-82).

American versions of this piece can be quite degenerate. Pound's text, for instance, sounds very much like a schoolyard quarrel, except that one of the disputants is "false knight Munro." But he sounds just like a bully: "Give your lunch to my dog or I'll throw you down the well." The boy responds by throwing Munro down the well first. - RBW

Recordings

References

  1. Child 3, "The Fause Knight Upon the Road" (3 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
  2. Bronson 3, "The Fause Knight Upon the Road" (10 versions plus 2 in addenda)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 11-14, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text)
  4. Belden, p. 4, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text)
  5. Flanders/Olney, pp. 46-47, "The False Knight on the Road" (1 text) {Bronson's #10}
  6. Flanders-Ancient1, pp. 79-81, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #10}
  7. McNeil-SFB2, pp. 119-121, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Davis-Ballads 2, "The Fause Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #4}
  9. Davis-More 3, pp. 14-15, "The Fause Knight Upon the Road" (1 fragmentary text)
  10. Brewster 2, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
  11. Creighton/Senior, p. 1, "The False Knight upon the Road" (1 text plus 1 excerpt, 1 tune) {Bronson's #2}
  12. Creighton-NovaScotia 1, "False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
  13. Manny/Wilson 51, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. PBB 13, "Harpkin"; 14, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (2 texts)
  15. Niles 3 "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. SharpAp 2 "The False Knight Upon the Road" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #5, #6}
  17. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 2, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
  18. OBoyle 13, "The Knight On the Road" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 197, "(O, where are you going?)" (1 text)
  20. TBB 31, "The False Knight upon the Road" (1 text)
  21. LPound-ABS, 20, p. 48, "The False Knight" (1 text)
  22. DT 3, FALSKNGT* FALSKNT2*
  23. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #344, "The False Knight Upon the Road" (1 text);cf. the notes to #343, with "Meet-on-the-Road," evidently a literary rewrite
  24. Roud #20
  25. BI, C003