“The Maid Freed from the Gallows”

Alternate titles: “The Golden Ball”; “The Prickilie Bush”; “The Gallows Pole”; “Granny and the Golden Ball”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1770 (Percy collection, according to Child)
Keywords: execution love rescue
Found in: Britain(Scotland,England(North,South,West)) US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Bahamas Jamaica

Description

A (woman) is about to be hanged. If she could pay her fee, she would be freed. One by one, father, brother, (and other family members) come to see her hanged, refusing to ransom her. Then her sweetheart arrives to rescue her

Notes

This very popular ballad is identical in plot with "Gallows" [Laws L11], and lumping editors will lump them; individual collections should be checked carefully.

Scarborough notes that southern Blacks turned this song into drama -- in a rather depressing way: The magical ball could be used to turn a Black girl into a pretty White. - RBW

The Martin & Roberts recording is a weird mishmosh: one verse that sounds like it's from the "Ten Thousand Miles Away from Home" family, one from this song, and one more or less from "Roving Gambler." I put it here because that middle verse is most explicitly from here, whereas the others are vaguer.

The Roy Harvey, recording, meanwhile, is equally weird; the tune is from "John Hardy," all right, but the lyrics are "Maid Freed from the Gallows." Don't ask me what's going on. - PJS

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Child 95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (11 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #5}
  2. Bronson 95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (68 versions+2 in addenda, but the last four main entries are "Gallows" [Laws L11], and some of the fragments may be also)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 206-213, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (4 texts plus assorted folktale versions)
  4. Flanders-Ancient3, pp. 15-41, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (8 texts plus a fragment, 8 tunes, but of the texts, only "A," "B1," and "B2" are 'The Maid Freed" [Child 95]; the remaining six are "Gallows" [Laws L11]
  5. Belden, pp. 66-67, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #54}
  6. Randolph 24, "Hold Your Hands, Old Man" (5 texts plus a fragment, 4 tunes) {A=Bronson's #41, D=#61, E=#12, F=#50}
  7. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 45-47, "Hold Your Hands, Old Man" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 24E) {Bronson's #12}
  8. Eddy 18, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
  9. Gardner/Chickering 50, "The Golden Ball" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #22}
  10. Davis-Ballads 95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (24 texts plus a fragment, 5 tunes plus a variant entitles "Maid Freed from the Gallows," "The Hangerman's Tree, or Freed from the Gallos," "The Maid Saved," "Hangsman"; 9 more versions mentioned in Appendix A) {Bronson's #9, #26, #42, #46, #40}
  11. Davis-More 29, pp. 221-228, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (3 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes; the two longest texts, AA and DD, both contain floating material, in the case of "D" probably from "Ten Thousand Miles Away from Home (A Wild and Reckless Hobo; The Railroad Bum)" [Laws H2])
  12. BrownII 30, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (4 texts, 5 excerpts, 1 fragment, plus mention of two more, as well as one mixed text, M, probably a combination of this with "Ten Thousand Miles Away from Home (A Wild and Reckless Hobo; The Railroad Bum)" [Laws H2])
  13. Chappell-FSRA 15, "Maid Freed from the Gallows" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #34}
  14. Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 35-42, (no general title; one version is listed as "Hangman, Slack on the Line") (3 texts plus 3 excerpts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #10}
  15. Hudson 17, pp. 111-114, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (4 texts plus an excerpt and mention of 1 more; the "D" text is mixed with floating verses from prison songs)
  16. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 284, (no title) (1 text)
  17. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 196-200, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (2 texts plus an excerpt, with local titles "The Hangman's Son" and "Hangman, Hold Your Rope"; 2 tunes on pp. 408-409) {Bronson's #37, #38}
  18. Brewster 17, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (1 text)
  19. Leach, pp. 295-300, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (4 texts)
  20. Wyman-Brockway I, p. 44, "The Hangman's Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #35}
  21. Fuson, pp. 113-114, "The Hangman's Song" (1 text, with an introductory verse related to "In the Pines," ending "I have done no hanging crime")
  22. Cambiaire, pp. 15-16, "The Hangman's Song" (1 text)
  23. Friedman, p. 131, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (4 texts)
  24. Warner 105, "Hang Man" (1 text, 1 tune)
  25. McNeil-SFB1, pp. 86-87, "Jimmy Loud"; pp. 88-90, "Hangman" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  26. SharpAp 28, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (11 texts, most of which appear to be fragments though it's often hard to tell with this song, 11 tunes){Bronson's #30, #33, #9, #42, #6, #25, #58, #31, #39, #32, #15}
  27. Sharp-100E 17, "The Briery Bush" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #49}
  28. Niles 39, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  29. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 14, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #30}
  30. Sandburg, p. 72, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #23}; p. 385, "Hangman" (1 short text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #64}
  31. Scott-BoA, pp. 14-15, "The Sycamore Tree"; pp. 207-208, "Hangman, Slack on the Line" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  32. Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 282-383, "Prickle-holly Bush" (1 text, 1 tune)
  33. Ritchie-SingFam, pp. 139-141, "[Hangman, Slack Up Your Rope]" (2 texts, 2 tunes) {second tune is Bronson's #36, with differences}
  34. Ritchie-Southern, p. 27, "The Hangman Song" (1 text, 1 tune) {approximately Bronson's #36, but Bronson's transcription, from recording, is noticeably different}
  35. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 822-824, "The Hangman's Tree" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #23}
  36. TBB 5, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows (The Hangman's Tree)" (1 text)
  37. LPound-ABS, 13, pp. 31-33, "The Hangman's Song" (1 text)
  38. JHCox 18, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (7 texts)
  39. JHCoxIIA, #9, pp. 38-39, "Slack Your Rope" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #27}
  40. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 41-42 "Hangman, Hangman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  41. Rorrer, p. 74, "The Highwayman" (1 text, with a significant mixture of unrelated material from songs such as "The Roving Gambler"); p. 80, "Hangman, Hangman, Slack the Rope" (1 text, a fairly normal American variant)
  42. Darling-NAS, pp. 69-71, "The Hangman"; "Gallows Pole" (2 texts, the first "modernized" by Darling)
  43. Silber-FSWB, p. 211, "The Gallows Pole" (1 text)
  44. DT 95, HANGMN1* HANGMAN2*
  45. Roud #144
  46. BI, C095