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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Childe Rowand"

Childe Rowand

Childe Rowland and his brothers twain Were playing at the ball, And there was their sister Burd Ellen In the midst, among them all.

Childe Rowland kicked it with his foot

And caught it with his knee;

At last as he plunged among them all

O'er the church he made it flee.

Burd Ellen round about the aisle

To seek the ball is gone,

But long they waited, and longer still,

And she came not back again.

They sought her east, they sought her west,

They sought her up and down,

And woe were the hearts of those brethren,

For she was not to be found.

So at last her eldest brother went to the Warlock Merlin and told him all the case, and asked him if he knew where Burd Ellen was. "The fair Burd Ellen," said the Warlock Merlin, "must have been carried off by the fairies, because she went round the church 'wider shins'—the opposite way to the sun. She is now in the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland; it would take the boldest knight in Christendom to bring her back."

"If it is possible to bring her back," said her brother, "I'll do it, or perish in the attempt."

"Possible it is," said the Warlock Merlin, "but woe to the man or mother's son that attempts it, if he is not well taught beforehand what he is to do."

The eldest brother of Burd Ellen was not to be put off, by any fear of danger, from attempting to get her back, so he begged the Warlock Merlin to tell him what he should do, and what he should not do, in going to seek his sister. And after he had been taught, and had repeated his lesson, he set out for Elfland.

But long they waited, and longer still,

With doubt and muckle pain,

But woe were the hearts of his brethren,

For he came not back again.

Then the second brother got tired and sick of waiting, and he went to the Warlock Merlin and asked him the same as his brother. So he set out to find Burd Ellen.

But long they waited, and longer still,

With muckle doubt and pain,

And woe were his mother's and brother's heart,

For he came not back again.

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