minstrel: Gypsies, tramps and thieves

hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu
Tue Mar 14 11:24:18 PST 2000

On Tue, 14 Mar 2000, Lisa and Ken Theriot wrote:
> Iain wrote:
> < i hate to break it to you but cersions of the gypsie
> rover are period.>
> Well, no, certain versions are TRADITIONAL.  Child #200 is listed 
> alternately as "The Gypsie Laddie", "Johnnie Faa", and "The Raggle-Taggle 
> Gipsies".  I quote one of my sources, _The Ballad Book_ by MacEdward Leach, 
> "no version has been found earlier than the latter half of the 18th 
> century".  This is supported by Child, Cecil Sharp, and a number of other 
> scholars in the field.
> The story is probably period, and there have been many attempts (none 
> successful that I have seen) to tie the song to an actual event.  The easy 

Frankly, I'd be quite startled to discover that the root story was
anywhere near period, if we assume that the root story involves
Gipsies.  If you take a look at English attitudes toward Gipsies even at
the very end of period, it's hard to imagine even the faintest trace of
romantic escapism attached to them (even assuming the story ends
badly).  If we postulate that there's a root story involving running off
with some non-Gipsy itinerant outlaw, then the notion becomes, at least,
less impossible.  (I've run across historical documents relating to the
Elizabethan attitude towards Gipsies that come pretty close to rivaling
the Nazi attitude towards them.)  All in all, any romanticization of
Gipsies is much more at home in the 18th century (George Borrow and all


Heather Rose Jones         hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu

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