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The Robber Bridegroom

[ Roud 17769 ; trad.]

Derek and Dorothy Elliott sang Robber Bridegroom in 1972 on their Leader album Derek & Dorothy Elliott. They commented in their sleeve notes:

Robber Bridegroom or One Moonlight Night. Widely known as a folk tale in Yorkshire and other counties called ‘Mr Fox’. The song sung here is from Frank Kidson's English Peasant Songs.

Alice Jones sang One Moonlit Night in 2014 on her and Pete Coe's Backshift CD of songs from the Frank Kidson collection, The Search for Five Finger Frank. They commented:

The tune and riddle verse collected from Kate Thompson of Knaresborough. The lyrics are likely to be adapted from a cante-fable sometimes known as But Tow Came By and Mr Fox.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman learned The Robber Bridegroom from the singing of Derek and Dorothy Elliott and sang it in 2015 on their CD Tomorrow Will Follow Today. This video shows them at Tønder Festival in 2013:

Martin Carthy's song The Cottage in the Wood on his 1974 album Sweet Wivelsfield has incorporated this plot too. And Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight start with the same motif of the villain convincing the heroine to elope with her dowry and then wanting to rob and kill her.

Lyrics

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman sing The Robber Bridegroom

“Go bring to me your dowry love
And some of your fathers gold besides,
That you may ride along with me
And be made next day my lovely bride.”

She took the dowry, she took the gold,
The appointed night came very soon.
And away she’s gone to the trysting tree
By the pale light of the rising moon.

She’s come in first to the trysting tree,
Said, “In the leaves above I’ll hide
To surprise my love, so that when he comes
He will wonder where is my lovely bride.”

She waited a while as she sat hid,
She saw two men below her feet.
Her love she saw in the pale moonlight
As he dug a grave below the tree.

They waited a while but she never stirred
And at last they left their dreadful plan.
And when they both had safely gone
She slipped from the tree and home she ran.

A week went by, her love she met
At a neighbours house to pass the time.
The lads and girls they jest and played
And asked each other riddles and rhymes.

Her false love whispered, “Where were you love
The night I waited in vain for you?”
“I’ll answer that,” this girl replied,
“If you’ll answer me this puzzle true:

“One moonlit night as I lay hid,
I looked for one but two came there.
The boughs did bend and the leaves did shake
For to see the hole the fox did make.”

His colour changed and up he rose,
He saw his treachery made so plain.
Out of the doors into the night,
Never seen in those parts again.