Jon rightly claims,” I’m really proud of the Bellowhead version of this strange little riddle song. I wonder whether ‘worse than a woman’s voice’ may be a mondegreen (woman’s scorn maybe?), but it makes me chuckle so I’ve left it.. this one is learnt from Tim and Maddy’s lovely version.”
Another Child ballad (#46), which Wiki has dating back to at least 1785. But the interesting part of this is the riddle element, which Bellowhead have somewhat abridged, doubtless to keep their excellent arrangement within a sensible time frame. It seems these basic riddles are very old indeed. Greek mythology, Norse legend and even The Bible all use riddles in some form. The questions asked here easily date back to songs from the C15th if not before and have been brought into this courtship song. They also appear in the very first of the Child ballads known as Riddles Wisely Expounded and in the second Child ballad, The Elfin Knight, the riddles are replaced with impossible tasks. It’s worth persevering with this Mudcat thread as it doesn’t get off to the most promising start, but gradually develops to expand on what I’ve said above and much more. Mainly Norfolk covers Ewan Maccoll as well as Tim & Maddy and Bellowhead.
You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores: