Questions tagged [oral-tradition]

Questions related to works of literature which are transmitted through speech or song.

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8 votes
2 answers
6k views

What's the first appearance of the rhyme about "He died defending his right of way"?

There's a little poem that goes something like this: Here lies the body of Thomas Grey, Who died defending his right of way. He was perfectly right as he sped along, But he's just as dead as if he'd ...
5 votes
1 answer
302 views

Who is Queen Brijeena, the subject of a famous chavittu nadakam?

Chavittu nadakam is a Christian-origin dance form from Kerala, India. It's quite similar to the European opera, though chavittu nadakam involves a lot of dancing. The dance is accompanied by archaic ...
1 vote
1 answer
7k views

"Yum yum pig's bum"

I saw a vernacular poem that appears to have been passed down and passed around in various parts of the UK. A couple of different versions: Yum yum Pig's bum Wrap it up In chewing gum Have a slice ...
3 votes
0 answers
75 views

How did the Cutty Wren come to be the national anthem of Tristan da Cunha?

"The Cutty Wren", a traditional English folk song, is the "territorial song" (like national anthem for a British Overseas Territory?) of Tristan da Cunha, one of the remotest ...
5 votes
1 answer
155 views

The Grand Old Duke of York: how did historical events become nursery rhymes?

"The Grand old Duke of York" is a well-known English nursery rhyme concerning the exploits of an not-specifically-identified duke of York. Wikipedia, citing the Opies and other books, gives ...
2 votes
0 answers
34 views

How does Ahmad Khani's Mem and Zin differ from the pre-existing oral tradition of the story?

Mem and Zin is a classic tale of traditional Kurdish storytelling, passed down through oral tradition for centuries, but also written down in 1692 by the Kurdish poet Ahmad Khani. In the process of ...
11 votes
0 answers
25k views

What's the origin of the rhyme "My friend Billy had a ten foot willy"?

A simple rhyming song which I heard growing up and which still gets stuck in my head every so often: My friend Billy had a ten foot willy. He stuck it through the neighbour's door. OR He showed ...
2 votes
0 answers
76 views

Origin of “walking to the end of the rainbow”

I have a problem translating a particular idiom to an other language (Arabic if this is relevant). The idiom is as in the title: "People of that age [middle aged people in their 40's] become little ...
7 votes
0 answers
63 views

Were any of the Asbjørnsen og Moe stories transcribed directly from oral traditions?

Asbjørnsen og Moe are the Norwegian answers to the Brothers Grimm, the collectors of what is still considered the definitive volume of Norwegian folk tales. How many of these tales were taken from ...
31 votes
1 answer
1k views

Are there any recorded discrepancies between The Odyssey as oral tradition and The Odyssey as Homer transcribed it?

The Odyssey began as oral tradition, and was later transcribed by someone we now call "Homer." Disregarding the Homeric Question concerning the identity of the person who transcribed these works, it ...
4 votes
1 answer
165 views

How long did accounts of the Sängerkrieg last as purely oral literature?

The Sängerkrieg, or contest of minstrels, was an event which (supposedly) took place at Wartburg Castle in Germany in the early 13th century. Since its veracity is disputed, I assume there weren't any ...
8 votes
2 answers
384 views

How did the story of Robin Hood pass from oral literature to written?

Robin Hood is a famous figure of English folklore, whose existence or fictionality is still a subject of debate. The stories about him started off as folk tales transmitted orally (ballads), but by ...
2 votes
1 answer
59 views

Which element of an amputated virgin breast healing a snakebite is a "Celtic theme"?

The Breton folk song Gwerz Santes Enori has survived for centuries as an oral tradition combining storytelling with music. Its story, quoting Wikipedia's summary, begins like this: The poem's story ...
3 votes
1 answer
3k views

In the song "Whiskey in the Jar", would Captain Farrell have been British or Irish?

In the song "Whiskey in the Jar", would Captain Farrell have been British or Irish? What was the historical setting and context of the song's tale?
6 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why is the Star of the County Down referred to as Colleen?

While listening to the Irish Rovers version of the traditional Irish song "Star of the County Down", I noticed an apparent discrepancy in her name: Near Banbridge town, in the County Down ...
4 votes
1 answer
114 views

What is meant by "saints of forties and sevens" in this traditional Turkish hymn?

In the article "Ritual Change in a Turkish Alevi Village" by Thomas McElwain, I found a description of a sacrifice ritual which includes the following nefes (hymn?) recited for a ram: Erler ...
4 votes
1 answer
156 views

Thomas McElwain as Ali Haydar?

On this website of translated Turkish poetry, a traditional hymn of sacrifice from a Turkish Alevi village is included in its English translation, with a note at the top signed "Ali Haydar", although ...
10 votes
1 answer
3k views

Is the story of "Tales in the Sand" (or its form) faithful to traditional African stories?

In the prologue to The Doll's House (The Sandman #9 "Tales in the Sand"), Gaiman tells the story of Queen Nada. Neil Gaiman is not African, nor (as far as I could tell) were any of the people who ...
11 votes
0 answers
117 views

Why, at the begining of the tale Jealous Twins, does the storyteller frame the story?

The Verba Africana website is a fantastic website that publishes recordings, transcriptions, and analysis of African oral literature. One of the stories published on the site is called Jealous Twins; ...
3 votes
0 answers
3k views

What does "M O" in the Razzle Dazzle cheer song mean?

I would like to know what a particular line in the following cheer poem is a reference to. Razzle Dazzle Leader: My name is (your name) I'm number one My reputation has just begun So if ...