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Story No. 106

Bobby Rag

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, England

Yeahs an’ yeahs an’ double yeahs ago, deah wuz a nice young Gypsy gal playin’ round an ole oak tree. An’ up comed a squire as she wur a-playin’, an’ he failed in love wid her, an’ asked her of she'd go to his hall an’ marry him. An’ she says, 'No, sir, you wouldn't have a pooah Gypsy gal like me.' But he meaned so, an’ stoled her away an’ married her.

Now when he bring’d her home, his mother warn’t ’greeable to let hisself down so low as to marry a Gypsy gal. So she says, 'You'll hev to go an’ ’stry her in de Hundert Mile Wood, an’ strip her star’-mother-naked, an’ bring back her clothes and her heart and pluck wid you.'

And he took’d his hoss, and she jumped up behint him, and rid behint him into de wood. You'll be shuah it wor a wood, an ole-fashioned wood we know it should be, wid bears an’ eagles an’ sneks an’ wolfs into it. And when he took’d her in de wood he says, 'Now, I'll ha’ to kill you here, an’ strip you star’-mother-naked and tek back your clothes an’ your heart an’ pluck wid me, and show dem to my mammy.'

But she begged hard for herself, an’ she says, 'Deah’s an eagle into dat wood, an’ he's gat de same heart an’ pluck as a Christ’n; take dat home an’ show it to your mammy, an’ I'll gin you my clothes as well.'

So he stript her clothes affer her, an’ he kilt de eagle, an’ took’d his heart an’ pluck home, an’ showed it to his mammy, an’ said as he 'd kilt her.

And she heared him rode aff, an’ she wents an, an’ she wents an, an’ she wents an, an’ she crep an’ crep an her poor hens and knees, tell she fun' a way troo de long wood. You ’ah shuah she’d have hard work to fin’ a way troo it; an’ long an’ by last she got to de hedge anear de road, so as she 'd hear any one go by.

Now, in de marnin’ deah wuz a young genleman comed by an hoss-back, an’ he couldn't get his hoss by for love nor money; an’ she hed herself in under de hedge, for she wur afrightened ’twor de same man come back to kill her agin, an’ besides you 'ah shuah she wor ashamed of bein’ naked.

An’ he calls out, 'Ef you ’ah a ghost, go way; but of you ’ah a livin’ Christ’n, speak to me.'

An’ she med answer direc’ly, 'I'm as good a Christ’n as you are, but not in parable.' [Apparel].

An’ when he sin her, he pull’t his deah beautiful topcoat affer him, an’ put it an her. An’ he says, 'Jump behint me.' An’ she jumped behint him, an’ he rid wi’ her to his own gret hall. An’ deah wuz no speakin’ tell dey gat home. He knowed she wuz deah to be kilt, an’ he galloped as hard as he could an his blood-hoss, tell he got to his own hall. An’ when he bring'd her in, dey wur all struck stunt to see a woman naked, wid her beautiful black hair hangin down her back in long rinklets. Deh asked her what she wuz deah fur, an’ she tell’d dem, an’ she tell’d dem. An’ you ’ah shuah dey soon put clothes an her; an’ when she wuz dressed up, deah warn’t a lady in de land more han’some nor her. An’ his folks wor in delight av her.

'Now,' dey says, 'we'll have a supper for goers an’ comers an’ all gentry to come at.'

You’ah shuah it should be a ’spensible supper an’ no savation of no money. And deah wuz to be tales tell’d an’ songs sing’d. An’ every wan dat didn't sing’t a song had to tell’t a tale. An’ every door wuz bolted for fear any wan would mek a skip out. An’ it kem to pass to dis’ Gypsy gal to sing a song; an’ de gentleman dat fun’ her says, 'Now, my pretty Gypsy gal, tell a tale.'

An’ de gentleman dat wuz her husband knowed her, an’ didn't want her to tell a tale. And he says, 'Sing a song, my pretty Gypsy gal.'

An’ she says, 'I won't sing a song, but I'll tell a tale. An’ she says –

                    'Bobby rag!                     Bobby rag!

Roun’ de oak tree – – – '

'Pooh! pooh!' says her husband, 'dat tale won't do.' (Now de ole mother an’ de son, dey knowed what wuz comin’ out.)

'Go on, my pretty Gypsy gal,' says de oder young genleman. 'A werry nice tale indeed.'

So she goes on –

                    'Bobby rag! Bobby rag!

                    Roun' de oak tree.

                    A Gypsy I wuz born’d,

                    A lady I wuz bred;

                    Dey made me a coffin

                    Afore I wuz dead.'

'An’ dat’s de rogue deah.'

An’ she tell’t all de tale into de party, how he wur agoin’ to kill her an’ tek her heart an’ pluck home. An’ all de gentry took’t an’ gibbeted him alive, both him an’ his mother. An’ dis young squire married her, an’ med her a lady for life. Ah! of we could know her name, an’ what breed she wur, what a beautiful ting dat would be. But de tale doan’ say.


I can offer no exact parallel for this story, though it presents such commonplaces of folklore as the marriage of a poor girl by a rich man, his mother's jealousy, her order to take the bride into a forest and kill her, and bring back her heart or something as a token, [So in the Bukowina-Gypsy story of 'The Mother's Chastisement,' No. 9, p. 29. Cf. Maive Stokes's Indian Fairy Tales, p. 245]. the substitution of some other creature's heart, and the ultimate retribution. The husband, however, is nearly always guiltless. The close of our story is reminiscent of 'Laula' or 'Mr. Fox' (pp. 174-5).


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