GDragon is my favorite person in kpop. To think that “Crayon” and “Butterfly” came from the same person who wrote “She’s Gone” and “Coup d'état” is wild. His lyrics, compositions, and rapping never fail to amaze me.
Annotated for your pleasure, these Weird Folk Song Premises are very educational. Some plots are wonderfully bizarre, sung in lost languages - others have familiar echoes that you’ll pick up later in your favorite stories. Eight female trad/folk singers explain how to address life’s great challenges, such as getting your fairy boyfriend to commit, the best ways to make harps out of body parts, and under what contexts it’s cool to eat a dead dude. I couldn’t find a great Soundcloud recording for Sovay, so I suggest this one.
“An Elfin Knight Kidnapped My Wife, So I Staged This Elaborate Revenge Musical To Get Her Back” - (King Orfeo) - this Celtic retelling of the Orpheus myth has wild imagery and a happy ending, and inspired Tolkien’s legendarium of tall, fair, strange “elves” that meddle inscrutably with human affairs.
Orfeo rescues Lisa Bell by playing some supernaturally sweet riffs.
Look up “Sir Orfeo” and educate yourselves because you’re worth it.
The refrains are “Scowan ürla grün” (Early green is the wood) and “Whar giorten han grün oarlac” (Where the hart goes yearly). The language is not Celtic, but Scandinavian - said to be some of the last preserved remnants of the Norn language. The “gabber reel” may be related to the Scottish “gramerie,” or magic - it was clearly a rockin’ tune that “makes a sick heart heal.”
“I Dated A Serial Killer and Then Killed Him” - (The Seventh Girl) - Another parable warning us all of the dangers of dating those pesky Weird Knights. In this variation, an Outlandish Knight. (Outlanders, as you know, are Scottish, making them just as distressing as marriage prospects as any fairy knight.) It’s a tale as old as time - you run off with an outlandish cutie, he turns out to be a serial killer, and then you’ve got to kill him, don’t you?
“Six pretty girls have you drownéd right here, but the seventh girl has drownéd you!” sings the heroine triumphantly. (People who read Ursula Vernon’s “The Seventh Bride” without realizing that it’s retold folklore are going “Ah!” right now… )
“I Dressed As A Man And Robbed My Boyfriend at Gunpoint for Reasons” - (Sovay) -Hey, watch out you folksong resellers and fairy-tale-retellers, this obscure little piece of lore is my absolute favorite and you haven’t gotten your grubby little paws on it yet! (Just kidding, I’ve already been promised a retelling of Sovay, you can write more if you send them to me.) Sovay is one of my favorite folk songs. To challenge her lover’s faith, a woman dresses herself as a man, arms up, and robs him at gunpoint. Will he value the token she gave him over his own life? Well played, Sovay. Well played.
“My Sister Drowned Me and My Corpse Turned Into A Swan: On the Plus Side They Upcycled Said Corpse Into A Haunted Harp” - (The Bonny Swans) - this modern variation of the “Twa Sisters” has an admittedly strange plot. She’s a miller’s daughter but the harp accuses the son of a king? HOW CAN YOU MAKE A HARP OUT OF A SHOULDER BONE? I HAVE BEEN ANGRY ABOUT THIS SONG SINCE I WAS A VERY SMALL CHILD. Anyway, the “Twa Sisters” songs are generally about women murdering each other, and weird stuff happening to the corpse.
“If I Hug My Shapeshifting Fairy Boyfriend Hard Enough He Might Make A Good Husband” - (Tam Lin) - You’ve probably heard of this one, so let’s toss it in to break up the hipsterish obscurity. I love Janet. Janet makes such terrible decisions. But they have an underlying logic! Janet goes out into the woods and destroys foliage until a wild territorial garden elf yells at her, and then she naturally sasses and then bones him. This results in a rather awkward pregnancy, so she destroys a bit of foliage to induce miscarriage while getting the fairy’s attention. The fairy explains that if she wants to hug him while he turns into some carnivorous wild animals, he will marry her. Not surprisingly, Janet is into it. Toss a coat on that naked boy and bring him home, Janet! You freaky thing.
“Start a Hashtag, These Elfin Knights are Absolutely Out of Control” - (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight) - You can skip this one. Isabel hears some sexy horn-playing from an elf-knight (presumably plangent honking on a trumpet) and absolutely loses her head. But then she regrets it when the Elf-Knight turns out to be the Outlandish Knight from “The Seventh Girl” and recites a tedious speech about how she will be the latest in his string of murder victims. Isabel offers to stroke his hair - a trick I use on my husband - and he falls asleep with his head in her lap, allowing her to cut his head off (not something I do with my husband). This is a more boring tune and not a very Weird Variation, but it’s got very deep roots and has quietly spawned a lot of folklore.
“Does the Three Second Rule Apply If His Pets are Watching?” - (Three Ravens) - some ravens discuss whether it’s cool to eat a dead knight while his dog, hawk, and lady/deer girlfriend (?) are watching. Oh no, now the deer “friend” is taking the corpse away. You’d think people would consider the ravens.
“Aha, Bet You Didn’t Think of That One” -(I Gave My Love a Cherry) - a riddle song, sometimes simply called The Riddle Song. The tradition of giving/asking for impossible objects/tasks is very common in British folk, and this particular song is one of the very oldest. From “Scarborough Fair” to the riddle-games in the Hobbit, the context of this song ripples outwards. Sometimes maidens in English trad songs save their lives by challenging elfin knights to games of riddles. Sometimes lovers fight by assigning each other impossible tasks. But the tradition of weird or riddle challenges can have a happy purpose. Here, someone offers their loved one a series of mysterious and impossible gifts: a cherry with no stone, a chicken with no bones, a baby that doesn’t cry, and something with no end. But how can such gifts exist? The singer reveals that the gifts are a cherry in flower, a fertilized egg, a sleeping child… and the singer’s love for the beloved one, a story with no end.
1.) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 2.) Hayy Ibn Yaqzan 3.) Invisible Man 4.) Wolves of the Crescent Moon (apparently this is banned in Saudi) 5.) A Map of Home 6.) The Earthquake 7.) Wild Thorns 8.) The Translator 9.) The Bastard of Istanbul 10.) Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me 11.) Born Palestinian, Born Black & the Gaza Suite.