‘Avianthropy’ and the sung ballad in “The Earl of Mar’s Daughter”

Dr Adrian May
(Department of LiFTS)
‘Avianthropy’ and the sung ballad in “The Earl of Mar’s Daughter”

Myth Reading Group
Wednesday 28 November 2018
5.00 – 6.30 pm
Room NTC.2.05


Arthur Rackham, Earl Mar’s Daughter, ink and watercolour

The Earl of Mar’s Daughter (Child 270) is a forty-one stanza ballad, ostensibly a happy love story. Turned into a fairytale by Joseph Jacobs, it is bizarre and fantastic. It is also a tale of high magic and of people turning into birds and a mythic exploration of transformative flights of love, comparable with Cupid and Psyche. The texts of the Child ballads (1882-1898) preceded the publication of the music by over sixty years, but hearing the ballad sung in full can give an insight into its dramatic and cumulative effects where the whole might be seen in its ritual purpose.

As well as singing the rarely-heard ballad in full, Adrian will talk about bird, love and maturation symbolism and myth and the history of The Earl of Mar’s Daughter, as well as about ballads generally.

Dr Adrian May is the author of Myth and Creative Writing (2011) and The Magic of Writing (2018) and is a folksinger and songwriter.

Text: The Earl of Mar’s Daughter

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