Posted on January 7th, 2014 | by Leslie


Wanderling no. 1

This year I’m writing and posting a song a week based on folklore and fantasy, and I’m calling these songs the Wanderlings.

Read my full description of the project here –

Wanderling no. 1 : “But Not Too Bold”

Mary has many lovers to choose from, but is most attracted to the brave and mysterious, Mr. Fox. Her curiosity leads her to uncover his dark secret, and although terrifying, ultimately this knowledge and her wits serve her well and save her life.

Story’s country of origin – England

Based on the tale “Mr. Fox” as retold by Jane Yolen, Favourite Folktales from around the World (New York: Random House, Inc., 1986), pp. 87-90. Based in turn on the version by Katherine Briggs, British Folktales (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), pp. 87-89.

Yolen writes in her notes (pp. 480-481): “This Bluebeard variant is connected to the cellar-of-blood and robber-bridegroom tales (type 956). The Grimm version is ‘Fitcher’s Bird.’ The American Appalachian ‘Old Foster’ is so similar to ‘Mr. Fox’ as to be the same story with only regional accents making the difference. The ‘Be bold’ formula can also be found in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, book 3, canto 2, stanza 54. In her book of essays Daguerreotypes, Isak Dinesen recalls a similar story and incantation she heard as a child in Denmark.”

There was a lady, young and fair
Her given name was Mary
Of all her lovers, she did care
For one and him she’d marry
Her lover’s name was Mister Fox
She knew not whence he came
But he was brave and wealthy, sure
As cunning as his name

Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon be running cold
Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon run cold

The day before their wedding
Mary stole up to his house
A-hunting for his secrets there
As quiet as a mouse
The signs above the gate, the entryway
And o’er the door
That led into her lover’s room
These words of warning bore:


His room was filled with skeletons
And bodies red and rotten
All lovely ladies when they’d lived
In piles now lay forgotten
She would have fled, but who should come
A-dragging someone in?
Why, Mister Fox! So Mary hid
Her lips pressed tight and thin


The dead girl wore a diamond ring
That caught the robber’s eye
So with his sword he cut her hand
And upwards it did fly
And landed there in Mary’s lap
But she was hidden well
So off her lover dragged the corpse
And Mary ran from hell


When Mister Fox arrived
The morning after, to be wed
She said she knew his secret
And she’d never share his bed
He met her accusations
With an arrogant denial
‘Til she produced the hand
And he was slaughtered as he smiled

Refrain (x2):
Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon be running cold
Be bold! Be bold! But not too bold
Your blood will soon run cold

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One Response to Wanderling no. 1

  1. Sandi says:

    Super love!!!

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