The Mad Pranks of Robin Goodfellow

By William John Thoms

Illustrated by John Franklin

Chapter I.

Of the birth of Robin Goodfellow.

Once upon a time, a great while ago, when men did eat more and drink less; about that time (whensoe’er it was), there was wont to walk many harmless spirits, called Fairies, dancing in brave order, in fairy rings, on green hills, with sweet music. Many mad pranks would they play, such as pinching of sluts black and blue, and misplacing things in ill ordered houses. But lovingly would they use wenches that cleanly were, giving them silver, and other pretty toys, which they would leave for them, sometimes in their shoes, sometimes in their pockets, sometimes in bright basins, and clean vessels.

Now the King of these Fairies fell in love with a fair young damsel, and every night with other fairies came to the house, and there danced in her chamber. At length this damsel had a baby, and the old women, that then had more wit than those who are living now, and have none, bade her be of good comfort, for the child must needs be fortunate, who had so noble a father as a fairy was, and should work many strange wonders. The birth of this child so rejoiced his father’s heart, that the mother was nightly supplied with every thing befitting her condition, and all kinds of dainties.

The gossips liked this fare so well, that she never wanted company. Wine had she of all sorts, as muskadine, sack, malmsley, and claret. This pleased her neighbours so well, that few that came to see her, but they had home with them a medicine for the fleas. Sweet-meats, too, they had in such abundance, that some of their teeth are spoilt to this day; and for music she wanted not, or any other thing she desired.

All praised this honest fairy for his care, and the child for his beauty, and the mother for a happy woman. In brief, christened he was, at the which all this good cheer was doubled, which made most of the women so wise, that they forgot to make themselves unready, and so lay in their clothes; and none of them the next day could remember the child’s name but the clerk, and he may thank his book for it, or else it had been utterly lost. So much for the birth of little Robin.

Chapter II.

Of Robin Goodfellow’s behaviour when he was young.

When Robin was grown to six years of age, he was so knavish that all the neighbours did complain of him; for no sooner was his mother’s back turned, but he was in one knavish action or another, so that his mother was constrained (to avoid these complaints) to take him with her to market, or wheresoever she went or rid. But this helped little or nothing, for if he rid before her, then would he make mouths and ill favoured faces at those he met; if he rid behind her, then would he clap his hand on his tail, so that his mother was weary of the many complaints, that came against him; yet knew not how to beat him justly for it, because she never saw him do that, which was worthy blows. The complaints were daily so renewed, that his mother promised him a whipping. Robin did not like that cheer, and therefore to avoid it he ran away, and left his mother a heavy woman for him.

Chapter III.

How Robin Goodfellow dwelt with a Tailor.

After that Robin Goodfellow had gone a great way from his mother’s house he began to be a-hungry, and going to a tailor’s house, he asked something for God’s sake. The tailor gave him meat; and understanding that he was masterless, he took him for his man, and Robin so plied his work that he got his master’s love.

On a time, his master had a gown to make for a woman, and it was to be done that night. They both sat up late, so that they had done all but setting on the sleeves by twelve o’clock. His master then being sleepy, said, “Robin, whip thou on the sleeves and then come thou to bed. I will go to bed before.” “I will,” said Robin. So soon as his master was gone, Robin hung up the gown, and taking both sleeves in his hands, he whipped and lashed them on the gown. So stood he till the morning that his master came down. His master seeing him stand in that fashion, asked him what he did? “Why,” quoth he, “as you bid me, whip on the sleeves.” “Thou rogue,” said his master, “I did mean that thou shouldest have set them on quickly and slightly.” “I would you had said so,” said Robin, “for then had I not lost all this sleep.” To be short, his master was fain to do the work; but ere he had made an end of it the woman came for it, and with a loud voice chafed for her gown. The tailor thinking to please her, bid Robin fetch the remnants that they left yesterday (meaning thereby meat that was left); but Robin, to cross his master the more, brought down the remnants of the cloth, that was left of the gown. At the sight of this his master turned pale; but the woman was glad, saying, “I like this breakfast so well, that I will give you a pint of wine to it.” She sent Robin for the wine, but he never returned again to his master.

From Gammer Gurton's pleasant stories of the Princess Rosetta, Robin Goodfellow, and Patient Grissel, New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1846.

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Fairy-lore

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Region of origin:

EuropeCeltic Peoples

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