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Friday
Aug312012

The ballad of Long Lankin, for Poetry Friday

Debut author Lindsey Barraclough's YA novel Long Lankin was inspired by the eponymous old English ballad (Roud Folk Song Index 6) in which Long Lankin, aided and abetted by a nursemaid, murders a lady and her infant son--by pricking him all over with a pin (shiver):

"Where's the heir of this house?" said Long Lankin. / "He's asleep in his cradle," said the false nurse to him.
"We'll prick him, we'll prick him all over with a pin, / And that'll make my lady to come down to him."

The baby's cries bring his mother, and she dies in Long Lankin's arms.

Barraclough sets her retelling of the ballad in postwar England: Sisters Cora and Mimi are sent from London to stay with their great-aunt Ida in the coastal village of Bryers Guerdon, but Auntie Ida, stern and secretly terrified, doesn't want them there. Of course, Cora and Mimi disregard her warnings (Ida doesn't even want them in the great big house alone) and go straight to the forbidden church and graveyard. Don't they know they're in a gothic horror story? Sigh. Poor Mimi.

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