Stories from Songs: Ballads as Literary Fictions for Young Adults

This fascinating study of folk ballads and their evolution explores various renditions of traditional ballads in both North America and Western Europe. You’ll learn about the origins of the stories, how they have developed and changed over time, traveled throughout countries and across oceans, and ultimately evolved into literary forms, such as poetry, novels, and graphic novels, many of which are directed at young adults. Citing numerous critical interpretations and commentary, this book offers great insight into this genre of popular folk literature. After an introduction to the form and its place in history, the author explores various types of ballads (e.g., Child ballads, border ballads, broadside ballads). An examination of modern and contemporary re-workings of ballads, organized by themes, comprises the heart of the book. Ballad types covered include: tragic love stories, murder ballads, otherworld beings, tricks and disguises, and ballads from other cultures. Oral origins and history, critical interpretations, re-workings, and current recordings are included for each ballad; along with a list of resources.


In “Stories From Songs: Ballads As Literary Fictions for Young Adults”, Gail de Vos … has compiled a 453-page seminal study of folk ballad origins, history, interpretation, and how they have both generally and specifically evolved over time. Illustrative ballads are thematically grouped into ‘historical’, ‘riddle’, ‘murder’, ‘tragic love’, ‘other worldly’, ‘shape-shifting/female monster’, as well as ‘tricks and disguises’. Of special note are the chapters devoted to ‘talking birds, singing bones, and materializing revenants’. Professor de Vos also includes chapters dedicated to ‘ballads as national icons’ and concludes with ‘A Sampling of Other Ballads’ ranging from the well-known ‘Pretty Peggy-O’ to the obscure ‘The Walled-Up Wife’. Enhanced with the inclusion of two appendices, an Author/Illustrator/Musician Index, a Ballad Index, and a Title Index, “Stories From Songs” is an impressively presented, informed and informative scholarly study that is an essential edition to academic library collections and appropriate for both students of Folk Music History and non-specialist general readers with an interest in learning about the background and development of the ballad as a source of information, ethics, cultural development, and social entertainment for teenagers and young adults.” –Midwestbook Review on