Knoxville Girl Feminism and Folklore Discussion


” Vigilante Feminism: Revising Trauma, Abduction, and Assault in American Fairy-Tale Revisions” (Laura Mattoon D’Amore) (THIS IS THE FILE I UPLOADED)


Brunvand (briefly) and Mattoon D’Amore (in more detail) both discuss feminism and folklore. Using their ideas on how folklore has both reinforced traditional female roles and, more recently, challenged them, analyze “The Knoxville Girl,” a traditional murder ballad. How might it either reinforce or challenge traditional ideas about men and women or sexuality? As an aid, I’ve highlighted what I find to be some key phrases. I’ll also add the Louvin Brothers version was recorded in the 1950s, but the murder they sing about likely took place long before that.

The lyrics are pasted below

And every Sunday evening, out in her home, I’d dwell

We went to take an evening walk about a mile from town

I picked a stick up off the ground and knocked that fair girl down

She fell down on her bended knees, for mercy she did cry
“Oh Willy dear, don’t kill me here, I’m unprepared to die”
She never spoke another word, I only beat her more
Until the ground around me with her blood did flow

I took her by her golden curls and I drug her round and around
Throwing her into the river that flows through Knoxville town
Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl with the dark and rolling eyes
Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl, you can never be my bride

I started back to Knoxville, got there about midnight
My mother, she was worried and woke up in a fright
Saying “dear son, what have you done to bloody your clothes so?”
I told my anxious mother I was bleeding at my nose

I called for me a candle to light myself to bed
I called for me a hankerchief to bind my aching head
Rolled and tumbled the whole night through, as troubles was for me
Like flames of hell around my bed and in my eyes could see

They carried me down to Knoxville and put me in a cell
My friends all tried to get me out but none could go my bail
I’m here to waste my life away down in this dirty old jail
Because I murdered that Knoxville girl, the girl I loved so well