“The Twa Magicians”


A (blacksmith) sees a girl who pleases him, and sets out to sleep with her. She tries to foil him with magic transformations, but he proves as sorcerous as she, and gains her maidenhead


Sharp bowdlerizes "gain my maidenhead" to "change my maiden name" (!) -PJS

Bronson believes that the ballad "Hares on the Mountain" is a very-much-worn-down version of this piece. This is, at best, currently beyond proof; personally, I don't believe it.

The idea of gaining a lover who is changing shape has ancient roots. We find it in Ovid's "Metamorphoses," where Peleus (the father of Achilles) finds Thetis in a cave and attempts to couple with her. To defeat him, she turns into a bird, a tree, and a tigress. The latter scares him off, but eventually he catches her while asleep (XI.225ff.). - RBW

Cross references


  • A. L. Lloyd, "Two Magicians" (on Lloyd3, BirdBush1, BirdBush2) [tune by Lloyd]


  1. Child 44, "The Twa Magicians" (1 text)
  2. Bronson 44, "The Twa Magicians" (1 version plus 11 versions of "Hares on the Mountain")
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 442-445, "The Two Magicians" (notes plus a copy of Buchan's text and a stanza of "Hares on the Mountain")
  4. Leach, pp. 152-154, "The Twa Magicians" (1 text)
  5. PBB 25, "The Twa Magicians" (1 text)
  6. Sharp-100E 20, "The Two Magicians" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
  7. DBuchan 47, "The Twa Magicians" (1 text)
  8. DT 44, MAGICN2*
  9. Roud #1350
  10. BI, C044


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1828 (Buchan)
Found in: Britain(England)