Walrus Boy and the Ballad Form

Walrus Boy‘ was written during a writers’ weekend at Cromarty, some years ago. One of the talks we had was on the Ballad form and its characteristics.

Ballads are an ancient and popular form yet they have a freshness and directness about them that never seems to wane: they may appear naive and unsophisticated on first reading, but there is an economy and urgency about them that I find very pleasing. In particular, there are sudden unheralded transitions of time, place and speaker which have much in common with good film editing – in one of my favourites, The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, we start with the King’s court in Dunfermline then cut rapidly to Sir Patrick walking on the beach and he speaks directly to us; and in the next verse, they’re off across the sea:

They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn

Wi’ a’ the speed they may;

They hae landed in Noroway

Upon a Wodensday.

No time wasted there!

Though my own ‘walrus boy’ has a touch of parody about it, I hope it is a fond mocking.