Friday, 4 July 2014

Cornish Bird Lore: The Robin and the Wren


There was a time when the Robin and the Wren were looked upon by Cornish people as sacred birds, and many interesting bits of folklore have gathered about them. If anyone was known to have killed either, or to have robbed its nest, he would become almost an outcast with the villagers, and I have known parents to forbid there children to play with such a boy, hence the little rhyme

"Kill a Robin or a Wran
You'll never grow to be a man"

and undersized children were often accused of having killed a robin or wren, or at least of having destroyed its nest, while if a person happened to be getting a bit of bad luck, it was said "Well, 'tes no wonder, for he was always strubbing robin's and wran's nests when he was a boy".  A commoner version of the rhyme says:

"Strub a Robin or a Wran, you'll never prosper boy or man"
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"Robin, St Riddick, take care of your nuddick,
Again, the cold winter comes on
'I care not' said he, 'how cold it may be
I'll creep in some barn and keep myself warm,
And put my bill under my wing' "

It was said that a Robin gained his red breast by plucking out a thorn from the head of the crucified Christ, hence the Robin was referred to as a saint. The rhyme above was collected from Madron around 1860.

The above is from the Old Cornwall journal No.2, Summer 1930, The Robin and the Wren by Jim Thomas.

Art by Paul Atlas-Saunders.

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