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Literature / Fause Foodrage

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The Eastmure king courted her for gold,
And the Westmure king for fee,
The king of Onore for womanheid,
And for her fair beautie.

"Fause Foodrage" is Child Ballad #89.

Shortly after the king and queen marry for love, the king is attacked — by rebellious nobles or a rival in love. The king is killed. The queen is told that if she is pregnant with a daughter, she will be allowed to live, but a son will be killed.


In advanced pregnancy, she gets her guards drunk and flees, giving birth to a son in a pigsty. Wise William finds her, and she begs him to exchange his newborn daughter for her son. When the boy is growing up, Wise William tells him of his family. He kills the killer, frees his mother, and marries the girl he was substituted for.

Francis Child's variants found here.

This work provides examples of:

  • Antagonist Title: Fause Foodrage is the name of the villain who kills the king and threatens to kill his unborn child if it's a boy.
  • Damsel out of Distress: The queen breaks out of prison on her own.
  • Heir Club for Men: The king's killer is aware that only a son would be a serious danger to him, so he tells the queen that he will spare a daughter but kill a son. The queen escapes and persuades a noble to take her son and give her his daughter. In due course, the son returns to kill the king's killer and take the throne.
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  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Both Wise William and the queen, having exchanged her son for his daughter, know where the child is, and even have a code phrase where they can let the other know that the child is doing well. Both children remain in ignorance until nearly grown.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: One motive for the noble to kill the king; he wanted to marry the queen.
  • Pregnant Badass: The queen knows her baby will be killed if a boy, so she escapes her captors while in advanced pregnancy, just before she goes into labor.
    "O narrow, narrow is this window,
    And big, big am I grown!"
    Yet thro the might of Our Ladie
    Out at it she has won.

    She wanderd up, she wanderd down,
    She wanderd out and in,
    And at last, into the very swines' stye,
    The Queen brought forth a son.
  • Rags to Royalty: The prince is the Sleeping Beauty variant, raised ignorant of his royal heritage.
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  • Revenge Ballad: As soon as the son learns of his Secret Legacy, he attacks the man who killed his father and is holding his mother prisoner.
  • Rightful King Returns: The story ends with the prince claiming his throne.
  • Royal Blood: Fause Foodrage declares that he will not respect this in a newborn boy; he will spare the queen's child only if it's a girl
  • Secret Legacy: Wise William breaks the news to the boy he's raising when the boy is seventeen—he points out a castle and tells the boy he's the rightful heir, because the man in possession killed his father and is keeping his mother a prisoner.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: The queen is pregnant with the king's son when he dies.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Inverted. The queen and Wise William plan the exchange of their children to the point of planning code words to tell assure one another of their rightful children's wellbeing without being caught. Then the ballad cuts straight to the time when Wise William tells the queen's son his Secret Legacy.
  • The Usurper: In some versions, Fause Foodrage becomes king after killing the office's previous occupant.


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