The Bramble Briar

The Bramble Briar, sometimes known as Bruton Town, is a  folk song that dates back to the 14th Century.  In it, a young woman’s lover is murdered by her two brothers because they feel he is too low born for her.  They hide the body in a ditch filled with the briars of the title.

You can find the lyrics here:  My favourite versions are by Martin Simpson  and Bert Jansch.  Bellowhead offer a nice twist on their recent album “Matachin”

Now, I’m currently in the middle of the still untitled Twisted Metal 2, and The Bramble Briar keeps running through my head.  This is probably because TM is partly inspired by old ballads (there is a good reason for this which I’ll probably talk about another time),  but it’s also because a couple of weeks ago I was stuck on a plot point and I was struck by the following …

In the ballad, the young woman dreams that her murdered lover comes to her and tells her about his death.  She goes out next morning and finds his bloody body in the ditch.   Now you couldn’t get away with that sort of a development nowadays.  The woman’s lover is gone.  How is the writer going to get her to find him and thus advance the plot?  Will she ask around, look for clues, think about his likely behaviour, question her brothers motives further?   All that would take time and would involve a lot of thought on the writers part to make it work.  So no, she just has a dream and it all gets explained.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at all those men and women who contributed to the ballad’s present form, after all things were very different then and writing was still developing.  But writers today fall into the ‘explain everything by having a dream’  trap.  I do it myself. 

But lets be honest, it’s lazy.  And I really don’t think there is any excuse for this nowadays.

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