murder


murder
   In earlier centuries, *chapbooks and *broadsides catered for public curiosity about crimes; many were based on murder trials and (real or alleged) confessions of murderers before they were hanged, garnished with sensational details and moralizing comments, and often with folkloric details. For instance, the murder of Maria Marten by her lover at Polstead (Suffolk) in 1827 was supposedly discovered because her mother dreamt three times of the 'Red Barn' where her corpse was hidden; the case became so famous that models of the barn were sold as souvenirs.
   A tradition frequently found is that a spot where murder has been committed is marked for ever - if indoors, by an indelible bloodstain; if out of doors, by the fact that no grass will grow there. Evelyn's Diary for 8 July 1656 records an example at Colchester, and Robert Southey describes a field near London called 'The Brothers' Steps', where two brothers killed one another in a duel over a woman, and their tracks remain visible (Common-Place Book, 2nd series (1849), 20-1). The belief is still with us; the latest reference in Opie and Tatem (1989: 271) is from 1978.
   'Murder will out' was a maxim widely believed, which might prove true in strange ways. The victim's ghost might haunt the murderer until he confessed, or the corpse bleed at its murderer's touch. At Kockin (Shropshire) in 1590 a man named Thomas Elks drowned his little nephew to get an inheritance, fled, and was caught; the story told some hundred years later was that his hiding-place was revealed by the cry of ravens, which had followed him ever since his crime (Richard Gough, The History of Myddle (1701; 1981 edn.) 122).
   A *ballad known both in England and Scotland (Child, no. 10, 'The Twa Sisters') tells how one sister drowned another through jealousy, but when the corpse was found a musician made a harp or a fiddle from the bones which sang by itself to denounce the crime. The same plot also existed as a folktale, versions of which have recently been collected from teenagers (Wilson, 1997: 119-34). Nowadays the girl is killed by her boyfriend, brother, or husband, and it is he who makes the instrument, a piano, which later reveals the crime. The tale includes rhymes and, eventually, a shriek:
   Mother, mother, you're playing on my bones, Someone killed me and stole my precious stones . . .
   Davey, Davey, you're playing on my bones, Someone killed me - you killed me!
   (Wilson, 1997: 123)

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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  • murder — mur·der 1 / mər dər/ n [partly from Old English morthor; partly from Old French murdre, of Germanic origin]: the crime of unlawfully and unjustifiably killing another under circumstances defined by statute (as with premeditation); esp: such a… …   Law dictionary

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  • Murder — Mur der, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Murdered} (m[^u]r d[ e]rd); p. pr. & vb. n. {Murdering}.] [OE. mortheren, murtheren, AS. myr[eth]rian; akin to OHG. murdiren, Goth. ma[ u]r[thorn]rjan. See {Murder}, n.] 1. To kill with premediated malice; to kill (a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Murder — Mur der (m[^u]r d[ e]r), n. [OE. morder, morther, AS. mor[eth]or, fr. mor[eth] murder; akin to D. moord, OS. mor[eth], G., Dan., & Sw. mord, Icel. mor[eth], Goth. ma[ u]r[thorn]r, OSlav. mr[=e]ti to die, Lith. mirti, W. marw dead, L. mors, mortis …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • murder — [mʉr′dər] n. [ME murthir, mordre < OE & OFr: OE morthor, akin to ON morth, Goth maurthr; OFr mordre < Frank * morthr: all ult. < IE * mṛtóm < base * mer > MORTAL] 1. the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human… …   English World dictionary

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