Cannibal Ballads: Not Just a Question of Taste...

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William Makepeace Thackeray's poem 'Little Billee' was a literary parody of a traditional French song about survival cannibalism at sea. It entered oral tradition not only among its target audience in the song and supper clubs, but also among sailors. This reflects not only its closeness to its source material, but also its relation to the subject matter. This article relates the song to its sources, and to other songs about cannibalism. It also sets it in the context of the changing experience of survival cannibalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-747
JournalFolk Music Journal (FMJ)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2010


  • cannibalism
  • folk songs
  • William Makepeace Thackeray


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