Polly Oliver – A Woman Who Cross Dresses and Pretends to Be a Man
Sweet Polly Oliver is a transvestite who crosses-dresses as a man to impersonate someone else and often appears in books for children as such. Additionally, she has appeared in poetry published by Black Bough Poetry and Spillwords.
Dugaw has catalogued many female warrior ballads that focus on sexual content or violence; this one, however, does not. Instead it ends happily ever after with Polly marrying her captain and living out their lives together usually resulting in great wealth for both parties involved.
Early Life and Education
Polly had always been impulsive and often expressed her feelings in bursts of nonsense that made Mrs. Oliver shake her head and sigh in disbelief. She harbored strong feelings of rebellion against the existing order of things and harbored secret plans to create one better than it.
Rebellious spirit was apparent in her decision to dress as a man and join the military to follow her lover despite disapproval by her parents. Additionally, it manifested itself in her love for beautiful things; while quality music, pictures, china furniture and “purple and fine linen” were missing from her life; instead she found satisfaction from feasting upon nature- both beautiful Santa Ynez mountains and calm Pacific waters- without spending a penny.
Sweet Polly Oliver is an example of the Woman Warrior archetype according to literary trope tracking websites.
Pratchett included this theme of female warrior ballads as a central theme in Monstrous Regiment. His meticulous research into women warrior ballads can be seen through this inclusion.
Polly disguised herself as a soldier to follow her beloved into battle and nurse his wounds afterward – an example of women warrior ballads depicting her actions.
Dressing like a man may have helped her pass for one in an age when trousers equated with men, and skirts correlated with women. She had also adopted masculine traits such as having high-pitched voice and masculine name that further assisted in disguising herself as male.
Achievement and Honors
Polly Oliver has had her poems published by Black Bough Poetry, Wombwell Rainbow and Spillwords magazines and was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Her work is heavily influenced by broadside ballads. In particular, she draws heavily from the “Polly Oliver” ballad originally published in 1763 – featuring a woman disguised as a man to follow her lover and pursue their relationship. According to literary trope tracking websites this story type has been popular for centuries in literature.
David Scott Daniell’s books feature Polly and Oliver on adventures as soldiers, only for their voyage to be interrupted by a shipwreck – an event commonly found in broadside ballads – before eventually fulfilling their mission and returning home in feminine attire.
Sweet Polly Oliver is a crossdresser who can pass for male. While she usually dresses like a man, occasionally she dons feminine clothing like gowns with fancy trimmings – an intriguing character who could appear in stories without anyone realizing she is female (or vice versa).
Polly was widely celebrated for her sweet disposition and resourceful nature – qualities often associated with male characters in fiction. Polly’s song inspired other women to try disguise themselves as men to pursue their desired love interests as she did, similar to Polly and Oliver. It is said she was known as an excellent cook.
All the Tropes Wiki reports that Polly Oliver ballad has come to symbolize situations involving women dressed up as men who go off to war, such as dressing as soldiers. It has appeared in various forms such as 22 broadside ballad versions by Dugaw and 32 folk song versions; its popularity remains today.
Polly Oliver is beloved character who first made an appearance in 1763 according to All the Tropes. Her popularity is so great that All the Tropes even lists her as being part of its canon!
One version depicts this scene by having the protagonist cross herself for her beloved, only for him to discover he actually likes her even though she’s female.
Korean drama The First Shop of Coffee Prince adds another twist, when one of its male leads accidentally induces himself with Groin Attack by mistaking Kaworu for being his drinking buddy when she is actually just disguised as Polly Oliver!