Tam Lin

Tam Lin

Infobox Folk tale
Folk_Tale_Name = Tam Lin

Image_Caption =
Aarne-Thompson Grouping =
Mythology =
Country = Scotland
Region = Scottish Borders
Origin_Date =
Published_In = "English Fairy Tales"
Related =

Tamas "Tam" Lin (also called Tamlane, Tamlin, Tam Lien, Tam-a-Line, Tam Lane, or True Thomas) is the hero of a folkloric legend originating from the Scottish Borders with England. The story revolves around fairies and mortal men. While this ballad is unique to Scotland, the motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is found throughout Europe in folktales. [Francis James Child, "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", v 1, p 336-7, Dover Publications, New York 1965]

"Tamas" is the Scots form of Thomas, and "Tam Lin" may therefore be a variation of Thomas Learmont, who was also known as "True Thomas".

The story has been adapted into various stories, songs and films.


Most variants begin with the warning that Tam Lin collected either a possession, or the virginity of any maidens who passed through the forest of Carterhaugh. A young maiden, usually called Janet or Margaret, came to Carterhaugh and plucked a double rose, whereupon Tam appeared and asked why she was in Carterhaugh without his command and had taken what was his. She stated that she owned Carterhaugh, as her father had given it to her.

In most variants, she then went home, and discovered she was pregnant; some variants pick up the story at this point. When an old knight taxed her with it, she announced that she would not declare him her baby's father, that her lover was an elf and that she loved him. She returned to Carterhaugh; in some variants, her brother had told her that a herb growing there would induce an abortion. In all, she picked something, whether the herb or the same roses as when they first meet. Tam reappeared, enraged and forbidding her to harm the child.

She asked him whether he was ever human, either after that reappearance, or in some variants, immediately after their first meeting resulted in her seduction. He revealed that he was a mortal man, who, after falling from his horse, was rescued and captured by the Queen of the Fairies. Every seven years the fairies paid a teind, a tithe to Hell, of one of their people, and Tam feared he would become that tithe on that night (Hallowe'en). He was to ride as part of a company of knights, and Janet would recognise him by the white horse upon which he was riding. He warned her that, when she caught him, the fairies would attempt to make her drop him by turning him into all manner of beasts (see Proteus), but that he would do her no harm, and when he was finally turned into a burning coal she was to throw him into a well, whereupon he would reappear as a naked man and she should hide him. Janet did as she was asked, and won her knight. The Queen of the Fairies was not best pleased, but acknowledged her claim.


There have been several interpretations of the Tam Lin story:
*Francis James Child collected fourteen variants in "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", [Francis James Child, "English and Scottish Popular Ballads, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch039.htm "Tam Lin"] ] but the summary of Child Ballad 39A is considered to be the earliestFact|date=February 2007 (Another Child ballad, "Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane" has no connection with this ballad except for the similarity of the heroes' names.)
*Joseph Jacobs included a variant, "Tamlane", in "More English Fairy Tales". [Joseph Jacobs, ed. "More English Fairy Tales". [http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/jacobs/moreenglish/tamlane.html "Tamlane"] New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1894.]


Child took the threat to take out Tam Lin's eyes as a common folklore precaution against mortals who could see fairies, in the tales of fairy ointment. Joseph Jacobs interpreted it as rather a reversal of the usual practice; the Queen of Faerie would have kept him from seeing the human woman who rescued him. [Joseph Jacobs, ed. "More English Fairy Tales". [http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/jacobs/moreenglish/tamlane.html "Tamlane" Jacobs' Notes and References] New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1894.]

In some variants, "Hind Etin" has verses identical to this for the first meeting between the hero and heroine. [Francis James Child, "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", v 1, p 340, Dover Publications, New York 1965]

Modern retellings


*"Blood and Iron" by Elizabeth Bear
*"My Kingdom" by Hannah Wolf Bowen, "Abyss & Apex", Winter 2004
*"Tam Lin" by Susan Cooper
*"Tam Lin" by Pamela Dean
*"Wild Robin" written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers (children's picture book)
*"The Nightwood" by Robin Muller
*"Fire and Hemlock" by Diana Wynne Jones
*"The Hawthorn Tree" by Patrick Little (gender role variation)
*"An Earthly Knight" by Janet McNaughton
*"The Dogs of Babel" by Carolyn Parkhurst
*"The Perilous Gard" by Elizabeth Marie Pope
*"Summer's Lease" by Eluki bes Shahar (Rosemary Edghill)
*"Cotillion" by Delia Sherman, in "Firebirds", edited by Sharyn November
*"Tam Lin" in the graphic novel series "Ballads and Sagas" edited by Charles Vess
*"Tam Lin: An Old Ballad" by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak
*"Winter Rose" by Patricia McKillip
*"Gnat Stokes and the Foggy Bottom Swamp Queen" by Sally Keehn


*"Tam Lin" by N. G. McClernan
*"The Thyme of the Season" by Duncan Pflaster (incorporates elements and allusions to the story)



*"Tam Lin" (song) by Pyewackett on "The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Steeleye Span on "Tonight's the Night, Live!" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Fairport Convention on "Liege & Lief" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Current 93 on "SixSixSix: SickSickSick" compilation LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Mediaeval Baebes on "Mirabilis" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Broadside Electric on "Amplificata" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Outgrabe on "Love & Death" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Bob Hay and & Jolly Beggars on "Tam Lin and More Songs by Robert Burns" LP
*"Young Tambling" (song) by Anne Briggs on "The Time Has Come" LP
*"The Tale of Tam Lin" (Song) by Bill Jones on "Panchpuran" LP
*"Tamlin" (song) by harpist and singer/songwriter Gillian Grassie on "Serpentine" LP (2007)
*"Tam Lin (band)" [http://folk.poesie.ru/wiki/index.php/Tam_Lin] , romantic-folk band from Russia
*"Tamlin" (song) by "Tamlin" [http://folk.poesie.ru/wiki/index.php/%D0%A2%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BD] on "Dreams on the Shore" LP
*"Tam Lin" (song) by Tempest (band) on "Serrated Edge" cassette (1992)
*"Tam Lin" (singer), New York City-based singer-songwriter whose name is taken from this ballad.
*"Tam Lin" (song) is re-recorded by Fairport Convention on the album "Sense Of Occasion"
*Tam Lin is also the name of an Irish reel.
*"Tam Lyn retold" (song) by Benjamin Zephaniah & Eliza Carthy on the 2007 album The Imagined Village. Retells the story with the girl meeting a man in a club and having a one night stand. 6 months later she finds him to say she's pregnant and finds out he's an immigrant and has a court case the following day. She attends the court and sees him go though various transformations before becoming himself: a kind peaceful person. The judge sees this and lets him become a legal citizen, free to bring up his child with his wife.
*"Discovery" by Three Weird Sisters (band) hints at a darker Tam Lin with ulterior motives for his seduction of the girl.


*"Tamlin" (LP) by "Tamlin" [http://folk.poesie.ru/wiki/index.php/%D0%A2%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BD] , folk-rock band from Ukraine
*"Tam Lin" (LP) by Frankie Armstrong, Brian Pearson, Blowzabella and Jon Gillaspie


*"Tam-Lin" (1970) directed by Roddy McDowall, and starring Ava Gardner.


* "Tam-Lin", a Closet drama written by Elaine Lee and illustrated by Charles Vess, in "The Book of Ballads and Sagas", Vess's collection of adaptations of traditional songs, mostly into comics form.
* In Carolyn Parkhurst's novel The Dogs of Babel, a section of Tam Lin plays a pivotal role in the story. In it the narrator, Paul Iverson, discovers that his recently deceased wife left an encrypted message to him in their bookshelf, quoting Tam Lin.
* In the Vertigo comic book, "Fables", Tam Lin died in the defense of the last stronghold of the Fables against the forces of the Adversary. He is claimed to be the knight loved by the queen of the faeries, who had a reputation of a scoundrel, but gave up his chance of freedom to his page.
* In the Vertigo comic book series "The Books of Magic", "The Names of Magic" and "The Books of Faerie", Tamlin is the father of the protagonist Timothy Hunter, potentially the greatest sorcerer in the world. In "The Books of Faerie: The Widow's Tale", the story of Tamlin's romance with Queen Titania of Faerie is revealed.Citation | last = Irvine | first = Alex | author-link = Alexander C. Irvine | contribution = The Books of Faerie | editor-last = Dougall | editor-first = Alastair | title = The Vertigo Encyclopedia | pages = 36-37 | publisher = Dorling Kindersley | place = New York | year = 2008 | ISBN = 0-7566-4122-5 | oclc = 213309015]
* In "The House of the Scorpion", a novel by Nancy Farmer, Tam Lin is the bodyguard of the protagonist, the clone of Matteo Alacr??n.
* The multi-faceted novel "Red Shift" by Alan Garner can be read as a subtle reworking of the ballad .
* In the fantasy novel "The Battle of Evernight" by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, the story of Tam Lin is told as the story of Tamlain Conmor.
* The novel "Fire and Hemlock" by Diana Wynne Jones, is a version of Tam Lin in which Tam Lin's captivity lasts into the 21st century


ee also

*Gil Brenton
*The Sprig of Rosemary

External links

* [http://www.tam-lin.org A website devoted to Tam Lin]
* [http://www.janetmcnaughton.ca/EKinfo.html An Earthly Knight] a novel written by [http://www.janetmcnaughton.ca/index.html Janet McNaughton] based on Tam Lin and Lady Isabel and The Elf Knight
* [http://www.contemplator.com/child/tamlin.html Variant by Burns circa 1792]
* [http://www.tamlin-online.com A website for the play Tam Lin]
* [http://www.tamlinmusic.com Tam Lin, a New York City-based singer-songwriter whose name is taken from the Scottish ballad]
* [http://www.rambles.net/mckillip_rose.html A web page about Patricia McKillip's "Winter Rose"]
* [http://www.sff.net/people/eluki/Summer.htm Rosemary Edghill/Eluki bes Shahar's unabriged telling of "Summer's Lease"]
* [http://www.dandutton.com/full_index/tam_lin_oc.html A painting of Tam Lin by Kentucky artist Daniel Dutton]
* [http://sonar_blocked_site/~xenophon/tl.html] regarding link between ballad and Alan Garner's novel "Red Shift"

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