Monday, 21 September 2015

Tam Lin Legend

The ballad of Tam Lin


The ballad of Tam Lin, a mortal man stolen away by the queen of the fairies to live in the green under hill is old as old. There are many versions of the story and even of his name: Tamlane, Tamlain, Tam Lin, Tombline, but the central features of the story are quite consistent.

"If my love were an earthly knight, 
As he's an elfin grey, 
I wad na gie my ain true-love 
For nae lord that ye hae."

"Tam Lin" is Child Ballad #39, stemming from Oral Tradition, and one of the most popular ballads, both as a song and as a source for literature. It is from southern Scotland; the oldest known version was printed in 1549.


Photographs of Carterhaugh Woods and Tam Lin's well.
Source: The Faery Folklorist HERE

If you're thinking of visit Carterhaugh, please be considerate of the farm house, and do not trespass on their land. The well can be found at the side of the road and is easily accessible though buried in undergrowth, and the woodlands behind can be accessed by walking from the nearby Bowhill Country Estate (entry fee charged) or the very limited parking at the road side. 
  "The trough into which this well flowed, and water pipe are still in situ, but the well, which was in the bank 2.5 m N of the trough, is now filled in." which suggests that perhaps there was once a deeper well, that a person could indeed have fitted into. 
Jane Yolen book page

The legend goes that a young man named Tam Lin or Tamlane was out hunting with this grandfather Roxbrugh when he fell from his horse and was taken away by the Queen of the Fairies herself who dwells in the green hill. She made him a knight of her elven companie and set him the task of guarding the forest of Carterheugh, where according to local townsfolk he would only let those young maidens pass who gave him a token of treasure or else their maidenhood. Despite the warnings, young Janet ventured into the forest, with her green kirtle held above her knee and her wild blonde hair braided. As she was passing the well she came across a milkwhite steed, and she took rest and picked a wild rose growing near the well, and pulled a branch from the tree. At once, Tam Lin appeared and cried:

"Why pulls thou the rose, Janet,
And why breaks thou the wand?
Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
Withoutten my command?"

Janet is a stubborn young lady and stands her ground, telling him that Carterhaugh belongs to her, a present from her father, and that she will come and go as she pleases without asking his permission. Little is said of what happens next, and how Tam Lin charmed young Janet into giving up her maidenhood, but Janet returns to Carterhaugh and as the days pass her father discovers that she is with child. She refuses to let the blame lie with a knight of her father's company, and stubborn Janet tells her father:

"If that I gae wi child, father,
Mysel maun bear the blame,
There's neer a laird about your ha,
Shall get the bairn's name.

"If my love were an earthly knight,
As he's an elfin grey,
I wad na gie my ain true-love
for nae lord that ye hae'"

Janet returns to Carterhaugh, some say to collect herbs to cause miscarriage, and once again she finds Tam Lin's milkwhite steed stood at the well. Once again she pulls a rose, and Tam Lin appears, enquiring to know:

"Why pu's thou the rose, Janet,
Amang the groves sae green,
And a' to kill the bonny babe
That we gats us between?"

She demands that Tam Lin tell her where he comes from, and he reveals his mortal past to her, telling her that fairyland is a pleasant place but at the end of every seven years the fairy folk must pay a tiend to hell, and he fears that he has been chosen. It is the night of Halloween, when the veils between the faerie lands and mortal realm are lifted, and Tam Lin tells Janet that at the midnight hour the fairy folk will ride past Miles Cross and she may rescue her true love and win him back from the Fairy Queen. She must first let pass the black horse, and then the brown, and then quickly run to the mlkwhite steed and pull the rider to the ground, as this fairy knight shall be none other than Tam Lin. He warns her that he will be turned into all manner of beast and horror, including a newt, a snake, a bear, a lion, a red hot iron, then a burning coal or gleed when at once she must throw him in to well water, and then finally he shall turn into a naked man. At once she must cover him with her green mantle and hide him out of sight. She does exactly as told, freeing Tam Lin, much to the anger of the Fairy Queen:

"Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
And an angry woman was she,
"Shame betide her ill-far'd face,
And an ill death may she die,
For she's taen awa the bonniest knight
In a' my companie."

"But had I kend, Tam Lin," said she,
"What now this night I see,
I wad hae taken out thy twa grey een,
And put in twa een o tree."

This final verse seems to suggest the Fairy Queen wishes that she had taken out Tam Lin's grey eyes and replaced them with wood, taking away his sight of the fairies and perhaps never allowing him to have fallen in love with Janet. Another version of the tale has the Fairy Queen wishing she had taken out his heart and replacing it instead with stone.

According to Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802) it  is thought that the story of Tam Lin was first found in the 1549 book "The Complaynt of Scotland" and that perhaps it is connected to "The dance of Thom of Lyn", though it is not known for certain exactly how old this romantic ballad is. The exact lyrics of the ballad vary considerably, and many of the variations can be found in Francis Child's 'The English and Scottish Popular Ballads', where #39A is thought to perhaps be the oldest and most popular.

 Janet's home was said in the ballad to be a nearby castle. According to Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), "Newark Castle; a romantic ruin, which overhangs the Yarrow, and which, we may suppose, was the habitation of our heroine's father." The castle can be reached by walking from the Bowhill Estate, and is a magnificent ruin.
Ruins
 James Herbert MacNair
Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer - "Tam Lin (Child 39)

Sacred Texts has full ballad HERE



O I FORBID you, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.

There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
But they leave him a wad,
Either their rings, or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead.

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has broded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she’s awa to Carterhaugh,
As fast as she can hie.

When she came to Carterhaugh
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himself…

She had na pu’d a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
Till up then started young Tam Lin,
Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae.

Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
And why breaks thou the wand?
Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
Withoutten my command?

Carterhaugh, it is my ain,
My daddie gave it me;
I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
And ask nae leave at thee.’

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she is to her father’s ha,
As fast as she can hie.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba,
And out then cam the fair Janet,
Ance the flower amang them a’.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess,
And out then cam the fair Janet,
As green as onie glass.

Out then spak an auld grey knight,
Lay oer the castle wa,
And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee
But we’ll be blamed a’.

Haud your tongue, ye auld fac’d knight,
Some ill death may ye die!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
I’ll father nane on thee.’

Out then spak her father dear,
And he spak meek and mild;
‘And ever alas, sweet Janet,’ he says,
‘I think thou gaes wi child.’

‘If that I gae wi child, father,
Mysel maun bear the blame;
There’s neer a laird about your ha
Shall get the bairn’s name.

‘If my love were an earthly knight,
As he’s an elfin grey,
I wad na gie my ain true-love
For nae lord that ye hae.

‘The steed that my true-love rides on
Is lighter than the wind;
Wi siller he is shod before,
Wi burning gowd behind.’

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she’s awa to Carterhaugh,
As fast as she can hie.

When she cam to Carterhaugh,
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsel.

She has na pu’d a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
Till up then started young Tam Lin,
Says Lady, thou pu’s nae mae.

Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
Amang the groves sae green,
And a’ to kill the bonie babe
That we gat us between?

‘O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin,’ she says,
‘For’s sake that died on tree,
If eer ye was in holy chapel,
Or chirstendom did see?’

‘Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide,
And ance it fell upon a day
That wae did me betide.

‘And ance it fell upon a day,
A cauld day and a snell,
When we were frae the hunting come,
That frae my horse I fell;
The Queen o Fairies she caught me,
In yon green hill to dwell.

‘And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years
We pay a tiend to hell;
I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
I’m feard it be mysel.

‘But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday;
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
For weel I wat ye may.

‘Just at the mirk and midnight hour
The fairy folk will ride,
And they that wad their true-love win,
At Miles Cross they maun bide.’

‘But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
Or how my true-love know,
Amang sae mony unco knights
The like I never saw?’

‘O first let pass the black, lady,
And syne let pass the brown,
But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
Pu ye his rider down.

‘For I’ll ride on the milk-white steed,
And ay nearest the town;
Because I was an earthly knight
They gie me that renown.

‘My right hand will be glovd, lady,
My left hand will be bare,
Cockt up shall my bonnet be,
And kaimd down shall my hair,
And thae’s the takens I gie thee,
Nae doubt I will be there.

‘They’ll turn me in your arms, lady,
Into an esk and adder;
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I am your bairn’s father.

‘They’ll turn me to a bear sae grim,
And then a lion bold;
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
As ye shall love your child.

‘Again they’ll turn me in your arms
To a red het gaud of airn;
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I’ll do to you nae harm.

‘And last they’ll turn me in your arms
Into the burning gleed;
Then throw me into well water,
O throw me in wi speed.

‘And then I’ll be your ain true-love,
I’ll turn a naked knight;
Then cover me wi your green mantle,
And cover me out o sight.’

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
And eerie was the way,
As fair Jenny in her green mantle
To Miles Cross she did gae.

About the middle o the night
She heard the bridles ring;
This lady was as glad at that
As any earthly thing.

First she let the black pass by,
And syne she let the brown;
But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
And pu’d the rider down.

Sae weel she minded whae he did say,
And young Tam Lin did win;
Syne coverd him wi her green mantle,
As blythe’s a bird in spring.

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
Out of a bush o broom:
‘Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
Has gotten a stately groom.’

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
And an angry woman was she:
‘Shame betide her ill-far’d face,
And an ill death may she die,
For she’s taen awa the boniest knight
In a’ my companie.

‘But had I kend, Tam Lin,’ she says,
‘What now this night I see,
I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
And put in twa een o tree.’

SOURCE - HERE

In some versions, the heroine has to cast Tam Lin in the shape of a flaming sword into a well from which he emerges naked and free. 
Tam Lin, Carterhaugh

"O I forbid ye, maidens a',
That wear gold on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there."

In a beautiful mossy forest in the Scottish Borders, lies a little piece of folklore history, tucked away and forgotten by many but held dear by those who know the legend of Tam Lin. Most of the forest has long been cut down but part remains, together with a mossy old well hidden among the ferns, and marked with the name of 'Tamlane's Well' though it is well buried beneath the undergrowth and hidden from those who do not seek it. 

Irish Cello - Tam Lin 

love and light
Trace
xoxo

2 comments:

Incipient Wings said...

love this so much!
it's one of my favorites!
Thank you:)

Tracey-anne McCartney said...

You're so very welcome :o) Thank you for stopping by.
(((( <3 )))))