Tam Lin Balladry

A website of folklore and discovery.

Tam Lin Balladry

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

- opening verse of Tam Lin, Child Ballad 39A

Tam Lin is an old fairy ballad from the borderlands of Scotland, concerning a mortal woman who encounters a mysterious man in a forbidden forest. When she finds herself pregnant with his child, she seeks him out again and learns he is a mortal man, captive to the faeries and at risk for sacrifice as their tribute to hell. To rescue him, she must find the faeries at midnight on Halloween and pull him from horse as the faerie troop passes by. She must hold onto him as he is transformed into a variety of beasts, or fire, or other dangers. She does so, and at the end of the tale, the Faerie Queen speaks her wrath at the departed man, wishing she'd taken out his eyes or his heart to prevent his rescue.

Tam Lin has been a beloved tale for centuries, both because of the magic in the tale, and because it is a traditional tale centered on female daring and bravery. Some versions of the ballad date back centuries, while others are still being written today. The story has also grown well outside the traditional format, and can be found in prose books, plays, artwork, and other forms.

This website is intended to give those interested in the story of Tam Lin a place to learn more about the history and forms of the story.

Recent Site News

December 2014

  • Added Website list to the library section, with links and descriptions of research material related to Tam Lin available online.
  • Added Fair Margaret and Young Whatshisname by Holly Tannen to the Transformative section.
  • Updated the list of Tam Lin Recordings. Now have 122 listed, counting each artist only once (Fairport Convention recorded it on at least seven albums, still only one entry). The updated list splits the recordings into Ballads, Parodies, and Reels, for reference and disambiguation purposes.

Sections of this Website

  • Analysis of the Ballad - examination of variations, symbols, and relationships between versions.
  • Versions of the Ballad - Ballad versions of Tam Lin in written format. These are either from traditional ballad collections or from versions performed by modern performers that illustrate interesting changes or interpretations of the story.
  • Scotland - Tracing the history of the story in its country of origin, examining Carterhaugh, the families mentioned in the tales, and the places where Tam Lin was recorded.
  • Stories - provides examples and analysis of closely related tales, such as Thomas the Rhymer, Beauty and the Beast, and The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter
  • Library - resources and reference information on the ballad, including texts from Child, Lang, and Scott, as well as many others. Listing of Tam Lin in reference material and guides and reviews of published works based on Tam Lin
  • Music - explores the historic tunes associated with the ballad, listing of known recordings, and links to videos of performance of the ballad
  • Transformed - works inspired by the ballad, including fanfic, artwork, videos, parodies, and movies.

If you're not certain where to look, try the sitemap for a listing of all current pages.

Want to help or follow along?

Follow me: on Twitter and site specific material will be under #Tam Lin on Tumblr and #tamlinballadry on Twitter.

If you have any questions, corrections, or contributions, communication is always welcome.

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