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

Recent Site News

March 2015

Tam Lin news elsewhere

March 2015

  • A new play, TRACES, written by Shannon Pritchard and produced by Feast productions, based on Tam Lin, is premiering in Chicago this March 6-28, 2015. Check it out.

    Twenty-something Chicagoan Jenny embarks on a quest after a fateful encounter with charming, mysterious Tom. Fantasy merges with reality as she journeys across the Windy City, and her hazy memories give way to difficult questions. An urban Faerie tale inspired by the Scottish folk ballad Tam Lin.

  • Strange Horizons will host a book club reading of Alan Garner's Red Shift. From their Book Club page:

    First published in 1973, and recently reissued by the NYRB, Red Shift is one of Alan Garner's most celebrated novels. From the blurb: "In second-century Britain, Macey and a gang of fellow deserters from the Roman army hunt and are hunted by deadly local tribes. Fifteen centuries later, during the English Civil War, Thomas Rowley hides from the ruthless troops who have encircled his village. And in contemporary Britain, Tom, a precocious, love-struck, mentally unstable teenager, struggles to cope with the imminent departure for London of his girlfriend, Jan. [...] A pyrotechnical and deeply moving elaboration on themes of chance and fate, time and eternity, visionary awakening and destructive madness."

What is Tam Lin?

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.

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?

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