Tam Lin Balladry

A website of folklore and discovery.

Allison Gross

Source: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child.

Child Ballad Number: 35

cites: 'Allison Gross,' Jamieson-Brown MS., fol. 40


The witch Allison Gross tries to seduce a man with offers of valuable goods. When he refuses her, she turns him into a worm and leaves him to wander around a tree. On Halloween night the fairy court rides by, and the queen of the Fairies stops to help the man. She strokes him three times, and he is transformed again to him human shape.

Allison Gross

  1. Oh, Allison Gross, that lives in yon tower
    The ugliest witch in the north country
    Has trysted me one day up in her bower
    And many fair speech she made to me
  2. She stroked my head and she combed my hair
    And she set me down softly on her knee
    Says, "Gin ye will be my leman so true
    Sae many braw things as I would ye gi'"
  3. She showed me a mantle of red scarlet
    With golden flowers and fringes fine
    Says, "Gin ye will be my leman so true
    This goodly gift it shall be thine"
  4. "Away, away, you ugly witch
    Hold far away and let me be
    I never will be your leman so true
    And I wish I were out of your company"
  5. She next brought me a sark of the softest silk
    Well wrought with pearls about the band
    Says, "Gin ye will be my ain true love
    This goodly gift you shall command"
  6. She showed me a cup of the good red gold
    Well set with jewels so fair to see
    Says, "Gin ye will be my leman sae true
    This goodly gift I will ye gi'"
  7. "Away, away, you ugly witch
    Hold far away and let me be
    For I wouldna aince kiss your ugly mouth
    For all the gifts that you could gi'"
  8. She's turned her right and round about
    And thrice she blew on a grass-green horn
    And she swore by the moon and the stars abeen
    That she would gar me rue the day I was born
  9. Then out she has taken a silver wand
    And she's turned her three times round and round
    She's muttered such words till my strength it failed
    And I fell down senseless upon the ground
  10. She's turned me into an ugly worm
    And gard me toddle around the tree
    And aye, on ilka Saturday night
    My sister Maisry came to me
  11. With silver basin and silver comb
    To comb my head upon her knee
    Before I had kissed her ugly mouth
    I'd rather have toddled about the tree
  12. But as it fell out on last Halloween
    When the seely court was riding by
    The queen lighted down on a rowan bank
    Not far frae the tree where I wont to lie
  13. She took me up in her milk white hand
    And she's stroked me three times on her knee
    She changed me again to my ain proper shape
    And I nae more maun toddle about the tree


  1. The tales are concerned with a man who is transformed
  2. The transformation follows a pattern from human to creature to human again
  3. The rescue occuring on Halloween
  4. The Fairy Queen has the power to transform
  5. The Fairy court goes riding on Halloween


This tale illustrates the capricious relationship between the humans and the fairies. In Tam Lin, the Fairy queen is the villian, and she is the one who instigates the transformations. In this tale, it is a human figure, a witch, that is the source of evil, and the Fairy Queen who is the rescuer. In this tale, the human male has no lover to save him, his relationship even with his sister is very strange. It is unclear what motivates the Fairy Queen to save the human, but my theory on the matter is that the Fairies, in their own way, do not like others using magic and thus will spoil the tricks of humans when they can.

Version Notes

Added to site: March 2001