Tam Lin Balladry

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Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane

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

Child Ballad Number: 28

cites: Motherwell MS


Burd Ellen cares for her child when Tamlane comes to visit. She instructs him to care for his son, for she has done enough. He departs for the seas instead, carrying her curses with him.

Burd Ellen and Young Tamlane

    1. Burd Ellen sits in her bower windowe,
      With a double laddy double
      And for the double dow
      Twisting the red silk and the blue
      With the double rose and the May-hay.
    2. And whiles she twisted and whiles she twan
      And whiles the tears fell down amang.
    3. Till once thee by cam Young Tamlane
      "Come light, oh light, and rock your young son."
    4. "If you winna roack him, you may not let him rair,
      For I hae rockit my share and more."
    5. Young Tamlane to the seas he's gane,
      And a' women's curse in his company gane.


  • The young man is named Tamlane
  • Tamlane's parenting skills are called into question by the mother of his child


I do not believe this story is actually related to the ballad of Tam Lin, but as I have both Tam Lin and Childe Rowland (in which Burd Ellen is the name of the captured sister) on this site, it was too tempting to exclude. Quite frankly, I have no idea what most sections of this short song are about. The name Tamlane is roughly a version of Thomas, a common name for story characters in Scottish tradition, and I will assume that the same may be true for Burd Ellen. Still, the tempting interpretation is that Burd Ellen returned pregnant from her stay in fairyland, and Tam Lin is the father. She'd be the one to spread the tales about the dangers to maiden who enter the woods. This falls apart, of course, with the last lines about Tamlane going to the sea.

Version Notes

Added to site: February 2001