Tam Lin Balladry

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Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Household Tales. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


One day a forester brings home a foundling to raise along with his daughter, and names the child Fundevogel. When Fundevogel and his daughter, Lina, were older, Lina discovered that the cook was a witch and was planning to to eat Fundevogel. She convinced him to run away with her, and by transforming themselves into a variety of objects they are able to elude capture by the cook's assitants. Finally the cook herself seeks them out, and they are able to drown her and return home.

The Tale of Fundevogel

There was once a forester who went into the forest to hunt, and as he entered it he heard a sound of screaming as if a little child were there. He followed the sound, and at last came to a high tree, and at the top of this a little child was sitting, for the mother had fallen asleep under the tree with the child, and a bird of prey had seen it in her arms, had flown down, snatched it away, and set it on the high tree.

The forester climbed up, brought the child down, and thought to himself 'You will take him home with you, and bring him up with your Lina.' He took it home, therefore, and the two children grew up together. And the one, which he had found on a tree was called Fundevogel, because a bird had carried it away. Fundevogel and Lina loved each other so dearly that when they did not see each other they were sad.

Now the forester had an old cook, who one evening took two pails and began to fetch water, and did not go once only, but many times, out to the spring. Lina saw this and said, 'Listen old Sanna, why are you fetching so much water?' 'If you will never repeat it to anyone, I will tell you why.' So Lina said, no, she would never repeat it to anyone, and then the cook said 'Early tomorrow morning, when the forester is out hunting, I will heat the water, and when it is boiling in the kettle, I will throw in Fundevogel, and will boil him in it.'

Early next morning the forester got up and went out hunting, and when he was gone the children were still in bed. Then Lina said to Fundevogel 'If you will never foresake me, I will never foresake you.' Fundevogel said 'Neither now, nor ever will I foresake you.' Then said Lina 'Then I will tell you. Last night, old Sanna carried so many buckets of water into the house that I asked her why she was doing that, and she said that if I would promise not to tell anyone she would tell me, and I said I would be sure not to tell anyone, and she said that early tomorrow morning when father was out hunting, she would set the kettle full of water, throw you into it and boil you; but we will get up quickly, dress ourselves, and go away together.'

The two children therefore got up, dressed themselves quickly, and went away. When the water in the kettle was boiling, the cook went into the bedroom to fetch Fundevogel and throw him into it. But when she came in, and went to the beds, both the children were gone. Then she was terribly alarmed, and she said to herself 'What shall I say now when the forester comes home and sees that the children are gone? They must be followed instantly to get them back again.'

Then the cook sent three servants after them, who were to run and overtake the children. The children, however, were sitting outside the forest, and when they saw from afar the three servants running, Lina said to Fundevogel 'Never foresake me, and I will never foresake you.' Fundevogel said 'Neither now, nor ever.' Then said Lina 'Do you become a rose-tree, and I the rose upon it.' When the three servants came to the forest, nothing was there but a rose-tree and one rose on it, but the children were nowhere. Then said they 'There is nothing to be done here', and they went home and told the cook that they had seen nothing in the forest but a little rose-bush with one rose on it. Then the old cook scolded and said 'You simpletons, you should have cut the rose-bush in two, and have broken off the rose and brought it home with you; go, and do it once.'

They had therefore to go out and look for the second time. The children, however, saw them coming from a distance. Then Lina said 'Fundevogel, never foresake me, and I will never foresake you.' Fundevogel said 'Neither now, nor ever.' Said Lina 'Then do you become a church, and I'll be the chandelier in it.' So when the three servants came, nothing was there but a church, with a chandelier in it. They said therefore to each other 'What can we do here, let us go home.' When they got home, the cook asked if they had not found them; so they said no, they had found nothing but a church, and that there was a chandelier in it. And the cook scolded them and said 'You fools! why did you not pull the church to pieces, and bring the chandelier home with you?' And now the old cook herself got on her legs, and went with the three servants in pursuit of the children.

The children, however, saw from afar that the three servants were coming, and the cook waddling after them. Then said Lina 'Fundevogel, never foresake me, and I will never foresake you.' Then said Fundevogel 'Neither now, nor ever.' Said Lina 'Be a fishpond, and I will be the duck upon it.' The cook, however, came up to them, and when she saw the pond she lay down by it, and was about to drink it up. But the duck swam quickly to her, seized her head in its beak and drew her into the water, and there the old witch had to drown. Then the children went home together, and were heartily delighted, and if they have not died, they are living still.


  • The male character's origins are not entirely clear but he is found in the woods.
  • A female with magical powers wants to destroy the male
  • A female who loves the male learns of the danger and must rescue him
  • Escaping the danger involves a series of transformations
  • The transformations are about knowing truth from perception
  • The transformations are also a test of devotion between the male and female
  • The transformations take place in the wilderness
  • After surviving the tests, the male and female can return home together
  • The female with magical powers is angry with the other female for helping the male escape


Fundevogel is a tale from the collections of the brothers Grimm, and its origins are almost certainly from Eastern Europe. While the tales of the brothers Grimm are commonly refered to as Fairy Tales, fairies rarely fgure in the stories to any significant extent. These stories have often been significantly altered to make them more suitable for children, so many elements may have been lost. Although the cook is siad to be a witch, she does not display nearly as much magic as Lina, who is seen as a good character. The reasons for the cook wishing to kill little Fundevogel are not made clear. As in many of the Grimm's stories, the father seems to be absent from the tale and most of the action surrounds small children and threats from strange women. One must wonder about their childhood.

There is no significant sexual element in this story, and the love between the children seems to be very innocent. This story does not have the theme of tension between the male and the female rescuing him seen in other stories on this site. More importantly perhaps, it is the rescuing female who enacts the transformations, and in this story they are done as a means of protection rather than as a threat. Although the cook is refered to as a witch, it is not made clear what arts she practices or what powers she serves beyond her desire to cook little children. Presumably before gathering the water to make stew out of Fundevogel she had behaved in a less threatening manner and even cared for the children. In some ways this makes her resemble a fairy more than the satanic image of witches popular with folks who liked to roast old women in earlier centuries. Also, in this story, rather than simply escaping the cook's domain, the children end the tale by actually killing her, while Janet and Tam Lin foresake the woods with the Queen still cursing them.

Version Notes

Added to site: March 2001