Tam Lin
Child #39

I forbid you maidens all
that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carter Hall,
for young Tam Lin is there.

Maids may go by Carter Hall,
but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantels of green
or else their maidenhead.

Janet tied her kerf of green
a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carter Hall
as fast as go can she.

She doth pull the double rose,
a rose but only two
And up then came young Tam Lin,
says lady pull no more.

And why come you to Carter Hall
without command from me
I can go, young Janet said,
and ask no leave of thee.

Janet tied her kerf of green
a little bit above her knee
And she's gone to her father
as fast as go can she.

Well then spoke her father dear,
and he spoke meek and mild
Well alas Janet, he said,
I think you go with child.

Well if that be so, Janet said,
myself shall bear the blame
There's not a knight in all your halls
shall get the baby's name.

For if my lover were not a knight,
as he is an earthen brae
I'll not change my own true love
for any knight you have.

Janet tied her kerf of green
a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carter Hall
as fast as go can she.

Oh tell to me Tam Lin she said,
why came you here to dwell
The Queen of Fairy's caught me
when from my horse I fell.

And at the end of seven years
she pays a tithe to hell
I so fair and full of flesh
am feared it is myself.

But tonight is Halloween
and the fairy is full bride
Those that would their true love win,
hard miles crossed they must fly.

First that pass, the horse is black
and let them past the brown
then run to the white steed
and pull the rider down.

For I ride on the white steed,
the nearest to the town
For I was an earthly knight,
they give me that renown.

They will turn me in your arms
to a knute or a snake
Hold me tight and fear not,
I am your baby's father.

And they will turn me in your arms
into a lion bold
Hold me tight and fear not
and you will love your child.

And they will turn me in your arms
into a naked knight
Cloak me in your mantel
and keep me out of sight.

And in the middle of the night
she heard the bridle ring
She heeded what he did say
and young Tam Lin did win.

Then up spoke the fairy queen,
an angry queen was she
Who betide her ill far place,
an ill that may she die.

Oh had I known Tam Lin, she said,
what this night I did see
I'd have looked him in the eye
and turned him to a tree.

There are several modern versions of this ballad, done by various artists such as Steeleye Span, Tempest, Fairport Convention, etc.

A novel by Pamela Dean, inspired by the ballad. Set on a campus in the 1960s, the self-important banter of the students who are the protagonists rang very true to me, as did the often chaotic feelings of Janet, the main character. The book is very long and a bit of a slow read; although illustrated by Thomas Canty you won't find this a typical urban fantasy. Really, it's more of magical realism, where it's more firmly grounded in our world than not. Recommended, for those who can stand long sensitive novels with lots of Shakespearean badinerie. Part of the Fairy Tale series.

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