Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Ballad of Tam Lin and Winter Rose

Grace Robert, Tam Lin, 2012

Last semester for an art class I did an illustration for one of my favorite fairy tales, The Ballad of Tam Lin. It's a classic tale of love and someone being rescued, but what I particularly like about this one is that the damsel does the rescuing. How often does that happen? And when it does, it's usually in a poorly re-written Hollywood version that is simply ridiculous.

Another wonderful part of the story is when Janet must hold on to her Tam Lin as the Queen of the Faeries turns him into various terrible beasts or painful things. This, to me, is wonderful both literally for its imagery and inspiring bravery and also as a metaphor for what real love, true love, is; it's where you hold on with all your might to someone even when it hurts or they're not who you want them to be all the time. It references the more difficult parts of having a relationship that most won't stick through. And if you're brave and try hard, even the Queen of the Faeries can't thwart you. How's that for a fairy tale love story? It shows how love is full of mistakes (er, the unfortunate "payment" at the well that first time) and trials, but it will triumph in the end if hearts are steadfast.

Now, on to the ballad. There are many different versions, but I like the old, difficult to read ones the best. There is a more modern version here and a version geared more towards children here (without the unfortunate incident at the well the first time). The version I have below comes from the wonderful website tam-lin.org which has just about every version ever come up with.



One of my favorite modern works of fiction is inspired by this story. It's called Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip, a writer whose prose I consider to be some of the best being written these days. Plus, the cover art is done by Kinuko Craft, my top favorite still-living illustrator. What a magical combination.

The Ballad of Tam Lin


O I forbid you, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.

There's nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
But they leave him a wad,
Either their rings, or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead.

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has broded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she's awa to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can hie.

When she came to carterhaugh
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsel.

She had na pu'd a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
Till upon then started young Tam Lin,
Says, Lady, thou's pu nae mae.

Why pu's thou the rose, Janet,
And why breaks thou the wand?
Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
Withoutten my command?

"Carterhaugh, it is my own,
My daddy gave it me,
I'll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
And ask nae leave at thee."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has broded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she is to her father's ha,
As fast as she can hie.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba,
And out then came the fair Janet,
The flower among them a'.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess,
And out then came the fair Janet,
As green as onie glass.

Out then spake an auld grey knight,
Lay oer the castle wa,
And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee,
But we'll be blamed a'.

"Haud your tongue, ye auld fac'd knight,
Some ill death may ye die!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
I'll father none on thee."

Out then spak her father dear,
And he spak meek and mild,
"And ever alas, sweet Janet," he says,
"I think thou gaest wi child."

"If that I gae wi child, father,
Mysel maun bear the blame,
There's neer a laird about your ha,
Shall get the bairn's name.

"If my love were an earthly knight,
As he's an elfin grey,
I wad na gie my ain true-love
For nae lord that ye hae.

"The steed that my true love rides on
Is lighter than the wind,
Wi siller he is shod before,
Wi burning gowd behind."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has broded her yellow hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she's awa to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can hie.

When she came to Carterhaugh,
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsel.

She had na pu'd a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
Till up then started young Tam Lin,
Says, Lady, thou pu's nae mae.

"Why pu's thou the rose, Janet,
Amang the groves sae green,
And a' to kill the bonny babe
That we gat us between?"

"O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin," she says,
"For's sake that died on tree,
If eer ye was in holy chapel,
Or christendom did see?"

"Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide
And ance it fell upon a day
That wae did me betide.

"And ance it fell upon a day
A cauld day and a snell,
When we were frae the hunting come,
That frae my horse I fell,
The Queen o' Fairies she caught me,
In yon green hill do dwell.

"And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years,
We pay a tiend to hell,
I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
I'm feard it be mysel.

"But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday,
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
For weel I wat ye may.

"Just at the mirk and midnight hour
The fairy folk will ride,
And they that wad their true-love win,
At Miles Cross they maun bide."

"But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
Or how my true-love know,
Amang sa mony unco knights,
The like I never saw?"

"O first let pass the black, lady,
And syne let pass the brown,
But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
Pu ye his rider down.

"For I'll ride on the milk-white steed,
And ay nearest the town,
Because I was an earthly knight
They gie me that renown.

"My right hand will be gloved, lady,
My left hand will be bare,
Cockt up shall my bonnet be,
And kaimed down shall my hair,
And thae's the takens I gie thee,
Nae doubt I will be there.

"They'll turn me in your arms, lady,
Into an esk and adder,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I am your bairn's father.

"They'll turn me to a bear sae grim,
And then a lion bold,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
And ye shall love your child.

"Again they'll turn me in your arms
To a red het gand of airn,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I'll do you nae harm.

"And last they'll turn me in your arms
Into the burning gleed,
Then throw me into well water,
O throw me in with speed.

"And then I'll be your ain true-love,
I'll turn a naked knight,
Then cover me wi your green mantle,
And hide me out o sight."

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
And eerie was the way,
As fair Jenny in her green mantle
To Miles Cross she did gae.

At the mirk and midnight hour
She heard the bridles sing,
She was as glad at that
As any earthly thing.

First she let the black pass by,
And syne she let the brown,
But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
And pu'd the rider down.

Sae weel she minded what he did say,
And young Tam Lin did win,
Syne covered him wi her green mantle,
As blythe's a bird in spring

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
Out of a bush o broom,
"Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
Has gotten a stately-groom."

Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
And an angry woman was she,
"Shame betide her ill-far'd face,
And an ill death may she die,
For she's taen awa the bonniest knight
In a' my companie.

"But had I kend, Tam Lin," said she,
"What now this night I see,
I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
And put in twa een o tree."


12 comments:

  1. Tam Lin's also a favourite of mine.
    Gorgeous blog you have, Grace!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's a wonderful story.

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  2. Sounds interesting story! Beautiful illustration!
    Have a nice evening!

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  3. Hi there, I adore this image! Would you mind if I put it on my blog or fb page, so long as I credit you? I'm writing a story inspired by Tam Lin and your take on it here is beautiful and perfect.
    Cheers, Kaz

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    Replies
    1. That's fine! If you don't mind, post me a link so I can take a look. :D

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  4. Hi Grace! This is such a lovely image! I'm glad you like my site- would it be okay with you if I added this image to the artwork section (http://tam-lin.org/transformative/artwork_index.html)? I'd include copyright, attribution, and a link back to this site, as well as any text you might like. It's a great image, and I'd appreciate being able to add it to the collection of Tam Lin information.

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    Replies
    1. Certainly, that would be lovely! I'm pleased you like it so much.

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    2. Thank you! It's up on the site: http://tam-lin.org/transformative/artwork_index.html#robert
      Please let me know if you want me to change any of the wording or links. I'm so glad to be able to add it, it's very kind of you.

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    3. It looks great! I'm honored to be included.

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  5. Just found this blog - your art is wonderful, truly captures a feeling of what Janet is experiencing at that moment! I just finished reading "Tam Lin" by Pamela Dean (updated to a college campus in the early 70s) and now reading "An Earthly Knight" by Janet McNaugton, another take on the ballad. Also excellent reading! It is such a rich legend, so open to art, music, and re-tellings. Thanks for your own addition to the canon!

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    Replies
    1. I'll have to read those myself, those two versions sound very interesting! I love re-tellings of the story. It's such an old tale, and yet still applies so well today.

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