Tam Lin

Tamas "Tam" Lin (also called Tamlane, Tamlin, Tam Lien, Tam-a-Line, Tam Lane, or True Thomas) is the hero of a Borders legend about fairies and mortal men. While this ballad is unique to Scotland, the motif of capturing a person by holding him through all forms of transformation is found throughout Europe in folktales.

"Tamas" is the Scots form of Thomas, and may therefore be a variation of Thomas (Learmonth), who was known as "True Thomas".


Most variants begin with the warning that Tam Lin collected either a possession, or the virginity of any maidens who passed through the forest of Carterhaugh. A young maiden, usually called Janet or Margaret, came to Carterhaugh and plucked a double rose, whereupon Tam appeared and asked why she was in Carterhaugh without his command and had taken what was his. She stated that she owned Carterhaugh, as her father had given it to her.

In most variants, she then went home, and discovered she was pregnant; some variants pick up the story at this point. When an old knight taxed her with it, she announced that she would not declare him her baby's father, that her lover was an elf and that she loved him. She returned to Carterhaugh; in some variants, her brother had told her that a herb growing there would induce an abortion. In all, she picked something, whether the herb or the same roses as when they first meet. Tam reappeared, enraged and forbidding her to harm the child.

She asked him whether he was ever human, either after that reappearance, or in some variants, immediately after their first meeting resulted in her seduction. He revealed that he was a mortal man, who, after falling from his horse, was rescued and captured by the Queen of the Fairies. Every seven years the fairies paid a teind, a tithe to Hell, of one of their people, and Tam feared he would become that tithe on that night (Hallowe'en). He was to ride as part of a company of knights, and Janet would recognise him by the white horse upon which he was riding. He warned her that, when she caught him, the fairies would attempt to make her drop him by turning him into all manner of beasts (see Proteus), but that he would do her no harm, and when he was finally turned into a burning coal she was to throw him into a well, whereupon he would reappear as a naked man and she should hide him. Janet did as she was asked, and won her knight. The Queen of the Fairies was not best pleased, but acknowledged her claim.


There have been several interpretations of the Tam Lin story:


Child took the threat to take out Tam Lin's eyes as a common folklore precaution against mortals who could see fairies, in the tales of fairy ointment. Joseph Jacobs interpreted it as rather a reversal of the usual practice; the Queen of Faerie would have kept him from seeing the human woman who rescued him.

In some variants, "Hind Etin" has verses identical to this for the first meeting between dick and the hero and heroine.

Modern retellings




Tam Lin is also the name of an Irish reel.



See also

External links

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This article is based on "Tam Lin" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tam+Lin&action=history