Posted on February 05, 2016
I always love to find fairy tales about strong female characters. Tam Lin is one of these. It's an old Scottish ballad that is full of all kinds of fascinating details to ponder. But the gist of the story is that Janet, a maiden, meets a fairy man, Tam Lin, in the woods and gets pregnant. Her family finds out, and she tells them her story. In some versions, they ask her to abort the baby. But she insists on keeping the child. She finds out that Tam Lin is actually a mortal who was captured by the fairy queen. On Halloween night he is going to ride in a fairy procession, the purpose of which is to cast him into hell at the end of it all. He explains to Janet in detail the tasks she has to do to rescue him. It's a terrifying thing that she has to do, but she does it! And she does it all while pregnant!
Read the ballad here.
And if you have trouble understanding it, read the Wikipedia article. This article also has a great list of prose adaptations, if you're looking for a book to read. I especially loved Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip. That book was sooo magical.
James Herbert MacNair
John D. Batten
artist unknown, from: Tappan, Eva March. Old Ballads in Prose. 1901.