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The Annotated Tam Lin

November 7, 2016

Tam Lin.jpgOne of my favorite books is Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. Not only is this book based on a ballad I really like, but it’s also an amazing fantasy novel that is simply stuffed with references to other books.

The basic story centers around Janet, a student at Blackstock College in Minnesota in the early 1970’s. She and her roommates get involved with an unusual melange of characters from the drama and classics departments. They trade witty banter and Shakespeare quotes back and forth and it all seems like a fairly typical college coming of age story.
However, things are not quite what they seem. Something is rotten in the Classics Department and it all seems to be focused on the unbelievably beautiful Thomas Lane.
The book follows the major beats of the ballad faithfully, but transcends into something quite special.

As I mentioned, Dean has packed huge numbers of references to other books, plays, and texts into this book. And when I was in college I set out to record them all. And thus was the Annotated Tam Lin born. It was handwritten and illustrated with pictures cut out of magazines, comics, and trading cards. I spent most of New Year’s Eve 1999 writing out quotes in glittery gel pen.
Alas, the green cloth bound sketchbook that I used has gone the way of all flesh and vanished in one of my many, many moves. So, I’m now recreating it online. At the moment, it’s housed over on Tumblr at the Annotated Tam Lin. I’m hoping once I have everything collected again we can get it hosted at Tam Lin Balladry, which is an awesome site if you’re at all interested in the story of Tam Lin. Just to give you an idea, in Chapter 1 alone, I had 24 references to track down. This book could double as a liberal arts degree if you actually read all the works referenced.

Here is the text of the best known version of Tam Lin, Child Ballad 39A

  1. O I forbid you, maidens a’,
    That wear gowd on your hair,
    To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tam Lin is there.
  2. There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
    But they leave him a wad,
    Either their rings, or green mantles,
    Or else their maidenhead.
  3. 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.
  4. When she came to carterhaugh
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  5. 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.
  6. Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
    And why breaks thou the wand?
    Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
    Withoutten my command?
  7. “Carterhaugh, it is my own,
    My daddy gave it me,
    I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
    And ask nae leave at thee.”
  8. 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.
  9. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the ba,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    The flower among them a’.
  10. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the chess,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    As green as onie glass.
  11. 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’.
  12. “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.”
  13. 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.”
  14. “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.
  15. “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.
  16. “The steed that my true love rides on
    Is lighter than the wind,
    Wi siller he is shod before,
    Wi burning gowd behind.”
  17. 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.
  18. When she came to Carterhaugh,
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  19. 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.
  20. “Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
    Amang the groves sae green,
    And a’ to kill the bonny babe
    That we gat us between?”
  21. “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?”
  22. “Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
    Took me with him to bide
    And ance it fell upon a day
    That wae did me betide.
  23. “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.
  24. “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.
  25. “But the night is Halloween, lady,
    The morn is Hallowday,
    Then win me, win me, an ye will,
    For weel I wat ye may.
  26. “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.”
  27. “But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
    Or how my true-love know,
    Amang sa mony unco knights,
    The like I never saw?”
  28. “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.
  29. “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.
  30. “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.
  31. “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.
  32. “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.
  33. “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.
  34. “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.
  35. “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.”
  36. Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
    And eerie was the way,
    As fair Jenny in her green mantle
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  37. At the mirk and midnight hour
    She heard the bridles sing,
    She was as glad at that
    As any earthly thing.
  38. 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.
  39. 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
  40. 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.”
  41. 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.
  42. “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.”
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