31 Days of Halloween: Day Eleven

halloween-tamlinFree Halloween fiction Friday again!

Last we offered an original, very modern halloween tale, “Sacred Light” (that evidently no one read), but, indefatigable in my efforts to get you in the mood for Halloween fiction)—specifically for Halloween: Magic, Mystery & the Macabre—I’ll try a more traditional Halloween tale this time: both the sanitized story and a more lurid poetic version.

Based on the ancient Scots ballad “Tam Lin”*
(From: More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, 1894)

Young Tamlane was son of Earl Murray, and Burd Janet was daughter of Dunbar, Earl of March. And when they were young they loved one another and plighted their troth. But when the time came near for their marrying, Tamlane disappeared, and none knew what had become of him.

Many, many days after he had disappeared, Burd Janet was wandering in Carterhaugh Wood, though she had been warned not to go there. And as she wandered she plucked the flowers from the bushes. She came at last to a bush of broom and began plucking it. She had not taken more than three flowerets when by her side up started young Tamlane.

“Where come ye from, Tamlane, Tamlane?” Burd Janet said, “and why have you been away so long?”

“From Elfiand I come,” said young Tamlane. “The Queen of Elfland has made me her knight.”

“But how did you get there, Tamlane?” said Burd Janet. “I was hunting one day, and as I rode widershins round yon hill, a deep drowsiness fell upon me, and when I awoke, behold! I was in Elfland. Fair is that land and gay, and fain would I stop but for thee and one other thing. Every seven years the Elves pay their tithe to the Nether world, and for all the queen makes much of me, I fear it is myself that will be the tithe.”

“Oh, can you not be saved? Tell me if aught I can do will save you, Tamlane?”

“One only thing is there for my safety. Tomorrow night is Hallowe’en, and the fairy court will then ride through England and Scotland, and if you would borrow me from Elfland you must take your stand by Miles Cross between twelve and one o’ the night, and with holy water in your hand you must cast a compass all around you.”
“But how shall I know you, Tamlane?” quoth Burd Janet, “amid so many knights I’ve ne’er seen before?”

“The first court of Elves that come by let pass. The next court you shall pay reverence to, but do naught nor say aught. But the third court that comes by is the chief court of them, and at the head rides the Queen of all Elfland. And I shall ride by her side upon a milk-white steed with a star in my crown; they give me this honour as being a christened knight. Watch my hands, Janet, the right one will be gloved but the left one will be bare, and by that token you will know me.”
“But how to save you, Tamlane?” quoth Burd Janet.

“You must spring upon me suddenly, and I will fall to the ground. Then seize me quick, and whatever change befall me, for they will exercise all their magic on me, cling hold to me till they turn me into red-hot iron. Then cast me into this pool and I will be turned back into a mother-naked man. Cast then your green mantle over me, and I shall be yours, and be of the world again.”

So Burd Janet promised to do all for Tamlane, and next night at midnight she took her stand by Miles Cross and cast a compass round her with holy water.

Soon there came riding by the Elfin court, first over the mound went a troop on black steeds, and then another troop on brown. But in the third court, all on milk-white steeds, she saw the Queen of Elfiand, and by her side a knight with a star in his crown, with right hand gloved and the left bare. Then she knew this was her own Tamlane, and springing forward she seized the bridle of the milk-white steed and pulled its rider down. And as soon as he had touched the ground she let go the bridle and seized him in her arms.

“He’s won, he’s won amongst us all,” shrieked out the eldritch crew, and all came around her and tried their spells on young Tamlane.

First they turned him in Janet’s arms like frozen ice, then into a huge flame of roaring fire. Then, again, the fire vanished and an adder was skipping through her arms, but still she held on; and then they turned him into a snake that reared up as if to bite her, and yet she held on. Then suddenly a dove was struggling in her arms, and almost flew away. Then they turned him into a swan, but all was in vain, till at last he was turned into a red-hot glaive, and this she cast into a well of water and then he turned back into a mother-naked man. She quickly cast her green mantle over him, and young Tamlane was Burd Janet’s for ever.

Then sang the Queen of Elfiand as the court turned away and began to resume its march:
“She that has borrowed young Tamlane
Has gotten a stately groom,
She’s taken away my bonniest knight, Left nothing in his room.
“But had I known, Tamlane, Tamlane, A lady would borrow thee,
I’d hae ta’en out thy two grey eyne, Put in two eyne of tree.
“Had I but known, Tamlane, Tamlane, Before we came from home,
I’d hae ta’en out thy heart o’ flesh, Put in a heart of stone.
“Had I but had the wit yestreen
That I have got today,
I’d paid the Fiend seven times his teind
Ere you’d been won away.”

And then the Elfin court rode away, and Burd Janet and young Tamlane went their way homewards and were soon after married after young Tamlane had again been sained by the holy water and made Christian once more.
* * *
*NOTE: Mr. Jones sanitized his prose version of the old ballad. Most versions—and there are many—start with a warning that Tam Lin will demand either the virginity or some other valuable possession from any maiden who ventured into the woods of Carterhaugh. Nevertheless, a maiden goes there and picks a double rose. Tam confronts her and asks why she has taken the rose and come to Carterhaugh without his permission. She replies she owns the place; her father has given it to her. Although the ballad does not describe what happens next, we can guess as the no-longer-a-maiden returns home and discovers she is pregnant.

The best known and probably the earliest version of the ballad was published as “#39A” in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child. It is included here with the addition of a final verse from “#39B.”

Although it may seem difficult reading at first, most of the ballad is clear enough if you think of a Scottish brogue: “nane that gae” is “none that go,” “aboon” is “above,” “brooded” is “braided,” etc. I supplied a few parenthetical translations for words that are not as easy to interpret.—PRLG

O I forbid you, maidens a’,
That wear gowd (gold) 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 (something of value),
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 (eyebrow),
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 (not pulled) a double rose, A rose but only twa (two),
Till upon then started young Tam Lin, Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae (more).

Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
And why breaks thou the wand (stem)?
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 (hall), As fast as she can hie.
Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba (ball—as in a game), 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 gaes wi child (goes with child—pregnant).”

“If that I gae wi child, father,
Mysel maun (must) 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’d 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 (perchance) it fell upon a day
That wae did me betide.

“And ance it fell upon a day
A cauld day and a snell (windy),
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 (tithe) 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 (dark) 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 (unknown) knights,
The like I never saw?”

“O first let pass the black, lady,
And syne (then) 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 (tokens) I gie thee,
Nae doubt I will be there.

“They’ll turn me in your arms, lady,
Into an esk (newt) and adder (snake),
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 (hot eod of iron),
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 (burning coal or wand),
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 (known), Tam Lin,” said she,
“What now this night I see,
I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een (eye),
And put in twa een o tree.”

“Had I but kend, Thomas,” she says,
Before I came frae hame,
I had taen out that heart o flesh,
Put in a heart o stane.”



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