Saved by Love… or Consumed by Darkness…

I discovered this old ballad—Tam Lin—during research and writing my Blackthorn Trilogy, and it struck me how its theme suits the core of that story arc. The song, from the borderlands of Scotland, concerns a mortal woman who encounters a mysterious man in a forbidden forest. About the rescue of Tam Lin by his true love from the Queen of the Fairies, the ballad dates to as early as 1549 (the publication date of The Complaynt of Scotland that mentions The Tayl of the Ȝong Tamlene (The Tale of the Young Tamelene) among a long list of medieval romances). [Note there have been many interpretations of the ballad, and it has been used several times for derivative stories told in film and books, some that deviated into darker tales of witchcraft.]

Capturing a person and holding them through all forms of transformation is a leitmotif found throughout European folktales. And that is really the heart of the Blackthorn arc for the two main characters Brandon and Maeve: captured/manipulated by Good and Evil forces, and molded/constrained, defined even by a centuries-old legacy and tradition that binds them. They are driven to their fate by what can’t be controlled or fought. Or can it? Their story of transformation—their journey through it—is: Will they be saved by their love… or consumed by their darkness?

Here’s the ballad performed (then further below the narrative/lyrics).

Also available in Amazon Prime Music.

  1. Janet sits in her lonely room
    Sewing a silken seam
    Looking out on Carterhaugh
    Among the roses green
  2. And Janet sits in her lonely bower
    Sewing a silken thread
    And longed to be in Carterhaugh
    Among the roses red
  3. She’s let the seam fall at her heel
    The needle to her toe
    And she has gone to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she can go
  4. She hadn’t pulled a rose, a rose
    a rose but only one
    when then appeared him, young Tam Lin
    says “Lady, let alone”
  5. “What makes you pull the rose, the rose?
    What makes you break the tree?
    What makes you come to Carterhaugh
    Without the leave of me?”
  6. “But Carterhaugh is not your own
    Roses there are many
    I’ll come and go all as I please
    And not ask leave of any”
  7. And he has took her by the hand,
    Took her by the sleeve
    And he has laid this lady down
    Among the roses green
  8. And he has took her by the arm
    Took her by the hand
    And he has laid this lady down
    Among the roses red
  9. There’s four and twenty ladies fair
    Sewing at the silk
    And Janet goes among them all
    Her face as pale as milk
  10. And four and twenty gentlemen
    Playing at the chess
    And Janet goes among them all
    As green as any glass
  11. Then up and spoke her father
    And spoke him meek and mild
    “Oh alas, my daughter,
    I fear you go with child
  12. “And is it to a man of might
    Or to a man of means?
    For who among my gentlemen
    Shall give the babe his name?”
  13. “Oh father, if I go with child
    This much to you I’ll tell
    There’s none among your gentlemen
    that I would treat so well
  14. “Oh father if I go with child
    I must bear the blame
    There’s none among your gentlemen
    shall give the babe his name.”
  15. She’s let the seam fall at her heel
    The needle to her toe
    She has gone to Carterhaugh
    as fast as she can go
  16. She is down among the weeds
    Down among the thorns
    And then appeared Tam Lin again
    Says “Lady, pull no more.
  17. “What makes you pull the poison rose?
    What makes you break the tree?
    What makes you harm the little babe
    That I have got with thee?”
  18. “Oh I will pull the rose, Tam Lin
    And I will break the tree
    But I’ll not bear the little babe
    That you have got with me
  19. “If he were to a gentleman
    And not a wild shade,
    I’d rock him all the winter’s night
    And all the summer’s day”
  20. “Then take me back into your arm
    If you my love would win
    And hold me tight and fear me not
    I’ll be your gentleman
  21. “But first I’ll turn change, all in your arms
    Into a wild wolf
    But hold me tight and fear me not
    I am your own true love
  22. And then I’ll change, all in your arms
    Into a wild bear
    But hold me tight and fear me not
    I am your husband dear
  23. And then I’ll change, all in your arms
    Into a lion bold
    But hold me tight and fear me not
    And you will love your child”
  24. At first he changed, all in her arms
    Into a wild wolf
    She held him tight and feared him not
    He was her own true love
  25. And then he changed, all in her arms
    Into a wild bear
    She held him tight and feared him not
    He was her husband dear
  26. And then he changed, all in her arms
    Into a lion bold
    She held him tight and feared him not
    The father of her child
  27. And then he changed, all in her arms
    Into a naked man
    She’s wrapped him in her coat so warm
    And she has brought him home.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here