The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads that have their origins in England and Scotland. They were researched and catalogued by Francis James Child (1825-1896), an American folklorist. Have you ever experienced the phenomenon that you first hear of something then all of a sudden you see that thing everywhere? It seems now every time I turn around I am encountering another Child ballad, or something inspired by one.
The first time I heard of Tam Lin was from the title of a traditional tune, no words. I did not know it was the name of a fairy enchantment story! The earliest known version is actually from Scotland. It wasn't until I heard a song of the same name from an album of Child ballads that I learned of the story behind Tam Lin.
There are a few different tellings of this old fairy tale, where fairies are really not very nice folk at all. Kind of scary actually! But the one that inspired this gourd is the retelling in a song by Anaïs Mitchell.
The story basically is that a young lady meets a man, Tam Lin, under an enchantment, and has a romantic encounter with him, and finds she is with child. Desperate, she goes back to the wood where they were meeting to pick a poison rose, in order to end the unwanted pregnancy. Tam Lin finds her just in time to tell her his story, and how to break the spell the fairies put on him so that they can marry and they can raise their child.
In all of the versions, Tam Lin is a shape changer, and in this particular one, he changes into a wolf, then a bear, a lion and lastly into his true form. All the while he is changing shape, she must hold him tightly and not be afraid, then he would be free from the fairy's enchantment.
Have a listen to Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer performing "Tam Lin (Child 39)" at Folk Alliance International in Toronto, ON. February, 2013. It is a beautiful rendition and thus far my favorite one.
What do you think? Do you love old fairy stories and folk tales? Do you have a favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!
For more information about the collection of Child ballads, check out these websites:
Art has always been a part of my life, and I have worked in many different mediums.