Tam Lin is a Scottish ballad, the titular character being a man who had been taken by the fairy Queen. The story follows Janet, a young woman who happens upon Tam Lin and rescues him from the fairies.
Typically, she becomes pregnant with his child and then undertakes a challenge to free him: she has to hold onto him while the Queen transforms him into various beasts and even into fire.
“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.” – Andrew Lang’s A Collection of Ballads, from Project Gutenberg
I first encountered the ballad of Tam Lin because it featured in Elizabeth Bear’s contemporary fantasy, Blood and Iron, a book which I really enjoyed. The characters brought up the story of Tam Lin often as throughout the course of the novel. The representations given to the characters of Janet and Tam Lin in that work aren’t very sympathetic, though. So I decided to link to a counterpoint I found online, at least on the matter of Janet’s character, since I was bringing up Blood and Iron.
Mediaeval Baebes, a traditional music group, have a song version of the story:
Alternatively, sometimes the ending of the ballad has the Queen say that, rather than replacing his eyes, she would have taken his heart and replaced it with stone. Personally, I always found that imagery to be more poignant, but maybe that’s because the Elizabeth Bear book used it. So it was my introduction to the story.
So, anyone else have any fairy tales or stories that particularly stand out to them?