TAM LIN AND
THOMAS THE RHYMER
She rambled through memory as you would wander
from room to room in an old house you once lived in, filling it
with stories: This happened here, and this here. Maybe they did,
and maybe you only wished they had; wishes blur so easily into
truth. (McKillip 1996, 65)
Evelyn Wells defines the traditional ballad as "a song that tells a story in simple verse and to a simple tune. It is the product of no one time or person…."I"ts medium is word of mouth rather than print" (5). Like a folktale, each successive singer makes the song (and story) his or her own, and there is no authoritative version. The Scottish ballads have long made their mark on published retellings as many writers, notably Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, have not only drawn inspiration from them but have aided in their preservation (Lyle 1994, 9). Terri Windling, in her discussion on fairy ballads, states:" 'Tam Lin' has captured the imagination of more fantasy authors and artists than any other single ballad, perhaps because of its sensual theme and unusual hero: an independent, courageous stubborn young woman, pregnant with her woodland lover's child, determined to save him from the Faery Queen and the unearthly Faery Court" (Windling 1994). Because of the many connections between these two Scottish border ballads, this chapter focuses on both. An interesting component is a look at the number of full-length novel interpretations of Tam Lin in comparison to the novels based on any of the other folktales discussed in this book. It is also intriguing to compare the relatively small number of poetic or short story reworkings of the ballads with these other folktales.