This blog follows how a romance novel set in the Borders of medieval Scotland is researched, written and hopefully *hopefully* published.

Join me on the writing journey and get inspired to try writing a little romance into your own life!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Ballad as Reference...

Child ballad #39A
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child (reworked a touch by moi for easier reading...)

I'll even highlight the spicier parts so you can easily see why this just asks to be a rollicking romance...

O, I forbid you, maidens all,
That wear gold on your hair,
To come or go by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.

There's none that goes by Carterhaugh
But they leave him a gift,
Either their rings, or green mantles,
Or else their *maidenhead.

*Ohhh—quite a “gift” dontcha’ think? Can't be returned for a refund either...

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little above her knee,
And she has braided her yellow hair
A little above her breast,
And she's away to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can be.

Our gal here has got to check out the situation herself...

When she came to Carterhaugh
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she found his steed standing,
But away was himself.

She had nearly pulled a double rose,
A rose but only two,
Till upon then started young Tam Lin,
Says, “Lady, thou's pull no more.”

"Why pulls thou the rose, Janet,
And why breaks thou the wand?
Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
Without by my command?

Hmm...Obedience issues? And what a demanding hero we have already...

"Carterhaugh, it is my own,
My daddy gave it me,
I'll come and go by Carterhaugh,
And ask no leave of thee."

We see a bit of Janet’s attitude!

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little above her knee,
And she has braided her yellow hair
A little above her breast,
And she is to her father's hall,
As fast as she can be.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba,
And out then came the fair Janet,
The flower among them all.

Yep, Janet's a pretty heroine. Typical!

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess,
And out then came the fair Janet,
As green as any glass.

Uh-oh, morning sickness!

Out then spoke an old grey knight,
Laying over the castle wall,
And says, “Alas, fair Janet, for thee,
But we'll be blamed all.”

Even the old guy thinks she’s preggers! He doesn't want to get caught up in the inevitable dragnet.

"Hold your tongue, ye old faced knight,
Some ill death may ye die!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
I'll father none on thee."

So Janet says, “Shut up, you ugly bastard—I hope you die an awful death! I’ll get pregnant by whoever I choose, and it sure as hell won’t be you!” Hmm. Quite the "modern woman," right?

Out then spoke her father dear,
And he spoke meek and mild,
"And ever alas, sweet Janet," he says,
"I think thou goest with child."

Yikes! Daddy has his suspicions, too!

"If that I go with child, father,
Myself must bear the blame,
There's nary a laird about your hall,
Shall get the bairn's name.

“Well, Pops, if I’m knocked up it’s because I was knockin’ boots. And none of your knights gets the right to name the kid, ‘cause it’s not theirs.” Eek! A stranger has besmirched her?! Good heavens!

"If my love were an earthly knight,
As he's an elfin grey,
I would not give my own true-love
For no lord that ye have.

“My lover’s a Faerie knight—I wouldn’t waste my time on any guys around here!”

The steed that my true love rides on
Is lighter than the wind,
With silver he is shod before,
With burning gold behind."

"My guy's even got a cool ride!"

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little above her knee,
And she has braided her yellow hair
A little above her breast,
And she's away to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can go.

The lady has to see him again, even against her family's wishes.


When she came to Carterhaugh,
Tam Lin was at the well,
And there she found his steed standing,
But away was himself.

She had not pulled a double rose,
A rose but only two,
Till up then started young Tam Lin,
Says, Lady, thou pullest no more.

She knows how to get his attention. Good girl!


"Why pulls thou the rose, Janet,
Among the groves so green,
And all to kill the bonny babe
That we got us between?"

Tam Lin realizes Janet’s looking for something to abort the baby with.


"O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin," she says,
"For His sake that died on tree,
If ever ye was in holy chapel,
Or Christendom did see?"

Blah, blah...Is he mortal, perhaps even a good Christian boy? A girl's gotta' consider if he's marriageable material...

"Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide
And once it fell upon a day
That woe did me betide.

Ah, Tam had to be raised by his grandad, a childhood tragedy perhaps?

"And once it fell upon a day
A cold day and a snell,
When we were from the hunting come,
That from my horse I fell,
The Queen o' Fairies she caught me,
In yon green hill do dwell.

A little hunting accident (hunting's manly--falling out of the saddle's not)and he gets captured by the Faeries, but not just ANY Faeries--the Queen herself. He must have shown potential, a handsome hero at least. Oh, yeah, in at least one version, it hints of his "service" to the Queen. Hmm. How to interpret that... Bwah-ha-ha!

"And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years,
We pay a tithe to hell,
I am so fair and full of flesh,
I'm feared it be myself.

"Life's okay in the Hollow Hill, but I think they're gonna' sacrifice me to the devil soon."

"But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday,
Then win me, win me, and ye will,
For well I want ye may.

"I think you could save me."

"Just at the mirk and midnight hour
The fairy folk will ride,
And they that would their true-love win,
At Miles Cross they must bide."

"Here's the time and the place...Don't spend too much time primping--tardiness is not an option."


"But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
Or how my true-love know,
Among so many uncouth knights,
The like I never saw?"

"But all you Faerie knights look the same, how will I know you?"


"O first let pass the black, lady,
And then let pass the brown,
But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
Pull ye his rider down.

"I'll be riding the white horse, baby, like a hero should."

"For I'll ride on the milk-white steed,
And ay nearest the town,
Because I was an earthly knight
They give me that renown.

"They give me a special spot in the parade 'cause I'm a mortal hottie."

"My right hand will be gloved, lady,
My left hand will be bare,
Cocked up shall my bonnet be,
And combed down shall my hair,
And there's the tokens I give thee,
Never doubt I will be there.

"But if you need a way to recognize me, I'll put my visor up."

"They'll turn me in your arms, lady,
Into an asp and adder,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I am your bairn's father.

"The Fae will turn me into some pretty scary beasties as you hold me--just hand on or you'll lose me forever! And raising a kid on your own's no cakewalk nowadays! They'll make me a --"


"They'll turn me to a bear so grim,
And then a lion bold,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
And ye shall love your child.

"--bear and lion(oh my!)--" So she's being tested...


"Again they'll turn me in your arms
To a red hot gand* of iron,
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I'll do you no harm.

*Ok, so, honestly I'm not sure what a gand is, but I'd bet it's somehow phallic.


"And last they'll turn me in your arms
Into the burning gleed,
Then throw me into well water,
O throw me in with speed.

*And what's a gleed? Guess I better break out the Dictionary of Etymology. Doesn't really matter as different versions list different beasts and hot iron implements. My choice is different in the end anyhow.

"And then I'll be your own true-love,
I'll turn a naked knight,
Then cover me with your green mantle,
And hide me out o sight."

"--and finally a naked knight. Cover me up with your dress to claim me." *Talk about making a weird excuse to get under her skirts!

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
And eerie was the way,
As fair Janet in her green mantle
To Miles Cross she did go.

Janet goes to the rendezvous point.

At the mirk and midnight hour
She heard the bridles sing,
She was as glad at that
As any earthly thing.

She's thinking, "I'm gonna' git myself a maaan!"


First she let the black pass by,
And then she let the brown,
But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
And pulled the rider down.

She pulls him down and holds him...

So well she minded what he did say,
And young Tam Lin did win,
Then covered him with her green mantle,
As blythe's a bird in spring.

She wins! She wins! The chick saves the guy (and beats someone who socially outranks her in the process)! Yee--haaa!


Out then spoke the Queen o Fairies,
Out of a bush of broom,
"Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
Has gotten a stately-groom."

"Congrats, you got yourself a fine stud."


Out then spoke the Queen o Fairies,
And an angry woman was she,
"Shame betide her ill-fared face,
And an ill death may she die,
For she's taken away the bonniest knight
In all my company.

"But, as the Queen of the Fae, I curse you, 'cuz you stole my very best boy toy!"

"But had I known, Tam Lin," said she,
"What now this night I see,
I would have taken out thy two grey eyes,
And put in two eyes of tree.*"

"And as for you--Tam Lin--if I'd have known you'd trapse off with some little chickadee, I would've blinded you before you could've even set eyes on her! How ungrateful of you! Some people just don't respect the honor of being a sacrificial lamb!"

*Sounds like the classic “woman scorned” to me… So--Hmm. I think you'd agrees there’s some potential with this ballad!

So go out there and read something (or listen to something) and see what story's underneath.

Much LOVE,

Saoirse

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