The Story of Tam Lin
Tam Lin is an old folk tale from the Scottish borders. It has been a favourite for centuries, both because of the magic in it and because it's a traditional tale centered on female daring and bravery. Some versions date back centuries, while others are still being written today.
Janet (2021-09) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
Tam Lin, based on a version by Robert Burns
In this tale, young women are warned against visiting Carterhaugh woods, near Yarrow in the Scottish Borders where the faerie knight Tam Lin is said to live. A young woman named Janet decides to go there anyway and when she pulls a double rose, Tam Lin appears before her.
Tam Lin (2021-08) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
He asks her why she picked the rose, and why she is trespassing in the woods which he looks after for the Fairy Queen. Janet replies the woods are on her father’s estate, and so belong to her. She and Tam then spend time together there and become lovers.
Lady Ethel Keith Falconer (1880) by UnknownNational Library of Scotland
She returns home and after some time her father discovers she is pregnant. She tells him that the father of her child is the ‘elfin grey’ Tam Lin whom she loves. She returns to the woods to meet Tam. There, he tells her that he was once mortal but was taken by the fairy queen.
Fairy Queen (2021-08) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
Every seven years, the Fairy Queen has to pay a levy to Hell and Tam Lin fears that he will be the next victim. Only Janet can save him by coming to where the fairies and knights will be riding in procession at Halloween.
Anton Giulio Brignole-Sale on horseback (1627) by Anton Van DyckMusei di Strada Nuova
Tam Lin tells Janet she must pull him off his horse, and hold him tight whatever happens. On Halloween, she sees him, pulls him from his horse and holds him tight as he changes into a lizard, snake, bear, lion, and red hot bar of iron. She throws him into the well and frees him from the spell.
Thomas the Rhymer
This story is based on Thomas Learmont (or Learmounth) of Ercildoune, in the village now called Earlston in the Scottish Borders. He lived from about 1220 to 1298 and was a Scottish laird with a reputation for prophesy and supernatural powers.
Thomas the Rhymer (2021) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas of Erceldoune, or Thomas Learmont was a Scottish poet and seer who lived in the 13th century. He is best known as Thomas the Rhymer. In popular folklore he is often associated with Merlin. He is celebrated in a ballad that was sung in the Scottish Borders.
Thomas lived in Erceldoune, now Earlston, in Berwickshire, but his life remains very much unknown. Soon after his death around 1299 he became a mystical figure celebrated both for his poetry and his prophecies. His skills as a seer were said to be connected with the Fairy Queen.
Solitary Tree (1822) by Caspar David FriedrichAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
He delivered his prophecies from beneath the Eildon Tree. The story goes that as a young man Thomas lay under the tree when a woman in a grass green shirt and a velvet coat came by on a horse. She told Thomas she was the Fairy Queen and dared him to kiss her on the lips. He did.
Second Queen of the Faires (2021) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
The price for the kiss is that Thomas has to serve the Fairy Queen for seven years. She puts him behind her on her white horse and they ride faster than the wind until they reach Elfland. Thomas is not allowed to speak in Elfland, or he will never return to his own land.
Meeting of the three paths (2018) by Robert Eva CC-BY-2.0National Library of Scotland
They travel on horseback until they finally rest. The Fairy Queen shows Thomas three paths: a narrow one with thorns, the path of righteousness that leads to heaven; a broad, bright road, the path of wickedness leading to hell; and a beautiful green road that leads to Elfland.
Perfect Forme of a Fruit-tree (1638)National Library of Scotland
Finally they come to a beautiful garden. The Fairy Queen picks an apple and gives it to Thomas as payment for his services. This apple will give him the gift of always speaking the truth. After his return home Thomas starts to prophesy. Seven years follow where no one sees him.
The Brownie of the Black Haggs
Written by James Hogg (1770-1835), 'The Brownie of the Black Haggs' features a brownie, a household spirit from Scottish folklore that is said to come out at night while the owners of the house are asleep and perform various chores and farming tasks.
Lady Wheelhope (2021-08) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
This is a tale of Lady Wheelhope who was by all accounts a very bad woman. She was a tyrant who argued with her family and treated her servants cruelly, often cursing, striking, or even throwing them out especially if they were religious. One day a new servant appeared.
Merodach (2021-08) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
Merodach had the body of a boy but features of an old man. Lady Wheelhope hated him instantly and made his life a misery. Merodach however, just laughed and gleefully provoked her even more. This caused her to become so obsessed and full of hate for him she vowed to kill him.
Dark room by Peter Herrmann and 2021National Library of Scotland
One night she secretly tried to enter his room to slit his throat but when her son was found murdered the next morning, she lost her mind. Merodach was thrown out but Lady Wheelhope could not let him out of her sight. He tormented and beat her but she would not let him go.
She was captured and returned to her family but escaped again to run after Merodach. She was last seen alive weary, wounded and lame but still chasing after him. Her body was later found among wild haggs (a woodland) in a place called Crook Burn.
They buried her at the Yetts (the Scots word for Gates) of Keppel, a place near Heriot in the Scottish Borders and rolled three huge stones on her grave, which are lying there to this day. Merodach however, was never seen again.