Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tam Lin

Also called Tamlane, the subject of a Border ballad collected in Francis James Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads (anth 1857-1858), and possibly dating back to the 14th century. Tam Lin is a young knight carried off by the Fairies who is fated to be their Seven-yearly sacrifice to Hell. He is rescued by Janet, whose child he has fathered, when she lies in wait for the Fairy Ride at Hallowe'en and takes hold of him, ignoring the fierce and terrible shapes into which he is transformed. As a narrative the ballad, like the similar Thomas the Rhymer, contains within it many of the most important "fairy" beliefs which – like the sinister Fairy Queen, the Transformations, the tithe to Hell and the amoral hedonism of the fairies – have become staples of modern fantasy. Perhaps the dangerous glamour of the story is best translated into modern idiom by Diana Wynne Jones in Fire and Hemlock (1985), but Ellen Kushner's historical fantasy Thomas the Rhymer (1990) also incorporates important elements of the story to good effect. [AS]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.