When Janet dares to enter into the forbidden woods of Carterhaugh, where the wicked fairies make mischief for any intruders, she encounters an elfin knight, Tam Lin, entrapped by the spell of the Queen Fairy. Janet agrees to go into the woods again on Halloween night in order to face the wicked band of fairies and try to save the life of Tam Lin. An old Halloween tale from Scotland. SUITABLE FOR AGES 7 and up (NOT suitable for younger children) (duration 15 minutes)
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Discover How a Brave Lass Rescues An Elfin Knight in this old Scottish Tale-Storytelling Podcast for Kids-Tam Lin:E160
October 28, 2021
Do you know what the word, Halloween means? Do you know why people dress up at this time of year?
Hello everyone, I’m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. So, some of you may remember from listening to our earlier Halloween stories that the word Halloween is an old Celtic word – really two words meaning…hallow – holy and ‘een is short form for evening. So on this holy evening – 31st October the night before the Feast of All Saints, it became a time to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. People dressed up in costumes as a way to ward off the ghosts who they believed scoured the earth on this night before the beginning of winter- before the feast of All Saints. Many of our Halloween traditions now stem from the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain – sow- in which is a Celtic c word meaning, summer’s end.
And so today’s story is an old tale from Scotland that takes place on this day of Samhain and celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
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Lets take a journey with…
Long ago in Scotland, near the woods of Cartherhaugh, there lived young lass by the name of Janet. All her life, Janet had been told, as all the other lasses and lads nearby had also heard, never to enter those woods, for there were fairies who dwelt there who had been known to cast evil spells and make mischief for any intruders who came there.
But as she grew older, Janet grew bolder and less afraid of all these tales she had heard. “Doesn’t my own father own all of the land here anyway, “ she said to herself. “There is no reason I should be forbidden for going there.” And so one day, Janet wrapped her green shawl over her shoulders and headed for the Carterhaugh woods.
As soon as she stepped into the forest, she caught a strong sweet scent of roses, and following the aroma, she found herself in a clearing brimming with rose bushes.
She bent down and plucked one single ruby red rose and breathed in its beautiful perfume.
Suddenly, a figure appeared before her.
“So you like roses,” said a tall elfin man. “Roses that do not belong to you.”
Startled, Janet stammered, “Who…who.. are you?” Then mustering her wits, she added, “ I will have you know my family owns this land of Carterhaugh and one day…
“My name is Tam Lin,” said the elf man, interrupting her, and I guard the forest for the Fairy Queen. This is not a safe place for a young lass like you.”
“Have no fear on my account,” said Janet, “ I can look after myself. But if you know so much about this forest, why don’t you be my guide?”
The elf man bowed and said, “Very well, come, follow me.”
He led Janet further into the forest, showing her all sorts of wonders that lay nestled among the pine and birch trees – amber poppies, dew speckled toadstools, silver gossamer spiders’ webs and clusters of bluebells.
The hours flew by and soon it was time for Janet to bid Tam Lin farewell. “Come again, soon,” he said as he kissed her hand.
And the next day, Janet returned to Carterhaugh, and every day after that, for weeks and months, she and Tam Lin became the best of friends.
But one day, Tam Lin looked pale and troubled. “What ails you?” Janet asked. “Does it worry you that I am human and you are not? Please do not let that concern you, for I care not one whit about that.”
“Oh, my dear lady,” said Tam Lin, “of course I know you are good and kind and loyal and true, but I am afraid my burden is heavier than that.”
Tam Lin beckoned for Janet to take a seat on a rock beside him and then he began to tell her his story.
“I was born a human like you, and when I was but more than a boy I even became a knight. But a few years ago I was hunting in these very woods when I was bewitched by a sleeping spell, that made me fall from my horse. Then the Queen of Fairies whisked me away to be her servant and so I have been at her beckoning these past few years. Every day, I guard the woods of Carterhaugh, and at night, I return to her fairy kingdom.
But even a life of this imprisonment would be better than what I just found out this morning.”
“Tell me, tell me,” begged Janet.
With a heavy heart, Tam Lin continued.
“That every seven years on Samhein (Sow – inn) Eve, the fairies hold a ritual that allows them to keep their powers for the next seven years. They have a procession through the woods that ends at Miles Cross, and there they sacrifice a mortal to the spirits. Ah, my lady, I am to be the next sacrifice!”
“Today is October 31st,” whispered Janet, “and tonight is Samhein Eve!”
“Aye, and it is the seventh year,” said Tam Lin. “I’m afraid we must say our goodbyes now.”
“No, it cannot be!” Janet jumped up. “There must be a way to break the spell!”
He paused. “There is one way,” he said slowly, “but it is so hard and so fraught with peril, that I dare say no more about it.”
“But you must! You must tell me everything!”
Tam Lin sighed. “If you insist. There is one chance, and it happens only when the procession approaches the circle of stones at Miles Cross where the sacrifice takes place. Only then, for a brief time, are the powers of the Fairy Queen weakened. If you want to save my life, you must hide behind a tree at Miles Cross tonight and wait for the procession to come by.
Let the first steed pass – that will be a black horse ridden by the Fairy Queen – and then let pass a brown. But run to the next horse, a milk-white steed, and pull the rider down. I will be that rider and when I fall, you must hold me fast. No matter what terrors happen next, your grip on me must last.
But this will be terribly hard to do, dear Janet, because to break your grip the Fairy Queen is likely to turn me into beast after horrible beast in your arms. Yet if you can hold tight and not let me go, then no harm will come to you and I’ll be mortal again forever. If you can do this, once the spell is broken, wrap me with your green mantle and cover me out of sight.” He held his breath for a moment. “My lady, that’s the only way.”
And so they made their farewells, both troubled and anxious at what lay before them. Later that night, in a gloomy and dark eerie stillness in the air, Janet made her way to Miles Cross and there she hid behind a large oak tree. Just before midnight, she heard the tinkling of bridles and knew the fairies were on the move. From behind the tree, she watched the first black steed pass, a horse ridden by the proud Fairy Queen, then a brown horse rode by followed by a brown horse and then the milk white steed. Janet bolted forward and pulled the rider down.
Thunder rolled across the sky and the stars flashed as bright as day. The fairies skittered to and fro in a frenzy of confusion. The Fairy Queen pointed her bony finger to the fallen rider and called loudly: “Tam Lin!”
That moment, in Janet’s arms Tam Lin turned into a monstrous bear snarling at her and frothing at the mouth. Janet turned her head from its hot, angry breath but still she held on with all her might.
A moment later the bear became a scaly lizard, slippery and venomous, its red tongue flicking about her face. Janet closed her eyes, but still she held fast to the horrid creature, and finally the lizard turned into an ice-cold snake covered with slime.
Janet felt it ooze down her back as the snake coiled around her, tightening its grip and almost choking her. But then the next instant, it had become a red-hot cinder. Janet felt as if her arms and hands were on fire, but again, she steeled herself and held fast with all her might.
And then….just as suddenly as it had begun…it was over.
In her arms was Tam Lin himself, fully human and laughing with delight. Giddy with relief and joy, Janet remembered to wrap him in her green mantle.
The Queen of Fairies rose to her full height, fuming with rage and anger. “May she die an ill death,” she screamed, pointing to Janet, “for she has stolen the bonniest knight in all my company.”
But neither Janet nor Tom Lin had any fear of the Fairy Queen now. They knew they were safe from her power now.
With great rejoicing they returned to Janet’s home in the grey castle, where they were soon married in a grand and splendid ceremony. From that day forward, they lived in great peace and contentment and every child in the land heard their story of how goodness conquered evil on the eve of Sow-inn.
What do you think this story souvenir is? Yes, it is an easy one this time, isn’t it…Good will Triumph – it is exactly what one of my favorite poets, Julian of Norwich tells us and you have heard me say this before…say it with me
“All shall be well….all shall be well… and all manner of things shall be well.”
Be well – my listeners – thank you for all of your amazing encouragement and supports – Happy Halloween
Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story.