November 23, 2013

[Book Review] Tam Lin: An Old Ballad by Jane Yolen


"Do not go down to Carterhaugh..."

When the worlds of humankind and the Faery Folk sit side by side--with moonlight and mist the only door between--young Jennet MacKenzie defies her parents' warning and embarks on a quest to win back the forbidden Carterhaugh, her ancestral home. One evening at the dilapidated mansion Jennet comes upon a blood-red rose amid the twining thorns. When she plucks it, it summons forth Tam Lin, a handsome captive of the Faery Queen. With courage and spirit, Jennet challenges the power of the Queen to save the life of Tam Lin and to win back the home that is rightfully hers.



Tam Lin was a rather enchanting read, especially as far as picture books go. Having never read or heard the story of Tam Lin before reading this adaptation (and having never heard of it before I stumbled across it), I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.

I always find mythology and folklore endlessly intriguing, but my knowledge is fairly limited; I can tell you a lot about the Greco-Roman pantheon, a reasonable amount about some of the more well-known aspects of ancient Egyptian mythology, and some bits and pieces of African and Japanese folklore, but I know damn near nothing about the myth and folklore--hell, even the culture--of northern Europe. So reading Tam Lin was particularly fascinating for exploring the mythology of the Fair Folk and offering some glimpses at Scottish culture.

Beyond that, there's one aspect of Tam Lin that I find particularly refreshing: it's the female character's bravery who saves the day (not to mention the lives of both herself and the titular love interest). And since it's a ballad from the 1500's or earlier, I'm perfectly willing to forgive the instalove between Jennet and Tam Lin... especially since it's fairly possible, at least in Jane Yolen's version, to make the case that Jennet didn't actually feel anything besides pity and determination when it came to her apparent love interest.

In any case, reading Tam Lin has definitely given me an itch for further exploration into faerie mythology, and I definitely recommend this adaptation to anyone interested in checking out the tale.



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