Cover of Tam Lin by Jane Yolen

Tam Lin

I have always loved the Scottish border ballad Tam Lin, first mentioned in a ballad book of 1549. It’s one of the only ones (maybe THE only one) in which the woman does the rescuing. Young Janet McKenzie (in my version) wants to have her patrimony–the old mansion of Carterhaugh–but it now belongs to the fairies. There is a handsome stranger bound to the fairy queen and an awesomely wicked queen. I tried to infuse my telling with a sense of the oral tradition, reading it out loud as I worked. Mikolaycak was very ill when he did the drawings, and still they are magnificent. David and a friend and I actually found Carterhaugh, which is not a great mansion but a working farm, near the Yarrow River and the crossroads (Miles Cross) right where the ballad says it stands. I do a reading of Tam Lin on the ReelLife Productions video, “The Children’s Writer: Jane Yolen.”

Around the Web:

What reviewers have said:

  • “The popular Scottish ballad describing the rescue of a man held captive by the faerie folk invests romance with overtones of terror and magic. This retelling is dramatic, and the story is well suited for reading aloud. Mikolaycak’s lushly romantic illustrations attract attention yet do not overpower the story.” – Horn Book
  • “In Yolen’s vibrant prose, this retelling of an ancient Scottish ballad leaps from the page in riveting strokes. Here, in all its moonswept mystery, is the story of how Jennet, red-headed daughter of the MacKenzie clan, rescues Tam Lin, the man she loves, from certain death at the hands of the Fairy Folk. … Mikolaycak’s sensitive illustrations bring stirring, wistful overtones to the action and add rich depth of characterization to the protagonists. Every moment in this marvelous fairy tale works beautifully.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “Yolen’s story is, as always, lyrical and true to the spirit of the tale and time. Mikolaycak’s large-format double-page spreads of vibrant watercolor and colored pencil on Diazo prints soar across pages and break out of slender, peaceful borders. The red and green of rose bushes dominate; the tartans are original designs–“After all, a faery tale demands its own colors and plaids,” Yolen states in background notes. She omits Jennet’s pregnancy and other adult aspects of the tale. More satisfying in both art and telling than Betsy James’s simpler version, The Red Cloak (Chronicle, 1989), and for an older audience than Susan Jeffers’s Wild Robin (Dutton, 1976), this is a wildly romantic addition to any folklore collection.” — School Library Journal
  • *”Elegantly designed picture book for older readers. . .the prose both vivid and economical–it reads aloud very well and Mikolaycek’s brooding pictures swirl with motion, drama, and a compelling play of pattern and color. . .A handsome piece of work.” Starred review, Booklist.
  • “Yolen’s retelling is lilting and fair.”–Kirkus
  • “Yolen’s vibrant prose. . .leaps from the page in riviting strokes. . .sensitive illustrations bring stirring, wistful overtones to the action and add rich depth of characterization. . . .Every moment in this marvelous fairy tale works beautifully.”–PW
  • “Tam Lin has been given new life by Yolen in this richly detailed version.”–New Advocate