The Young Tamlane by Mary MacGregor
The young Tamlane had lived among mortals for only nine short
years ere he was carried away by the Queen of the Fairies, away
to live in Fairyland.
His father had been a knight of great renown, his mother a lady
of high degree, and sorry indeed were they to lose their son.
And this is how it happened.
One day, soon after Tamlane's ninth birthday, his uncle came to
him and said, 'Tamlane, now that ye are nine years old, ye shall,
an ye like it, ride with me to the hunt.'
And Tamlane jumped for joy, and clapped his hands for glee. Then
he mounted his horse and rode away with his uncle to hunt and
Over the moors they rode, and the wind it blew cold from the
north. Over the moors they rode, and the cold north wind blew
upon the young Tamlane until he grew cold and stiff.
Then the reins they fell from his hands and down from his horse
slipped Tamlane, and laid himself down to rest, so weary, so cold
was he. But no sooner had he lain down on the bare earth than he
closed his eyes and fell fast asleep. And no sooner had he fallen
fast asleep than the Queen of the Fairies came and carried
Tamlane off to Fairyland.
For long years Tamlane dwelt among the little green folk, yet
ofttimes he would come back to visit the land of his birth.
Now many were the hills and dells haunted by the fairy folk. Yet
neither hill nor dell pleased them more than the lone plain of
Carterhaugh, where the soft-flowing rivers of Ettrick and Yarrow
met and mingled.
Many a long day after fairies were banished from the plain of
Carterhaugh would the peasant folk come to gaze at the circles
which still marked the green grass of the lone moor. The circles
had been made, so they said, by the tiny feet of the fairies as
they danced round and round in a ring.
Well, in the days before the fairies were banished from the plain
of Carterhaugh, strange sights were to be seen there by the light
of the moon.
Little folk, dressed all in green, would flit across the moor.
They would form tiny rings and dance on their tiny toes until the
Little horsemen dressed in green would go riding by, the bells on
the fairy bridles playing magic music the while. Sounds too,
unknown to mortals, would tremble on the still night air.
Full of mischief too were these little elfin folk, and wise
mortals feared to tread where fairy feet were tripping.
Wise mortals would warn the merry children and the winsome
maidens lest they should venture too near the favourite haunts of
To Carterhaugh came, as I have told you, many of the fairy folk;
but more often than any other came a little elfin knight, and he
was the young Tamlane, who had been carried away to Fairyland
when he was only nine years old.
Beyond all other of the little green folk was the elf knight
feared. And little was that to be wondered at, for well was it
known that over many a fair-haired child, over many a beauteous
maiden, he had used his magic power. Nor would he let them go
until they promised to come back another moonlit eve, and as a
pledge of their promise he would seize from the children a toy,
from the maidens a ring, or it might be their mantle of green.
Now about two miles from the plain of Carterhaugh stood a castle,
and in the castle there lived a fair maiden named Janet.
One day her father sent for his daughter and said, 'Janet, ye may
leave the castle grounds, an ye please, but never may ye cross
the plain of Carterhaugh. For there ye may be found by young
Tamlane, and he it is who ofttimes casts a spell o'er bonny
Now Janet was a wilful daughter. She answered her father never a
word, but when she had left his presence she laughed aloud, she
tossed her head.
To her ladies she said, 'Go to Carterhaugh will I an I list, and
come from Carterhaugh will I an I please, and never will I ask
leave of any one.'
Then when the moonbeams peeped in at her lattice window, the lady
Janet tucked up her green skirt, so that she might run, and she
coiled her beautiful yellow hair as a crown above her brow. And
she was off and away to the lone plain of Carterhaugh.
The moonlight stole across the moor, and Janet laughed aloud in
her glee. She ran across to the well, and there, standing alone,
riderless, stood the steed of the little elfin knight.
Janet put out her hand to the rose-tree that grew by the well and
plucked a dark red rose. Sweet was its scent and Janet put out
her hand and plucked another rose, but ere she had pulled a
third, close beside her stood a little wee man. He reached no
higher than the knee of the lady Janet.
'Ye have come to Carterhaugh, Janet,' he cried, 'and yet ye have
not asked my leave. Ye have plucked my red roses and broken a
branch of my bonny rose-tree. Have ye no fear of me, Janet?'
The lady Janet tossed her head, though over her she felt creeping
slow the spell of the little elfin knight. She tossed her head
and she cried, 'Nay, I have no fear of you, ye little wee man.
Nor will I ever ask leave of you as I come to and fro across the
plain of Carterhaugh. Ye shall know that the moor belongs to me,
me!' and Janet stamped her foot. 'My father made it all my own.'
But the young Tamlane took the white hand of the lady Janet in
his own, and so gentle were his words, so kind his ways, that
soon the maiden had no wish to leave the little wee man. Hand in
hand they wandered through the red rose-bushes that grew by the
side of the well. And in the light of the moon the elf knight
wove his spell and made the lady Janet his own.
Back to the castle sped Janet when the moonlight failed, but all
her smiles were gone. Lone and sad was she, all with longing for
her little elfin knight.
Little food would Janet eat in these days, little heed would she
take of the gowns she wore. Her yellow hair hung down uncombed,
unbraided around her sad, pale face.
Janet had been used to join in the games her four-and-twenty
maidens played. She had run the quickest, tossed the ball the
highest, nor had any been more full of glee than she.
Now the maidens might play as they listed, little did the lady
When evening fell, her four-and-twenty ladies would play their
games of chess. Many a game had Janet won in bygone days.
Now the ladies might win or lose as they pleased, little did the
lady Janet care. Her heart was away on the plain of Carterhaugh
with her little wee elfin knight, and soon she herself would be
Once more the moonbeams peeped in at her lattice window, and
Janet smiled, put on her fairest gown, and combed her yellow
locks. She was off and away to Carterhaugh.
She reached the moor, she ran to the well, and there as before,
there, stood the steed of the little elfin man.
And Janet put out her hand and plucked a red red rose, but ere
she had plucked another, close beside her stood the young
'Why do ye pluck my roses?' asked the little elf man. But Janet
had not come to talk about the roses, and she paid no heed to his
'Tell me, Tamlane,' said the lady Janet, 'tell me, have ye always
been a little elfin man? Have ye never, in days gone by, been to
the holy chapel, and have ye never had made over you the sign of
the Holy Cross?'
'Indeed now, Janet, the truth will I tell!' cried the young
Then the lady Janet listened, and the lady Janet wept as the
little wee knight told her how he had been carried away by the
Queen of the Fairies.
But yet a stranger tale he told to the maiden.
'Ere I was carried off to Fairyland, Janet,' said young Tamlane,
'we played as boy and girl in the old castle grounds, and well we
loved each other as we played together in those merry merry days
of long ago. Ye do not forget, Janet?'
Then back into the lady Janet's mind stole the memory of her
childhood's merry days, and of the little lad who had shared her
toys and played her games. Together they had made the walls of
the old castle ring with their laughter.
No, the lady Janet had not forgotten, and she knew that now, as
in the days of long ago, she loved the young Tamlane.
'Tell me,' she said, 'tell me how ye do spend your day in
'In earth or air I dwell as pleases me the best'
'Blithe and gay is the life we lead,' cried the little wee
knight. 'There is no sickness, no pain of any kind in Fairyland,
'In earth or air I dwell as pleases me the best. I can leave this
little body of mine an it pleases me, and come back to it an I
will. I am small, as you see me now, but when I will, I grow so
small that a nut-shell is my home, a rosebud my bed. But I can
grow big as well, Janet, so big that I needs must make my home in
some lofty hall.
'Hither and thither we flit, bathe in the streams, frolic in the
wind, play with the sunbeams.
'Never would I wish to leave Fairyland, Janet, were it not that
at the end of each seven years an evil spirit comes to carry one
of us off to his dark abode. And I, so fair and fat am I, I fear
that I shall be chosen by the Evil one.
'But weep not, Janet; an you wish to bring me back to the land of
mortals, I will e'en show you how that may be done. Little time
is there to lose, for to-night is Hallowe'en, and this same
night must the deed be done.
'On Hallowe'en, at the midnight hour, the fairy court will ride a
mile beyond Carterhaugh to the cross at Milestone. Wait for me
there, Janet, and ye will win your own true knight.'
'But many a knight will ride amid the fairy train. How shall I
know you, my little wee man?' cried Janet.
'Neither among the first nor among the second company shall ye
seek for me,' said young Tamlane. 'Only when ye see the third
draw nigh give heed, Janet, for among them ye will find me.
'Not on the black horse, nor yet on the brown horse, shall I
ride. Let them pass, and keep ye quiet. But as the milk-white
steed goes by, seize ye the bridle, Janet, and pull me down, and
keep your arms ever around me. For on the milk-white steed I
'On my right hand ye will see a glove, my left will be
uncovered. Now, by these signs, ye will know your own true
'Hold me fast, Janet, hold me fast, as you pull me down from my
milk-white steed. For while your arms are around me, the fairy
folk will change me into fearful shapes.
'Into an adder, and into a snake they will change me. Yet, an ye
love me, Janet, fear ye nought, but hold me fast.
'They will change me into a lion, and into a bear. Yet, as I love
you, Janet, fear ye nought, but hold me fast.
'A toad, an eel I shall become, yet do not let me slide from your
arms, Janet, but hold me fast.
'But, an the fairy folk change me into a blazing fagot, or a bar
of hot iron, then throw me far from you, Janet, into the cold,
clear well, throw me with all your speed.
'There will I change into your own true knight, Janet, and ye
shall throw over me your mantle of green velvet.'
Dark was the night and full of gloom as the lady Janet hastened
to the cross at Milestone, but her heart was glad and full of
light. She would see her own true knight in mortal form before
the dawn of Hallowday.
It was between the hours of twelve and one o'clock when Janet
stood alone at the spot where the fairy train would pass.
Fearsome it was there alone in the gloom, but the lady Janet was
heedful of nought. She had but to wait, to listen. Yet not a
sound did she hear, save only the wind as it whistled through the
Not a sound save the wind did she hear? Ah yes, now strange
noises were blown to her eager ears. The bells on fairy bridles
tinkled, the music of the tiny fairy band piped each moment more
Janet looked, and by the light of Will o' Wisp she could just
catch sight of their little oaten pipes. Shrill were the notes
they blew on these, but softer were the sounds they blew through
tiny hemlock pipes. Then deeper came the tones of the bog-reeds
and large hemlock, and Janet, looking, saw the little green folk
How merry the music was, how glad and good! Never was known a
fairy yet who sang or played of aught but joy and mirth.
The first company of the little folk passed Janet as she stood
patient, watchful by the cross; the second passed, and then there
came the third.
'The black steed! Let it go,' said Janet to herself.
'The brown steed! It matters not to me, she whispered.
'The milk-white steed!' Ah, Janet had seized the bridle of the
milk-white steed and pulled the little rider off into her strong
A cry of little elfs, of angry little elfs, rang out on the chill
Then as he lay in Janet's arms the angry little imps changed
their stolen elfin knight into an adder, a snake, a bear, a lion,
a toad, an eel, and still, through all these changes, the lady
Janet held him fast.
'A blazing fagot! Let him change into a blazing fagot!' cried the
angry little folk. 'Then this foolish mortal will let our
favorite knight alone.'
And as young Tamlane changed into a blazing fagot the little folk
thought they had got their will. For now the lady Janet threw him
from her, far into the clear, cold well.
But the little angry imps were soon shrieking in dismay. No
sooner was the fagot in the well than the little elfin knight was
restored to his own true mortal form.
Then over the tall, strong knight Janet threw her green mantle,
and the power of the fairies over the young Tamlane was for ever
gone. Their spell was broken.
Now, the Queen of the Fairies had hidden herself in a bush of
broom to see what would happen. And when she saw her favourite
knight change into his own true mortal shape, she was very cross,
very cross indeed. The little fairy band was ordered to march
home in silence, their pipes thrust into their tiny green
girdles, and there were no more revels in the fairy court for
many and many a long day to come.