Tam Lin — an Ancient Scottish Ballad

It’s time for another comic! This is the Ballad of Tam Lin, a traditional story in song from way back in the mists of time somewhere. It is one of the Child Ballads, which have nothing to do with children (except when they appear in the ballads, usually in dire danger), but are named after the man who collected them, Francis James Child back in the mid-to-late 1800s. The collection is a classic source, richly annotated, with many different versions.

Ballads were a form of story in song form, good for whiling away those long evenings back in the days before television (I still personally prefer a good ballad, well sung, to just about any TV show!). They were full of drama, moral tales, historical “facts”, humour, tragedy, magic,current events, and just plain gossip. A popular ballad would make its way around the countryside, being polished a little bit more by each person who sang it, sometimes changing to fit the place and the audience, sometimes mutating because of the faulty memory of the singer. Sometimes they would start out as news and eventually end up as fable.

This particular ballad that I chose to illustrate for a class project is my favourite one of all time. It tells the story of… Oh what the heck, just read it!

Tam Lin 1 sm Tam Lin 2 sm Tam Lin 3 sm Tam Lin 4 sm Tam Lin 5 sm Tam Lin 6 sm Tam Lin 7 sm Tam Lin 8 sm

A footnote: I would like to re-do this ballad someday. While I’m pleased with a lot of it, there are some things I would now illustrate differently, and I’d like to do a much longer story with it (I left out great swathes of action from the ballad), and I’d like to do it in colour. One more for my list of future projects — I think I’m up to the year 2050 now at least!


4 responses to “Tam Lin — an Ancient Scottish Ballad

  1. I love the story and the illustrations. I especially like the scene / panel after the queen of the fairies said “change” with all the beasts. I would love to see this cartoon coloured!


    • Thanks, Ulla! I would like to see it coloured too. What I have in mind is re-using the panels I like, and drawing new ones for the ones I don’t, as well as a bunch of new pages to fill in the gaps in the story. But that job has to go in the queue.


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