I have mentioned my early reading adventures in several posts now, and recently I have had another come floating up from the depths of my memory… Disney’s read-along books.
They came with a record that slid into a pocket in the back of the book and I loved them! All of a sudden, books became interactive. I remember running through Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood and Maid Marian and escaping with Penny, Miss Bianca and Bernard in The Rescuers. They also helped me to learn to read at a very young age.
When my daughter came along, things had changed a little (and I don’t just mean in my life :). By then, read-along books came with CDs of course, instead of records or cassette tapes, and you could find them much easier. We would play them in the car on our way to school, or at night when she was *supposed* to be going to sleep. If you have ever read my About page, you will know that sleep was an elusive thing for us in those days.
Recently though, I began to learn a second language, and I found that children’s read-along books are still a great way to learn to read. Of course, technology has made it even easier. You can find websites like Reading’s a Breeze that have interactive books for all different levels of young readers. Best thing for me of course, is that they have them in different languages, like English (US and AU), French, Italian and Spanish. And they have plans for even more languages in the works! I would highly recommend you go take a look, especially if you have young readers just learning to read, or if you are like me, an old reader trying to learn something new.
Obviously, I love children’s books (just look at the Books page on my blog), but how much I loved reading them, when I was once again learning a new thing, amazed me. There’s an excitement very reminiscent childhood that sort of pounces on you, surprising you with the enjoyment of something simple and satisfying.
I first read The Swan Maiden by Howard Pyle in those wonderful red books that I had found tucked away in my grandmama’s house. I loved the idea of a young woman who could turn into a swan, a three eyed witch who lived in a house that shone like fire and the barley woman made of honey and barley meal. For some reason, these images captured my imagination as a child, and I returned to read about them again and again. Which probably explains why this retelling, out of all the previous retellings that I have posted, comes closest to the original work. Like “Princess Golden-Hair and the Great Black Raven” it first appeared in Pyle’s book The Wonder Clock, published in 1887.
Just a quick reminder, all these tales are unedited, so there will be typos and grammatical errors. Still, I hope you enjoy reading this retelling.
The Swan Maiden
Once upon a time there grew the most beautiful pear tree. It stood in the very center of a castle garden, surrounded by high walls, and from its branches hung exactly twenty-four perfect golden pears.
The king, whose garden it was, adored this pear tree and took great delight in going out every morning to count the twenty-four golden pears that grew from it. However, one morning when he went to visit his beloved pear tree, he found only twenty-three golden pears hanging from its branches. He spent the rest of his day questioning everyone in the castle, from the youngest scullery maid to the captain of the guard, but no one knew anything about the missing pear. The very next morning it happened again, despite the extra guards that had been set to watch over it the whole night through. Frustrated, the king called his three sons to him and set them a challenge. Whoever could catch the thief would be given half the kingdom, and inherit the rest after the king’s death. The three princes talked amongst themselves and it was decided that the eldest would try first.
So that night, the eldest prince sat beneath the pear tree, gun in hand, and waited for the thief to show itself. But when the morning came, another golden pear was missing and no thief had been seen. Strangely, the prince found that he could not say what had happened the night before. He swore that he did not remember closing his eyes, even for a moment and had been as surprised as anyone to wake with the morning sun on his face. Embarrassed, he urged the second prince to take his turn the following evening.
But the second prince had no better luck than the first. Bewildered, they ceded the next night to the youngest prince.
Now all three princes were handsome, brave and true, but the youngest was perhaps just a little cleverer than his brothers. While the first two princes had taken their turns, he had talked with the palace guards whom the king had first set to watch the pear tree. Most did not remember any more than the princes had, but one old soldier recalled hearing the most beautiful music for just a moment. Then the next thing the guards knew, they were waking up with the cock crowing a welcome to the silvery morn. The story made the youngest prince wonder. So when evening came and it was his turn to watch for the pear thief, he had a plan. He sat at the base of the tree with his gun across his knees, just as his brothers had done the nights before. But, keeping in mind what the old guard had said, he used softened wax to stop up his ears, which meant he was as deaf as a post while he kept his vigil. Which is why when midnight came and the unearthly music began to play, the prince heard none of it. In fact, he was wide awake when a couple of hours later the branches above him began to shake. He saw among the leaves an enormous swan reaching with its beak for one of the golden pears. Slowly he raised his gun, and took aim… only to find a breath-takingly beautiful woman in his sights where once the swan had sat.
Lowering his gun, he removed the wax from his ears so that he could hear what she was saying. “Don’t shoot, king’s son,” she pleaded in a lilting voice, as sweet as birdsong. “I will not,” the prince promised. “Though I will admit, pretty thief, it is mostly for the chance to know you better.” “I am not a thief by choice,” confessed the Swan Maiden. “My mistress is the witch with three eyes, and it is she who sends out me every night to bring her back a golden pear from the king’s tree. And if you want to woo me, then it is she that you will have to free me from.” “Then so I shall,” said the prince, already quite enamored with the lovely woman sitting the branches above him. “She lives far from here. Over seven high mountains, and across seven deep valleys with seven wide rivers running through them. Are you bold enough to go that far?” she asked. “Oh yes,” he said confidently. “I am bold enough, for that and much more.” “And are you clever enough, I wonder?” “I am,” he said assuredly. “We will see,” she said, jumping lightly from the branch to land gracefully in front of him, becoming a swan once more. “Climb on my back then, king’s son and hold on tight.”
Once he had done as she bade him, the great swan spread her wings and sprang into the air. Through the night sky they flew, the stars a blanket above them. Below them rose seven high mountains, which fell into seven deep valleys with seven wide rivers winding through them like silver ribbons. On and on they flew until he saw, in the distance, a dark hill crowned by a house that shone like fire. “Yonder hut is where the witch with three eyes lives,” said the Swan Maiden. “If you are bold enough, knock on her door and when she asks what you have come for, ask her to give you the one who draws the water and builds the fire, for that is myself.” With that, the great swan landed on the top of the hill. The prince slid from her back and she flew off again, over the top of the roof.
The prince stepped boldly up to the door, as he had said he would, and knocked with a rap! tap! tap! The witch herself opened it. “And what do you want?” she asked. “I want the one who draws the water and builds the fire,” he answered. The old witch scowled at him (which with her three eyes was a frightful sight indeed). “Very well. You can have what you want, if you can clean my stables tomorrow between the rising and setting of the sun. But you should know, if you fail in the doing, then you will be torn to pieces, body and bone,” she warned him and shut the door in his face. The brave prince would not be scared away by empty words. So, stretching out along the ground, he waited for the sun to rise.
The next morning, the witch came and led him to the stables where he was to do his task. The stable was huge! In it were at least a hundred cattle, and it looked as if it had not been cleaned in ten years. “Here you are,” said the witch handing him a pitchfork and broom, cackling all the while. Then she left him. The prince did not hesitate despite the impossible task, instead setting to his work with a will. But he might as well have tried to bale out the ocean with a pail. Because though he worked harder than any ten men could have, by the time the sun was high in the sky, he had made almost no headway.
At noon he was surprised to see the lovely Swan Maiden standing at the stable doors, beckoning to him. Leaving his pitchfork and broom, he went to join her. “When one is tired, one should rest,” she said taking his hand in hers. She led him to a sunny spot just outside the stable. There she sat and bade the prince to join her and lay his head in her lap. So he did, happy to take her advice. After all, he had gained nothing from working so hard at his task, and perhaps if he were to take a moment, a clever solution would come to him. The prince lay with his head quietly in the Swan Maiden’s lap, watching cloud ships sail across the sky, while she combed his hair with a golden comb. He was thinking so hard of a way to complete his task that he did not even realize that he had fallen fast asleep.
When he woke, the Swan Maiden was gone and the sun was setting. In horror, he jumped up and went to the stable, only to find it clean as a hungry man’s plate. The prince had barely recovered from his shock, when he heard the old witch’s footsteps coming up the path. Swiftly, he set about, clearing away a straw here and a speck there, as if he was just finishing his work. “You never did this by yourself!” exclaimed the witch, her face as dark as a thunderstorm. “That may be so, and it may not be so,” said the king’s son. “But you lent no hand to help. So, now may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” “No,” said the witch shaking her head. “There is more yet to be done before you can have what you asked for. Tomorrow, if you can thatch the roof of this stable with bird feathers, no two being the same color, and do it between the rising and setting of the sun, then you can have your sweetheart and welcome. But if you fail, I will grind your bones finer than malt in a mill.”
That suited the prince well enough. So at sunrise, he took his gun and went into the fields. But if there were any birds there to shoot, he did not see them. By the time the sun was high in the sky, he had downed only two, and those were of the same color. At noon, the Swan Maiden came to see him as she had the day before. “One should not tramp and tramp about all day without any rest,” she said. Taking his hand in hers, she led him a spot where the grass was soft and sweet smelling. There they sat and he laid his head in her lap. Again, she combed his hair with a golden comb until he was fast asleep.
He opened his eyes to see that the sun was setting, and his work was done just as it had been before. When he heard the old witch coming, he hopped up onto the stable roof and began to lay feathers here and there, for all the world as though he were just finishing his work. “You never did that work alone!” exclaimed the witch when she saw the stable roof with its thatch of feathers. “That may be so, and it may not be so,” said the king’s son. “But all the same it was none of your doing. So, now may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” But the witch shook her head. “No,” she said, “there is still another task for you to do. Over yonder there is a fir tree. At the very top of this tree is a crow’s nest with three eggs in it. If you can reach the nest and bring back all three eggs without losing or breaking a single one, and do it between the rising and the setting of the sun tomorrow, then you may have that which you have asked me for.”
That suited the prince just fine. So, the next morning he woke with the rising of the sun and headed off to find the fir tree. Finding it was not hard for it was more than a hundred feet high. Climbing it proved much harder. It would take ten men, standing on each others shoulders, to reach the bottom branches. The trunk itself was as smooth as glass, from root to tip. Despite that, the prince tried his best to scale the fir tree, and for all his trouble he could only make it up a few feet before sliding right back down. He might as well have tried to climb a moonbeam. By and by, the Swan Maiden came as she had done before. “Are you to try and climb the fir tree?” she asked. “Indeed,” replied the prince. “And how are you fairing?” “None too well,” the prince admitted, sheepishly. The Swan Maiden smiled at him. “Then perhaps I can help you,” she said. She unbound her braids until her golden hair hung down all about her and lay piled high on the ground around her. Then she began to sing. She sang and she sang until the wind began to blow. Catching up the maiden’s hair, the wind carried it up to the top of the fir tree and once there tied it to the upper most branches. Quickly the prince climbed up the shining strands until he reached the very top. There was the nest with three eggs in it, just as the witch had said. He gathered them up and carefully went back down the same way that he had come up. Once he was back on the ground, the wind came again to loosen the maiden’s hair from from the fir’s branches, and carry it back to her. She bound it up, just as it was before. “Now listen,” said the Swan Maiden, “when the witch asks you for the crow’s eggs that you have gathered, tell her that they belong to the one who found them. Do not worry, she can not take them from you, and they are worth something, I promise you.”
At sunset the old witch came hobbling along to where the prince sat at the foot of the fir tree. “Have you gathered the crow’s eggs?” she asked. “Yes, replied the prince. “They are here in my handkerchief. And now, may I have the one who draws the water and builds the fire?” “Yes,” said the witch, “you may have her, only give me my crow’s eggs.” “No,” he said firmly. “The crow’s eggs are none of yours. They belong to the one who gathered them.” Realizing that she would not get them that way, the witch tried another. “Come, come now,” said the witch in tones as sweet as honey, “there should be no hard feelings between us. Before heading home with what you came for, you should have a good supper. After all, you have served me faithfully, and it is ill to travel on an empty stomach.” So she led the prince back to the house. There she sat him down, saying that she would set the pot on to boil, before going to sharpen the bread knife on the stone doorstep. While the prince waited for the witch, there came a tap at the door. And who should it be but the Swan Maiden. “Come with me,” she said, “and mind that you bring the crow’s eggs. The knife she is sharpening is for you, and so is the pot on the fire. She means to cook you up this very night and pick your bones in the morning.” The prince followed the Swan Maiden down to the kitchen, and there they fashioned a figure made up of barley meal and honey. The Swan Maiden dressed the figure in her own clothes, and together they placed it on a stool that was sitting in the chimney corner by the fire. There it sat, soft and sticky, but looking much like Swan Maiden in the soft light. The real Swan Maiden led the prince from the kitchen and through the front door, which was opposite the one where the witch sat sharpening her knife. Once they were out under the evening sky, she became a swan again and taking the prince on her back, she flew away.
As for the witch, she came in from sharpening her knife to find the prince gone. Try as she might, she could find no trace of him. In a rage, she stormed through the house until she came to the kitchen and saw the figure that was sitting there. “Where is your sweetheart,” the witch asked the barley woman, thinking it the maiden herself. But of course the barley woman did not answer. “Answer me you ungrateful creature!” she cried. “Or do you hope to protect him by staying dumb?” Raising her hand, she slapped the barley woman as hard as she could. Her hand stuck fast in the honey and barley meal. “What! How dare you hold me!” Slap! – she struck the barley woman hard with her other hand which also sank in deep. So there she stood, unable to get herself unstuck from the honey and barley meal, and could still be there to this day, for all we know.
As for the Swan Maiden and the prince, they flew back over the seven high mountains with their seven deep valleys and the seven wide rivers winding through them. They flew on and on until they came near the prince’s home. There the Swan Maiden landed in a great wide field that lay only a few miles from the king’s castle. It was there that she told the prince to open the first egg. He did as she suggested, and what should he find inside but the most beautiful little castle, made all of gold and silver. He set the palace on the ground and it grew and grew until it covered a whole acre of land. Then she bade him to break the second egg, and out came great herds of cattle and sheep, enough to cover the meadow where they stood. Finally, she told him to break the third egg, and from it came scores of servants all dressed in gold and silver livery.
That morning when the king woke and looked out his bedroom window, there stood a splendid castle of gold and silver shining in the morning light. The king gathered his people together and rode over to see how such a thing had come to be. On the way, they rode through the herds of cattle and sheep, fat and content where they grazed. And past the rows of servants, dressed all in gold and silver, happily going about their labor. On they rode until they came to the castle gate, where the prince waited for his father. Their reunion was joyful. Only his two elder brothers seemed unsure, thinking that youngest of them, having found the pear thief, was to inherit the whole of the kingdom. But he soon put their minds to rest, he had more than enough of his own and saw no need to have his father’s kingdom as well.
The youngest prince and the Swan Maiden were married and a grand wedding it was. The guests made very merry while they danced the whole night long. As the night grew older and the wedding guests began to depart, the prince sat happily with his new wife and watched them all go. “Despite what I had promised you when first we first met, I can’t say that I did much that was very bold or clever. Save to follow your advice when you gave it,” the prince admitted to his new wife. The Swan Maiden smiled brightly at her husband. “Some may say that is true, and some may say it’s not. As for me, I would say there is no clever thing than that.”
Some of our oldest stories were told in pictures. Even today, there are some wonderful books that tell their stories without any words at all. Their pictures, seeds that take root in the imagination, blooming into a different story each time we look at them.
The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward is one such book. I was pretty young when I first read it, and at first found it so odd that it had no words. The wonderous thing about the book was that a new story emerged each time I looked through its soft gray-toned pictures. The adventure changing just a little as I imagined what it would be like for the boy visit far off places on the back of his silver pony with wings.
Words are wonderful things, but they are by nature defining and sometimes their lack can be freeing.
More recently, I came across Journey by Aaron Becker which I just learned is the first in a trilogy. I found this book to be beautiful! I loved the story and for some reason its lack of words made it even more powerful to me. And the art was not only wonderful, but gave the story exactly the right feel, using color to carry you along on on a fantastical adventure.
So if your mind is feeling adventurous, try a book without words – you may be surprised at the stories you will find.
This post certainly falls into the random thoughts category!
I was going through pictures, looking for ones I can put into a calendar for this upcoming year; however, the pictures that seemed to keep grabbing my attention were the ones of food. Ummmm, food! One thing all of us share in one way or another, whether its in abundance or a lack of, whether you hate it or love it.
I have always found that the description of a meal, of how it looks, of its flavors and scents, is one of the things that can truly draw me into a story. It adds verisimilitude, engaging my senses so that I can more easily lose myself in the tale it’s telling. It also can help if I am having trouble getting into my writing; providing an easy place for my imagination to take that step, from the world I am living in, to one of the many I am imagining.
And now my daughter is asking me “what’s for lunch?” so I guess I’m not the only one whose hungry! 🙂
In a previous post I mentioned how different our memories sometimes paint the stories of our childhood, and that how, for me, the underlying theme of Housmans’ Rocking Horse Land was so much changed between my reading of it as a child and my reading of it as an adult.
Well, one of the pictures I took for Christmas jumped out at me. My daughter’s old rocking horse “E” (short for E,I,E,I,O) was in one of the pictures. He is a little worse for wear, having survived not just her childhood but a number of visiting children who hugged him and hung off his neck when they came to visit. Of course, he weathered all this attention with the stoicism that all well-loved toys do. I can’t bring myself to let him go, so he is now a permeant decoration at Christmas. He was a rescue, like so many other things around my house (such as the wide-eyed cat next to him whose previous home had been the parking lot at my husband’s work). We found “E” at Home Depot where he had already been broken by a couple of larger children who had used him roughly, so he came home with us.
Anyway, I don’t know who to blame, the picture or the post, but a story popped into my head which I am now sharing with you. It is heavily influenced by my memories of Rocking Horse Land, and you will find a number of differences between the original and my retelling, most notable being the underlying theme. Still I hope you will enjoy it!
(Fair warning, this is a first draft. The sketch is conceptual and typos are likely!)
The Rocking Horse
When the children woke on Christmas morning they found piles of presents under the tree. There was something for everyone: George had his clockwork mice and Teddy his paint set. There was a working train, complete with bright red caboose, for William; and a silver comb and mirror for Sarah. And for Nell a tea set of her very own, packed neatly in a picnic basket for her to take on her adventures. However, everyone agreed that the grandest gift of all was the great black rocking horse that stood at the far end of the nursery. What a fine proud head it had! And the rippling mane that fell from its high-crested neck was long and full, nearly touched the ground. The tiny golden bells which hung from its saddle and reins chimed merrily with each graceful sway of the rocking horse’s head. A small brass plate afixed to his bridle proclaimed his name to be Roland. The children, one and all, hugged the creature’s beautiful neck and stroked its soft nostrils. They, each one, kissed the broad forehead between its eyes. And what eyes those were! Great eyes the color of fire which shone so wonderfully bright. They seemed as though they must really be alive, save they did not move, but instead stared fixedly ahead.
Each child took turns riding on the great creature’s back; its swaying gate carrying them off bravely into battle, or into the unknown of wild frontiers and landscapes as yet unseen. He was their gallant charger, elegant palfrey, or loyal pack horse. But eventually the children’s interest waned. George returned to his clockwork mice and Teddy to his paint set. William gathered up his train and set off in search of places to set its tracks and Sarah used her silver comb to brush her doll’s hair. One by one they all drifted away, all except Nell. She dearly loved Roland, and all day long she sat upon his back, rocking furiously as she imagined them riding through wildflower meadows and along rainbow streams flowing beneath sherbet-colored skies. In fact, Nell was having so much fun with Roland that she missed dinner entirely. And when bedtime came, she had to be lifted from the saddle, having fallen asleep with her arms wrapped tightly around the rocking horse’s neck. So it should come as no surprise that when she woke later that night, she was hungry. She slipped from her warm bed and padded down the hall towards the stairs that would lead her to the kitchen. As she passed the nursery door she paused, she had a great desire to check on Roland. She longed to see the grand creature with his long rippling tail and great fiery eyes, just for a moment. When she opened the door she was surprised to find the corner where he had been empty. The soft chiming of bells drew her eyes to the other side of the nursery. There Roland stood in front of the large windows, as though he watched the clouds moving across the sky high above. Nell wondered how he had gotten there and went over to see, resting her hand on the soft black nose. When she looked up into the rocking horse’s eyes she found them full of tears. One fell silvery bright onto her hand, were it lay warm and real. “Roland, gentle Roland, why are you crying?” she asked. “Because I miss my home sweet Nell,” Roland answered. “I can hear my mares and foals whinnying to me as they race over the hills.” “Why don’t you go to them?” the girl asked. “Because I am bound here, and so cannot leave,” the rocking horse replied. “You are a prisoner?” Nell said. It broke her heart to see her gentle, patient Roland sad. So even though she would miss him terribly, she opened the window so that he might go back to the home he so clearly loved. “Ah, thank you, kind Nell,” he said. “But I do not wish to leave you either for we have had such a wonderful time together. Search through my mane until you find a silver hair. There will be only one. Pluck it, and wear it round your finger. When the dawn comes, open the window and call my name and I will return to you happily.” She searched through his mane, and found the single silver hair, just as Roland had said. She plucked it and braided it to make a ring for her finger. The rocking horse nodded his head once, then with a joyous ringing of bells, he lifted up into the air. Through the nursery window he flew, racing out across the starry night sky, high up over the moon-silvered clouds, heading towards his home in Rocking Horse Land. Nell went back to bed, her rumbling tummy forgotten. She ran her finger of the silver ring until she fell asleep, and dreamed of Rocking Horse Land. She could see them all racing over emerald hills as smooth as glass. Their proud heads nodding up and down, up and down in their particular way as they strove to go faster. Their shining manes streaming out behind them with their speed. Silvery dapples, coppery chestnuts and golden cremellos, one by one they raced by. And in front of them all, was the ebony figure of her beloved Roland.
She was up before dawn to make sure the nursery window was open, calling Roland’s name out into the pale morning light. And there he was, dipping and dancing through the silvery shadows, until he floated through the open window and landed at her feet. “Did you have fun, my dearest Roland?” “Yes, my sweet Nell, it was wonderful! Thank you,” and with that he was still. His limbs ridge once more as his eyes stared fixedly ahead, just as one would expect a rocking horse to be. Nell returned to the nursery again that night and every night after, to open the window for Roland. Every morning he returned as promised, so that he might carry Nell off on her adventures the whole day long.
Christmas morning came around again, and again the children were greeted with brightly wrapped presents waiting for them under the tree. George got a clockwork cat to chase his clockwork mice, and Teddy finally had an easel to hold up his canvases. William got little houses and stores with people to set up along side his train’s tracks and Sarah finally got the pair of long gloves she had wished for all year, the ones with tiny pearl buttons. But it was Nell’s gift which was the most unexpected. It came in the form of a lovely white pony and from that day on they went everywhere together. Still, every night Nell would remember to open the window for Roland. And sometimes if the weather was foul or if she just had a mind to, she would go to the nursery to sit on his back, rocking to and fro as she told him of her latest adventures. Eventually there were other children; younger brothers and sisters who hugged Roland’s beautiful neck and kissed him between his great fiery eyes. They would ride on his strong back and make up adventures of their own. And they began to leave the window open for Roland at night.
There came a time when Nell realized it had been some time since she had been in the nursery. So she snuck down the hall that evening and peaked in the door. She found Roland standing at the window staring forlornly out at the trees swaying in the night breeze. His bridle was missing a bell or three and his mane and tail were perhaps not as full as they had once been, yet he was still beautiful and his great eyes still shone brightly. “Ah, sweet Nell, have you finally remembered me?” he asked, and though his voice was sad, it held no blame in it. “My wonderful, patient Roland, I am so sorry!” she exclaimed as she hugged his neck and stroked his long soft muzzle. “You gave me so many happy memories, shared so many of my dreams and kept all my confidences. I love you so, but I see now that it is past time I set you free. Be well my dear Roland.” With that she opened the window. The great rocking horse swayed, dipping his head so deeply that it nearly touched the floor, and then with a jubilant ringing of bells, he sprang out into the night sky. Nell unwound the band of silver that circled her finger, and let the evening breeze carry it away to follow behind the one who had gifted it to her. She thought that she could hear the sound of joyous whinnying; a welcoming home to one long lost. Smiling, she quietly closed the window and locked it.
Have you ever gone back to read the fairytales you loved as a child? Were you surprised to find them different then you remembered? Not necessarily the stories themselves, but the parts we take away from them.
When I went back to read Rocking Horse Land by Laurence Housman, I was surprised to find that little Prince Freedling was quite a spoiled brat. And in fact, that was the whole point of the story! Since it goes on to show him becoming a more caring boy.
However, that is not at all like the story I remembered reading as a little girl. For my part, I remembered the prince being more compassionate and with a kinder heart. Of course, that could have been because I often took the stories I was reading and rewrote them in my head.
Stone Soup was another example of a tale whose message changed with adulthood. I will always remember thinking what a wonderful thing it was to make something out of nothing. Having to hunt around for whatever ingredients were at hand, having to make due with what you had and still being able to make something delicious out of it. I still love the idea of taking what food I have, especially when the fridge and pantry are close to empty, and coming up with a tasty meal nonetheless. It wasn’t until I reread the story as an adult that the working together theme became clear.
I can certainly see how the stories I read as a child influenced my interests as an adult (I am sure they had some say in my love of cooking). But not always in the way the stories may have been written to. I remember Saburo the eel catcher and the amazing meal he was going to have after having an incredibly lucky day. And my poor grandmama made me stacks and stacks of pancakes when I was little, just so I could pretend that I was eating them with tiger butter. Yet, none of these stories were really about cooking at all!
It makes me wonder if the meanings and morals that we, as adults, derive from these tales are the same as the ones children do. I guess we can never be sure unless we stop and remember what it was like to look through the eyes of a child.
Some years ago now, and looking at this picture I realize just how many years ago, my daughter’s class visited to our local zoo. I was with them (we always went on these adventures together) and she had kind of surprised me by going over to sit on this bronze tiger. As soon as I took the picture, an idea came to mind of a girl and a tiger prince.
The idea grew, and I eventually wrote it down a few years later. I am still only on it’s second draft, so you will most likely find a typo or two, and perhaps some rough edges that need smoothing. But still, I think it is well enough along for me to share it with you. Unfortunately, no sketches to yet.
The Tiger Prince
There were once two young women, one as different from the other as the sun is from the moon. One young woman, Naomi, was the daughter of a great sea captain. She had traveled the world ‘round on her father’s ship, from the icy fjords in the north to the dune edged seas in the south, and was well known for her bold fearlessness. The other, Oriane, was the daughter of a prosperous merchant family. She was sweet natured and possessed a generous heart, but was also shy and terribly timid. Even in looks, they were quite different. Naomi’s hair was dark and wild, her skin kissed golden by the sun. Oriane’s skin was the palest cream, and her heavy gold hair hung in a sleek braid to her knees. They were opposite in nearly every way, save their eyes. Both had clear, blue-gray eyes.
They met aboard a ship as Oraine journeyed towards a distant land; the very same ship which Naomi’s father captained. The two young women soon became fast friends, much to everyone’s amazement. And by the end of the voyage, they were closer then even two sisters could be. One night, just before they were to put into port, they sat in Naomi’s cabin, as they often did in the evening. But on this night, unlike all the others, Oriane seemed to be not herself. Concerned, Naomi asked what it was that was troubling her. With a great sigh, the merchant’s daughter confided in her friend, confessing that her once powerful family was no longer as well off as they once had been. In fact, their fortune was all but gone, and she had set out on this journey with what was the last of her family’s money in the hopes of helping improve their situation. She told Naomi about stories that had reached her homeland, stories of a cursed prince. These stories promised numerous riches to whomever could unravel the mysteries of the prince’s curse. So Oraine’s father, desperate to avoid ruin, had sent a letter to the king of that distant land, the very land towards which they now sailed, in the hopes that his daughter might succeed where others had failed. And in doing so, save her family from its fate.
Now Naomi could see her friend’s determination to do what she could to help her family. But, she could also hear the tremor in her friend’s voice, and feel the shaking in her hands. So she offered to go with Oriane, promising to help in any way she could. She assured Oraine that between the two of them, they could figure out any curse!
That very night, Naomi went to her father the sea captain, and told him of her plans to accompany her friend. Her father agreed, having learned long ago that his daughter was quite capable and certainly able to make up her own mind. And in fact, he thought the whole adventure might be good for her. So the next day, when they put into dock, he saw them off with practical advice and well wishes. Arm in arm, the two young women left the ship. Waiting on the docks for them was a lovely carriage drawn by four white horses, as pale as moonflowers. It carried them down beautifully paved streets, past busy markets filled with all sorts of wondrous sights, and laughing children waved as they drove past. Eventually they came to a glorious palace on the edge of a vast lake. Its walls were built of the palest sandstone, and inside it was open and airy. Soft curtains hung in the doorways, and fountains tiled in brilliant colors filled the halls with the soft murmurings of falling water. Upon their arrival, they were met by a kindly steward, who brought them to a garden terrace that overlooked the shining lake. There they were met by the king, who invited them to sit with him, as he ordered that tea be brought. The king was hail and handsome, and spoke kindly to them as they sat eating delicate little cakes and drinking spiced apple tea. He smiled often as he fed a tiny golden bird who sat quite boldly on his shoulder. Still, for all his graciousness, there was a cloak of sadness that hung over him; which seemed to add a gauntness to his cheeks and shadows to his eyes.
They talked all through the afternoon until the sky darkened into twilight. As the shadows of dusk began to gather on the vast lake, an island appeared from nowhere. It seemed to take shape from the very air itself, much to the amazement of the two young women. On its shore was a palace, with elegant glass-domed rooftops and walls lined with graceful arches. It was then that the king told them of his son, the prince, who was spirited away on the very day of his birth. He had been taken to the very same island that they saw before them, and to the king’s knowledge had been there ever since. The island appeared for only a few hours every day, at dawn and at dusk. When the young women asked if any had traveled to the island, the king told them that many had tried, but all had failed. The bridges they had attempted to build met with disaster, and every boat that had tried to sail the lake’s waters had been plagued with ill luck. Oriane reached out her hand to comfort the king. “You have not seen or spoken to your son in all these years?” she asked. “I have only seen him through the lens of a spyglass,” admitted the king. “And have only spoken to him through letters delivered to the palace each day.” “Delivered by whom?” Naomi asked boldly. “A very curious messenger whom I do not doubt, but if I were to tell you who it was, then surely it would be my sanity that you questioned.”
The king, knowing the reasons why they had come, ordered a suite of rooms prepared for them in the palace. The rooms were spacious and lovely with two bedrooms, a sitting room and a wide door which opened out onto a balcony, overlooking the lake. It was there they would sit everyday for breakfast, beneath an arbor draped in wisteria. They would sip warm chocolate tea and eat buttery pasties while they watched the giant water lilies rise up from the lake. The young women marveled as lily pads the size of small boats unfurled themselves over the water’s surface. Their flowers like a forest of small trees as their pale pink petals opened wide in the morning sun. Gigantic fish slept in the water lilies’ shade; their golden scales glittering and flashing deep below the surface of the tea-colored water. It was no small wonder why boats did not venture out onto the lake; few would survive a single swish from those mighty tails.
When the sun reached midday, the water lilies would fold their petals and the lily pads would curl themselves back up. The fish would awaken, their giant golden bodies making the water eddy and swirl. The island itself would be lost in the dazzling light off the water, disappearing, not to be seen again until that evening. Then it would reappear in the dusk’s silvery shade, bringing with it a truly wondrous and terrifying sight. It strode down the street below their balcony, with a coat like fire; a prince among tigers. He stood nearly as tall as a horse, yet to their utter amazement, none of the people on the street seemed to be afraid of him as he passed them by. At the first sighting of him, Oriane nearly fainted with fear. But Naomi continued to look on in wonder as the great beast stepped up the edge of the water, and gathering his haunches beneath him, leapt easily across the whole of the lake.
For days the young women watched and debated on how Oriane could reach the island. In that time, Naomi became good friends with many of the servants who believed her to be the handmaiden of the golden-haired merchant’s daughter. That was how she came to be in the kitchen so often where she learned the most interesting things. According to the cook, who was an authority on such matters, it all happened on the very day of the prince’s birth. She remembered well how a tigress came right up into the palace and took the baby away. The butler, who was listening as he polished the silver, insisted that she remembered wrong. He was sure that it had been in the evening, not the morning, that the tigress had put in her appearance. However, both agreed that the prince had not set foot on the mainland since. And that it was from that day on that the island had begun to vanish for a time each day and night. The lake becoming a place where ships dare not sail. It was also at that time that the queen vanished, leaving the king to mourn both his wife and his son.
Almost every morning the little golden bird, which they had first seen sitting on the king’s shoulder, joined them as they ate. It would sing and chirp in the most soothing manner and the young women would feed it crumbs from their plates. On the seventh morning, as Naomi told Oriane about what she had learned in the kitchens, she saw the little bird do the most curious thing. It plucked several leaves from the wisteria that grew all around, and placed them in a row along the stone balustrade. It chirped and hopped from one leaf to another, and back again. Its peculiar antics gave Naomi an idea. Turning to her friend she said, “You know, those lily pads remind me a bit of floating docks. Like the ones at the port where you came aboard my father’s ship, do you remember? You came across those handily enough, I think you could crossover the lily pads just as easily. In fact, I am sure you could!” Oriane did not agree with her friend. She remembered how terrified she was to step out on those docks. How they shifted and bobbed beneath her feet. But she was determined to do what she could to change her family’s fortune. “I can but try,” she said. So they quickly dressed her in a flowing silver dress, over top which they added a sapphire coat. They put pearl slippers on her feet and a jeweled belt about her waist. Naomi braided and pinned her friend’s long golden hair before covering it all with a hat and veil. The veil fell down to the young woman’s breast, covering her face and her hair, as was the custom of her people when a young woman went unchaperoned to meet a potential suitor. Together the two young women went down to the lake shore. Oriane took a deep breath and gingerly stepped out onto the closest lily pad. When it stayed steady under her foot, she took another step. Confident that it would hold her, she smiled back at the sister of her heart, then with feet as light as a butterflies, she continued along the water lily road to the prince’s island.
Naomi kept vigil for the rest of the morning. At midday, just before the lily pads were about to begin curling up to hide from the hot sun, she saw her friend returning. Even from far away, Oriane’s happiness was unmistakable. The merchant’s daughter almost danced down the leafy path towards the shore where Naomi waited. “It was wonderful!” Oriane exclaimed, her smile radiant, as she leapt lightly to the shore and hugged Naomi. Arm in arm, the two young women walked back to the palace where they sat beneath the wisteria for the rest of the afternoon as Oriane told Naomi of her meeting with the prince. In fact, she could not stop talking about him! For it seemed that, at least in Oraine’s eyes, he was all the things a prince should be. But, as the afternoon waned so did her happiness. The curse had not allowed the prince to tell her more than she already knew. However, he could tell her that she would have to come to him every morning and return each evening if she was to have any hope to unravel the mysteries of the curse. So needless to say, as the time for her to return came closer, Oraine’s worry grew. Hadn’t they already thought this whole week past about all the ways she could possibly cross to the island? And it was only this morning had they thought of the water lily road, an option that was not an option now. She couldn’t stop the sense of despair that was beginning to grow in her belly.
Naomi hated to see the unhappiness in her friend’s eyes. Yet, no new ideas came to mind no matter which way she looked at their dilemma. Even she began to feel a little desperate as the sun sank lower in the sky. As the evening light grew thick, covering the land in golden honey, Naomi saw the tiger in the distance coming towards them. He was walking down the road as he usually did, a living flame in the sun’s dying light. Children were running up to him as they sometimes did, laughing as they made a game out of seeing who could touch his tail first. Suddenly, she had a bold idea. “My dearest friend, I think I know how you could return to the island, but you would have to be very brave,” she said excitedly. “Every evening at dusk, the tiger makes his leap to the island, and I have no doubt that he could carry you with him.” Oriane looked at Naomi and her heart quailed at the idea. Tears filled her eyes as she gripped her hands tightly and trembled. “I want to!” she said. “I want to be brave, and I did my best crossing the lily pads this morning. But, I am not like you, sister of my heart. It may have seemed like a small task to you, but it took all my nerve and I have no more.” The tears were now chasing themselves down her cheeks in silvery rivers. She looked as if her tender heart was crumbling to pieces. Naomi had no wish to see her friend so heartbroken, and she wanted her to succeed in her quest to help her family. An idea flashed into her mind like a lightning bolt. She took Oriane by the hand and lead her hastily to their room. “There may still be a way,” she said. “Quick, give me your gown and slippers and veil. I will ride on the back of tiger for you! Then when I return, I can tell you all that I find.” Concern and hope warred in Oriane’s face as she quickly helped Naomi into her gown. “But, how will you get back,” she asked, fearing for her friend. She would rather her family’s entire fortune lost than lose this woman she held so dear. But Naomi laughed, for this was just the kind of adventure she loved. “Have no fear!” she said as she put on the pearl slippers and pulled the veil over her dark hair. “I am sure I will find a way. And don’t worry, we will rescue your prince!” She waved, and rushed out onto the balcony as Oriane watched from behind the bedroom door. Naomi hoped that the tiger had not already passed them by. But as luck would have it, the great tiger was just walking by on the street below. She already had one slippered foot on the balustrade when she called out boldly, “Pardon me, master tiger, but I need your help!” And with that, she leapt from the railing to land on the street beside him, her gown and veil fluttering behind her like sapphire wings. The great cat stopped, and looked at her with golden-green eyes. His head stood as tall as her own, and for the first time in her life, Naomi wondered if perhaps she had been a little too bold. “Please,” she said contritely, “It is very important that I go to the prince’s island. Would you carry me with you?” The tiger nodded his head once, and laid down so that she might more easily climb onto his back. When she was seated he rose up smoothly and Naomi felt as though she were back on a ship at sea because although she might, with luck and skill, be able to ride such a powerful creature, she surely could not control him. In a few long strides he had brought them to the water’s edge. Naomi felt the strong muscles gather beneath her, then suddenly, like tightly held springs let lose, the tiger leapt, carrying them out over the dark lake. On and on they went, as though they flew on the back of the evening wind, until they landed on the opposite shore. The tiger did not stop, but continued to carry her to a small courtyard where night-blooming jasmine grew and moonflowers hung in curtains on the walls. There they were met by the prince. He was every bit as handsome as Oriane had described, with hair the color of midnight and curious eyes; one of which was the palest gold and the other as green as clear jade. Both were filled with kindness. He offered his hand to Naomi as she slid from the tiger’s back, and led her to a room lined with tall arched windows that overlooked the lake. At its center was a table, where he offered her a seat most courteously. He then went over to a large cupboard, and opening it, took out gold-edged dishes filled with dainty rolls and sugared fruits which he placed on the table in front of her. Once all the dishes were on the table, he sat across from her and they ate. All the foods offered had been conscientiously prepared so that she would not have to remove her veil to eat. It showed a thoughtfulness that in Naomi’s experience was uncommon. And she thought that this prince would be a perfect match for her friend, should they decide to wed. However, Naomi was surprised at how shy the prince seemed. From the tales Oriane had told, she had expected someone of a bolder nature. But perhaps he had seemed bold to someone of her friend’s more gentle ways. By the time they had finished eating, it was obvious to Naomi that the prince was well read and possessed an inquisitive mind. He asked her questions about the world beyond the island as they strolled through the gardens with their glass-domed ceilings; and shared with her all the things he had learned from the books he had read and his study of the stars. She, in turn, told him of the wondrous sights she had seen and the strange skies she traveled under. In fact, she was enjoying the conversation so much that she had forgot that she was supposed to be Oriane, and not herself. But if the prince had noticed any difference, he was too polite to say. They talked until just before midnight, then returned to the courtyard where she had first arrived. There, he bid her goodnight, promising that the tiger would arrive soon to carry her back across the lake. As promised, the tiger appeared moments after the prince had left. He carried her back across the lake, and right up into the palace itself. There they parted company. Naomi watched as the tiger headed deeper into the palace, and then suddenly she knew just who it was that brought the king his letters. When Naomi returned to their rooms, she found Oraine waiting up for her. She shared with friend all that had happened and everything that was said during her visit with the prince. They talked the night away, sleeping only a few hours before the morning sun lifted its shining head into the sky. They ate breakfast quickly, heading down to the shore as soon as they were finished to wait for the water lilies to unfurled their leafy path.
And so the season passed in much the same way. Naomi would often help in the kitchen while Oriane was away visiting with the cursed prince. And when Oriane returned, she would sit with the king to share his midday meal. She would tell him of his son, and he in turn, would tell her stories of himself, so that she might share them with the prince. This was how they learned about the queen and her sister. It seems that both had been powerful enchantresses whom the king had met in his travels. The king had fallen in love with the eldest, but when he and his would-be queen announced their decision to marry, the younger sister flew into a rage. It seems that she too had fallen love with the king, unbeknownst to him. She cursed their union bitterly, and soon became so consumed by jealousy that it turned her into a twisted, ugly thing; a fearsome hag who believed herself betrayed by her sister. It is also how they first found out about the magic cupboard.
One day, upon her return, Oriane told Naomi of the most delightful cake that she had eaten while visiting with the prince. It was light and fluffy, covered with delicate cream frosting and fresh strawberries. Naomi remembered the cook placing just such a cake in the great wooden cupboard in the kitchen that stood in the kitchen. However, she never remembered anyone taking back out. Which begged the question, how did the prince get his food? Curious, Naomi proposed a test to see if it had truly been the same cake. The next morning, she was down in the kitchen as she usually was, when Oriane visited the island. Naomi watched as food was put into the cupboard. And when the cook stepped away for a moment, leaving the cupboard door open, Naomi quickly placed a small spray of wisteria next to one of the cakes. She turned the plate so that it would not be easily seen. Then she waited. The cook returned, closing the door firmly after she had added a warm pot of apple tea. Naomi stayed in the kitchen longer than was her custom. She saw no one come to take away the food that had been placed in the cupboard. In fact, no one opened the cupboard at all. At noon she returned to their rooms. And soon after Oriane arrived, the spray of wisteria tucked in her jeweled belt.
They talked for the rest of the day as they often did. Oriane confirmed that the spray of wisteria had been beside the cake which had come from the cupboard. She also showed Naomi another flower, a beautiful orchid, which she said the prince had given to her. She happily recounted the tale of how the prince scaled the rocks near a waterfall they often visited (the island being much larger than it looked from the shore) just so that he could give it to her. She went on to praise his fearless nature and adventurous spirit. This made Naomi think back to her own conversations with the prince. They had been interesting and varied. And she had often thought that the prince would make a wonderful husband for the sister of her heart (and though she might not admit it, for herself as well). However, she never would have described him as having an adventurous spirit. Nor could she see him giving her a flower such as the one he had given Oriane. She felt that the flower he gave her would more likely be something like meadowsweet or marsh mallow. A flower whose beauty was subtle and its virtue deeper. “You know, sister mine, if I did not know better, I would say that we were talking about two different men.” Naomi ruminated. “The prince whom I have spent these many evenings with is interesting and deeply read. He has a thirst for knowledge, and is captivated by the tales of my travels. However, I would not say that he has an adventurous spirit. Nor would I call him bold, but rather I would tend to think him reserved. Tell me again, is your prince tall, with night dark hair and a generous mouth?” she asked her friend. “Yes,” said Oriane, “and his left eye is as bright as a gold coin, while his right is a clear jade green.” “Huh, curious,” Naomi said, “because I would have sworn that it was his right eye that was gold and his left green.” “Could that be a clue to the curse?” Oriane wondered. “Perhaps,” Naomi agreed. “If we could but see him together, I think all would be made clear, for it is not by a person’s look that you truly know them.”
So the two friends devised a plan, and that very evening they set it into motion. Naomi left to meet the prince as she usually did, riding on the tiger’s back as he flew across the lake. Meanwhile, Oriane, cloaked and veiled, carefully hid herself. When she thought that all the servants were elsewhere, she followed the instructions given to her by Naomi, and crept down into the kitchen. Heart pounding with fear, she opened the cupboard to found it empty. Carefully, she folded herself up inside, then steeling her nerve, closed the door and waited for she knew not what.
No sooner had she closed the door, then she heard voices. It wasn’t the cook or one of the other servants, but her friend’s well-loved voice and another that she had just recently come to also hold dear… no, that was not quite right. The pitch and timber were the same, but the manner of speech was not one she was familiar with at all. As carefully as she could, she cracked open the cupboard door. The room she looked out onto was familiar with its tall arched windows looking out over the moon-silvered lake. And there before her was her dearest friend talking with the prince. It was in that moment, Oriane realized that her friend had also fallen in love. Anxious butterflies fluttered in her stomach, as she listened as the sister of her heart talk with the prince that she, herself, had come to love. But the longer Oriane listened, the more the butterflies settled. There was no doubt that this was not the bold prince she had come to know. And when she heard Naomi begin to speak of the curse, she quietly slipped out of the cupboard.
“My prince,” Naomi said, as they stood watching the moon on the water. “I believe I can solve the riddle of your curse. If I am right, than this land has not one, but two princes. Your mother, being a powerful enchantress, changed her shape. She was the tigress that carried first your brother and then you across to this island. She then became the little golden bird who stays by the king and sings to him most lovingly. And I believe she did it all because she was afraid of what her sister’s curse might call down upon your heads.” “Right in one, you clever, clever woman!” He said as he picked her up and spun her around. The prince’s smile was as bright as the morning sun as he looked up at her. “Yes, well done,” said a voice that both musical and light. The prince set Naomi’s feet back down on the ground, but kept her hand clasped firmly in his own. Where once they had been alone, there was now an elegant woman in the room with them; and it was she who had spoken. Her hair was as dark as the prince’s and both her eyes were a bright and shining gold. There was little doubt in Naomi’s mind that the woman standing before them was the lost queen, mother to the man now holding her hand so tightly. The queen gave them a beautific smile. “You have indeed solved the curse’s riddle and as such are entitled to the fortune promised you. But, if there is more that you seek, and by the way that you hold my son’s hand I must guess there is, then the curse must be broken.” A look of pity washed over the queen’s face. “Though I wonder what the sister of your heart, as you, yourself, call her, would say if she were to see you holding the prince’s hand thus.” “I would wish her well, with all my heart,” said Oriane, stepping from beside the cupboard; where up till then, she had been watching as things unfolded. “Even if she were holding the hand of the man I love, but thankfully she is not.” Without hesitation Oraine crossed the courtyard to where the great tiger waited in the shadows. There was not the slightest tremor in her hands as she bravely placed them on either side of his fierce head and looked up into his eyes. “The one I love is here,” she said. “Are you sure, child?” the queen asked. “I am,” said Oriane. “For it is his heart I know, not the shape he wears.”
And with that, a man now stood before the golden-haired merchant’s daughter. Truly, he did have the same look as the prince who stood next to Naomi. Though seeing them together, it could be said that Naomi’s prince, the younger of the two (if only by a few minutes), stood just a little taller while Oriane’s. Though her prince, the elder, had just a touch more breadth in his shoulders. This second prince picked Oriane up and spun her around, much as his brother had just done to Naomi, smiling up into her face. “Brave and beautiful! For all your protestations, I knew you had a strength within that you did not see,” the elder prince said. “How can you say ‘beautiful’ when you have not seen either of us?” Oriane asked shyly, for it was true that both she and Naomi were still veiled. “Just as you said you knew my brother,” said the younger prince from where he still stood beside Naomi. He turned to face her. “For it was not your looks we fell in love with.” At that, both young women lifted their veils, smiling up at their princes.
The princes both changed back into tigers, for they were their mother’s sons, and now that the curse no longer bound them, they could change at will. With both Oriane and Naomi on their backs, they leapt across the lake with the little golden bird following close behind them. When they all came before the king, the queen, still in her guise as a golden bird, she asked him to name who she was. He did and she became herself again. The queen had been worried that he would be angry at her, for having to have endured all that he did. She need not have feared, for when the king saw his lost wife before him, their sons at her side, there was no room for anger in him, nor sadness either. All of that fell away as soon as he eyes rested upon them. Like his sons, he hugged his wife, and lifted her from her feet to spin her around in his joy, and the elegant queen laughed and laughed.
It was not long after that the two young women, Naomi and Oriane, became sisters in truth, marrying the princes they loved. Her family’s fortune saved, Oraine and the eldest prince stayed at the palace with the king and queen, for although she had found that she was indeed fearless, she still preferred her adventures to be small. Naomi and the younger prince, however, chose to return to her father’s ship where they went to see all the places that the prince had read about. But they visited often to share their tales with those they held most dear.
And what about the queen’s sister, one might ask. The sister whose jealousy had twisted her so much that the queen feared for her sons? The very one whose curse led to all the events about which this tale was told? Well, it is said that someone found her heart and she herself got the ending she deserved… but that is another tale entirely.
For my tenth birthday, my aunt and uncle gave me several interesting books, one of which was A White Horse with Wings by Anthea Davis. Printed in 1968, it is a collection of stories, most of which are retellings of fairy tales and myths. I read them many times through out my childhood. And one of my favorites was the story of Tam Lin.
Of course, the story in the book was a much easier read than the ballad you’ll see further down in this post.
So why did I include the story of Tam Lin in my musings and inspirations? Well, mostly because I can’t help but enjoy a tale about a strong-minded woman who saves her lover through her determination and fortitude. But also because those familiar with the story will find Lumina and the Goblin King all the more interesting for having read it. (And in case you are curious, no, the book is not a retelling of Tam Lin)
Also, the story takes place on Halloween. So what better time then this to share it!
(source: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Frances James Child)
O I forbid you, maidens a’, That wear gowd on your hair, To come or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there.
There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh But they leave him a wad, Either their rings, or green mantles, Or else their maidenhead.
Janet has kilted her green kirtle A little aboon her knee, And she has broded her yellow hair A little aboon her bree, And she’s awa to Carterhaugh As fast as she can hie.
When she came to carterhaugh Tam Lin was at the well, And there she fand his steed standing, But away was himsel.
She had na pu’d a double rose, A rose but only twa, Till upon then started young Tam Lin, Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae.
Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet, And why breaks thou the wand? Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh Withoutten my command?
“Carterhaugh, it is my own, My daddy gave it me, I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh, And ask nae leave at thee.”
Janet has kilted her green kirtle A little aboon her knee, And she has broded her yellow hair A little aboon her bree, And she is to her father’s ha, As fast as she can hie.
Four and twenty ladies fair Were playing at the ba, And out then came the fair Janet, The flower among them a’.
Four and twenty ladies fair Were playing at the chess, And out then came the fair Janet, As green as onie glass.
Out then spake an auld grey knight, Lay oer the castle wa, And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee, But we’ll be blamed a’.
“Haud your tongue, ye auld fac’d knight, Some ill death may ye die! Father my bairn on whom I will, I’ll father none on thee.”
Out then spak her father dear, And he spak meek and mild, “And ever alas, sweet Janet,” he says, “I think thou gaest wi child.”
“If that I gae wi child, father, Mysel maun bear the blame, There’s neer a laird about your ha, Shall get the bairn’s name.
“If my love were an earthly knight, As he’s an elfin grey, I wad na gie my ain true-love For nae lord that ye hae.
“The steed that my true love rides on Is lighter than the wind, Wi siller he is shod before, Wi burning gowd behind.”
Janet has kilted her green kirtle A little aboon her knee, And she has broded her yellow hair A little aboon her bree, And she’s awa to Carterhaugh As fast as she can hie.
When she came to Carterhaugh, Tam Lin was at the well, And there she fand his steed standing, But away was himsel.
She had na pu’d a double rose, A rose but only twa, Till up then started young Tam Lin, Says, Lady, thou pu’s nae mae.
“Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet, Amang the groves sae green, And a’ to kill the bonny babe That we gat us between?”
“O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin,” she says, “For’s sake that died on tree, If eer ye was in holy chapel, Or christendom did see?”
“Roxbrugh he was my grandfather, Took me with him to bide And ance it fell upon a day That wae did me betide.
“And ance it fell upon a day A cauld day and a snell, When we were frae the hunting come, That frae my horse I fell, The Queen o’ Fairies she caught me, In yon green hill do dwell.
“And pleasant is the fairy land, But, an eerie tale to tell, Ay at the end of seven years, We pay a tiend to hell, I am sae fair and fu o flesh, I’m feard it be mysel.
“But the night is Halloween, lady, The morn is Hallowday, Then win me, win me, an ye will, For weel I wat ye may.
“Just at the mirk and midnight hour The fairy folk will ride, And they that wad their true-love win, At Miles Cross they maun bide.”
“But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin, Or how my true-love know, Amang sa mony unco knights, The like I never saw?”
“O first let pass the black, lady, And syne let pass the brown, But quickly run to the milk-white steed, Pu ye his rider down.
“For I’ll ride on the milk-white steed, And ay nearest the town, Because I was an earthly knight They gie me that renown.
“My right hand will be gloved, lady, My left hand will be bare, Cockt up shall my bonnet be, And kaimed down shall my hair, And thae’s the takens I gie thee, Nae doubt I will be there.
“They’ll turn me in your arms, lady, Into an esk and adder, But hold me fast, and fear me not, I am your bairn’s father.
“They’ll turn me to a bear sae grim, And then a lion bold, But hold me fast, and fear me not, And ye shall love your child.
“Again they’ll turn me in your arms To a red het gand of airn, But hold me fast, and fear me not, I’ll do you nae harm.
“And last they’ll turn me in your arms Into the burning gleed, Then throw me into well water, O throw me in with speed.
“And then I’ll be your ain true-love, I’ll turn a naked knight, Then cover me wi your green mantle, And hide me out o sight.”
Gloomy, gloomy was the night, And eerie was the way, As fair Jenny in her green mantle To Miles Cross she did gae.
At the mirk and midnight hour She heard the bridles sing, She was as glad at that As any earthly thing.
First she let the black pass by, And syne she let the brown, But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed, And pu’d the rider down.
Sae weel she minded what he did say, And young Tam Lin did win, Syne covered him wi her green mantle, As blythe’s a bird in spring
Out then spak the Queen o Fairies, Out of a bush o broom, “Them that has gotten young Tam Lin Has gotten a stately-groom.”
Out then spak the Queen o Fairies, And an angry woman was she, “Shame betide her ill-far’d face, And an ill death may she die, For she’s taen awa the bonniest knight In a’ my companie.
“But had I kend, Tam Lin,” said she, “What now this night I see, I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een, And put in twa een o tree.”
This is my first ebook, and I confess it was more than a little frustrating at times. There may have even been tears and swear words involved on occasion. But it was so worth it!
I was also very lucky in the people I met along the way. I certainly owe a ‘thank you’ to Celine Jeanjean. Her willingness to share information and her insights helped me more than I think she realized (not to mention I love her steampunk adventure series The Viper and the Urchin). And of course my editor, Kathy Macfarlane. A good editor is a treasure, and I could not have asked for better. Thank you, Kathy!