I’ve had a fascination with the Ballad of Tam Lin since reading a bastardized version in a Choose Your Own Adventure story in middle school, especially some of the darker alternate versions of the ballad that I discovered years later. It’s got great drama to it, but it’s also disturbing and puzzling on a number of levels. Why would any girl declare her love for a man who took advantage of her and ruined her reputation? Why risk her life to save him after all that? And when she saves him, is she setting him free, or just seizing control of him from the queen of faeries? (Which is kind of a badass revenge against a rapist, in my book!) And what kind of curse did the queen want to put on Tam Lin at the end? There’s a lot to explore there, but I’ve never felt that modern authors delved into it in a way that satisfied me. I’ve tried different ways to approach it myself, with a computer game I wrote for a class and a thesis concept in grad school, but it just never came together.
This week, for the first time, I realized that the novel I’m close to finishing is, beat for beat, the Ballad of Tam Lin. And I think it does the ballad justice. I’m just glad I didn’t realize that earlier, because I think it would have made the writing too forced and self-conscious. But it’s nice to be aware of it now, so I can polish the second draft with those elements in mind.