Children's Book of the Month: The Tale of Tam Linn

The Tale of Tam Linn by Lari Don
Category: Reading

Author: Retold by Lari Don | Age Category: 4-7yrs


Tam Linn is one of Scotland's most distincitive fairy tales. It may be best known as a Border ballad, but it has also been retold in many other forms over the centuries. It is mentioned in print as early as 1549, but probably significantly pre-dates this. Scottish author Lari Don retells the tale accompanied by wonderful illustrations by Philip Longson. The story revolves around the rescue of Tam Linn by his true love from the Queen of the Fairies.

Janet, the daughter of the Laird of Carterhaugh, is out walking near the woods close to her land. All children have been warned never to enter these woods. Folklore has it that a young boy named Tam Linn was stolen by the Fairy Queen and now guards the forest as a fierce young fairy knight. Janet does not believe in fairies, she enters the woods and indeed encounters the mysterious Tam Linn ... can she save him from the Fairy Queen? 



We have 5 copies of The Tale of Tam Linn to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer this question:

Scotland has a great heritage of myth and folklore. What do you call the mythical supernatural water horse that was said to haunt Scotland’s lochs and lonely rivers?

Send your answer to Miriam Morris at Competition closes on Monday 1 June. Entrants outside the UK must cover postage.


Q&A with author Lari Don

What is your favourite Scottish myth?

If we’re using the word myth in a very general sense to mean any traditional tale (rather than its more specific meaning of an ancient, almost primal, story, usually with a few gods involved) then my favourite Scottish story is definitely Tam Linn. That’s why I was so keen to retell it for this gorgeous series of picture books!  The Tale of Tam Linn has a fairy tale feel, with a beautiful queen and a happy ending and lots of magic, but unlike most fairy tales it has a real life geographical setting, at the well in Carterhaugh Woods near Selkirk, which you can visit (I have!) and tell the story there (I’ve done that too!)  And it is filled with amazing images: the fairy army marching at midnight, all the animals the fairy queen turns Tam Linn into, the trees, the fire, the water.  But the main reason I love this story is that the strongest, bravest, most heroic person in the whole story is Janet. The girl rescues the boy. That’s quite rare in old tales, and should be treasured when we find it! So I love telling and retelling Tam Linn, but I also find myself being inspired by it when I write new adventures like the Fabled Beast Chronicles - this story inspired a fight scene in First Aid for Fairies and the main plotline in Wolf Notes. And I’m sure I’ll play with these characters, images and magic again sometime.

What is your favourite international myth and why?

That’s a much harder question. There’s the whole world to choose from! I’m a huge fan of Viking stories, especially myths with the trickster god Loki, but I also spend a lot of time tracking down stories with strong female characters, and probably my favourite of those is the Sumerian goddess Inanna, because like Loki she is neither reliably good nor reliably bad, just reliably on her own side.  My favourite Inanna story is probably the one where she visits the underworld and dies quite nastily, but still manages to re-emerge to find her own (almost) happy ending.  So, today, that’s my answer – Innana’s visit to the underworld. But if you asked me on a different day, I might answer with a dragon from China or riddles from Russia or a minotaur from Crete or a twice-killed Danish monster or a Persian horse or an Inuit polar bear or a Zambian tortoise….


What else have you in the pipeline?

I’m delighted to say that I’m now working on another Traditional Scottish Tale for Picture Kelpies – and very appropriately it’s a story about a kelpie, the beautiful but dangerous water-horse found beside many Scottish lochs.  I’m even more delighted to say that the book is being illustrated by Philip Longson -  the incredible artist who did such an amazing job bringing Janet, Tam Linn, the Fairy Queen and all those animals to life in The Tale of Tam Linn. I’ve just finished writing the story, and now I can’t wait to see Philip’s pictures! (Everyone else will have to wait until spring next year, when the book is published…)


Watch a video of Lari Don telling stories in the Authors Live: Storytelling Relay.

Find lots more book recommendations, blogs and videos in our Parents section.

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