Bed-time musings on character in DWJ (F&H)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Thu Nov 16 16:10:16 EST 2000

>>Hallie wrote:
>>I'm still not sure I agree with people wanting to be taken as a 
>>part of their being taken (to leave aside the whole question of 
>>whether a moral weakness could be inherited!).
>People don't know, or don't want to know, what they're getting into. 
>Tom Lynn I suspect was all too willing to be "taken by the beautiful 
>and glamorous Laurel.

Possibly.  But Tom was so very young when he was taken, and in 
extremely tight straits.  Even if he did go willingly, it's a 
different matter for a child to be bamboozled, than for an adult to 
be amoral.

>Thomas Rhymer and Tam Lin are two sides of the same coin: in THomas 
>the Rhymer, we see the seduction, and in Tam Lin we see the 
>desparate desire to get away.
>In the span of Fire and Hemlock, we don't see the seduction itself, 
>although we see the next victim in Leslie.
>I don't see Tam Lin in the ballad as completely amoral. He certainly 
>has a lot of what faeries like, but he does admit to being baptized 
>(which doesn't mean as much now, but 500 years ago that was an 
>accepted indicator of being within the pale of moral society), and 
>makes hard, clear promises (to be the baby's father,to stick with 
>Janet when he's free, etc.).

I've always read the baptized bit as merely proof that he'd been born 
human - with the idea that Janet couldn't have saved him from the 
Queen if he hadn't been.  (Again, not to digress into a theological 
discussion about the meaning of baptism!)  And the promises to Janet? 
I can't exactly get excited at that as an indicator of morality - how 
many other children had he whose mothers hadn't been tough enough to 
go try to rescue the father? "And nae maid comes to Carterhaugh And a 
maid returns again".  There's no sign that he feels any 
responsibility to any of the other girls.  Or indeed any to help 
Janet until she comes to him, saying that she'll take the 
abortificient herb.

Possibly something was _laid_ on him to exact a toll from anyone 
passing Carterhaugh (in some versions, there's a financial payment - 
possibly for non-virgins?).  Which would partly explain it, I 
suppose.  But I still think Tom is a major improvement on Tam in most 
of the versions I've seen.

>All the versions and reinterpretations of "Tam Lin" I've ever read 
>end just after the freeing from Faerie, but I really want to see a 
>sequel, maybe when the kid is old enough to be taken... What do the 
>parents do to keep the kid away, and do they succeed?
>The more I think about it, the analogy to addiction is apt. People 
>don't get trapped by alcohol, methamphetamines, or Laurel because 
>they want to be trapped. They do it because they are promised 
>something they greatly want. And while they are getting hooked, that 
>promise is delivered. Then the horror of their entrapment takes 
>hold, and it is very very hard to get out.
>And once you're out, you still have the traces on you. You're never 
>totally free until you die.

Well, yes.  But you could also think of the struggle to live morally 
as one which is equally never over until one dies.  Which is why I'd 
go back to my original point and say that I don't understand what is 
explained about Reg by his father's having been taken.  The desire to 
get what we want with no cost to ourselves is in all of us surely. 
Reg would hardly be in any worse moral shape than anyone else just 
because of his father.

Hallie (who definitely must read Thomas the Rhymer soon!)

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