Janet and the Wood One of Three in the Tam Lin Cycle I have Written Based on Classic Scottish Myth
One aspect of the Tam Lin tale that is often quickly passed is that when Janet returns to the wood she is pregnant and seeking herbs. We know Tam Lin has lived with Mab for time untold...but what of the young woman who stands against her. Why would she dare fight the Queen of the Fey? There must be more to the tale. Often we only hear the action, not the before.
The backsmith was courting her sister. The miller’s son gave her cousin an excuse to bring grain to grind. And for a second summer no one came for Janet. “Why? What is wrong with me ? Am I damned to spin in my father’s home and have no hearth of my own? Will I never glow from a walk in the wood with the man I burn for?” She found fault in her rebellious brown curls, her eyes of no one color and the blemish on her cheek. The very curve of her ample breast made her feel disgust as she reached for even the smallest morsel. One evening her sister came to supper with cheeks a glow and her hair astray babbling on about her wedding a few weeks hence. “Janet” she said” if you keep such a dark look on your face not even Tam Lin in the Wood will want you.” Janet left the table. Tears in her eyes as her father scolded her sister. “I am off to the well father,” she called. No one seemed to hear. She began to walk. As the sun set and the pale light of evening began to show above Carhart wood. Tam Lin of the Elves indeed… A story to caution girls just LIKE HER SISTER to save themselves before the priest blessed a coming union. Anger, rejection , unworthiness burned in Janet. Her chest heavy and cheeks a flame… Her head began to pound and she knew she needed a sweet flower tea to calm it. The herbs were gone and she would need more if she were to sleep at all. She kept walking through the pasture. Past the sheep and to the edge of Carhart Wood. The earth and green and life scented the air and then, what was that? Ohhh roses. She smelled roses. SO many uses for a rose. Deeper she walked Plants in hand Forgetting her complaint Her hair slipped its knot as she plucked a rose in full bloom, its thorn drew a dark drop of blood. And a pale hand brushed the fallen curl from her face. Eleven hands caressed more that night and it seemed to Janet a dream. The sort of dream that one does not talk of. And in that stolen night Janet gained power over herself and how she saw each curve and marveled at all that had been hidden. In the morning she awoke in her narrow maiden’s cot a maiden no more, a cut rose in her hand, wondering if it had indeed been a dream. But all dreams can turn dark in a moment. For Janet it took the weeks till her sisters marriage. Her breasts ached, her stomach rebelled and the weariness the overtook her was greater than any she had ever known. And then, fair Janet knew that yes, there was one who had wanted her and all she could be. But he was no mortal man and to wed him in a church with the haste her sister enjoyed with her lover was not to be. A child would make a constant companion. What is no other would have her? Certainly not now. What would this seedling bloom to be? Would Mab reclaim it anyhow and leave her alone and ruined? No. It could not be. That evening weeping but resolute she walked in Carhart Wood but sought no roses. She sought other flowers, small and violet. Mosses too. She sought to brew a bitter drink to swallow, one that drew more than a drop of blood. Heart heavy she heard a voice and with it she pondered her third choice. And as we know Tam Lin she claimed and fought for and along with him she made another choice all her own. For no matter how the evening had played Janet alone controlled her future.
A Retelling of the Wife of Bath's Tale by Chaucer
I sought to tell this classic tale but to change the rape to a kiss and unwanted affection to make the tale less upsetting or triggering for some and to enable it to be told in audiences of mixed age. The concept of consent is so important and I wanted a version all could feel safe hearing.
Long ago there was a good king who sought for his knights to be noble in both word and deed. He saw them as an extension of himself and their actions reflected upon them. One of his knights was young, bold, a pleasure to behold but oft times lacking in patience and prudence. Knowing he was admired by many a maid he felt he could choose any of them to pursue. He sought out a young lady in waiting to the queen. The girl was young and not accustomed to court but pious and sweet of nature as well as fair of face. As he woo’d the maiden she rebuffed his advances. Thinking her protestations an invitation he tried to kiss her. A mighty slap was heard in the great hall and soft weeping. All became silent. As the red flower of shame bloomed on the knights face all eyes turned to him. To behave in such a manner was to lose one’s title, land, place in court and worst of all honour. In the silence the girl was brought to the queen’s side consulted, comforted and taken to recover in spirit with the other ladies of the chamber. The queen summoned the knight to the front of the hall. Ashamed he walked forth. His pride collapsed and the scorn the elder knights gave him felled him like no blow ever had. The queen had asked the maiden what she thought a fair reward for such unseemly actions and she knew well the mind of the king. Because it was her lady insulted she spoke to the knight. She bade him go on a quest to better know the mind of women. If he could tell her one year and a day hence what it was women truly desired he lands and title and place at court would be safe; if not he would become a beggar. The knight left the hall and rode away to seek the answer that would save his title. He thought it would be easy. It was not. It seemed to him every woman near and far wanted different things. Maidens wanted young husbands, mothers wanted for sleep and crones wanted for youth to bloom again in their cheeks. Some women wanted pleasure in bed, others land, some power, most money and none wanted more work or a knight asking questions but not helping their situation. A year and a day passed and he still had no answer. As he rode to the castle prepared to lose all he held dear he spied a hag in the road. Ugly, bent and scarred. He paused to ask her if she knew what women desired above all else. She replied she did but she would only tell him before the queen and that he should grant a wish to her after she told. He agreed and rode with her to end his quest. When questioned by the queen the hag whispered into his ear that above all women desired dominion over themselves. The right to control their future, bodies and all else that pertained to them. The varied answers made sense to him now. He was also suddenly struck by the gravity of his actions. The Queen pronounced him able to rejoin court and at that moment the hag spoke. She told the court of the knight’s promise. The one thing she asked was to be his wife. Horrified by his reality but knowing he must be noble he married her that night. That evening the knight avoided the marriage bed as long as he could. The hag asked him if he would prefer her to be a beautiful maiden but untrue and constantly a vexation or be herself, but wise and devoted. Exhausted, tired of questions and seeking to make the right response he asked her how she would live. At that moment a bright light appeared and the hag revealed herself as a beautiful member of the fey. Smiling she invited her husband to bed for he had truly understood what women desire. The next morning they were gone, never to be seen again by mortal eyes.