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1001 Stories Collection

Thomas the Rhymer

1001 tamlin georgehiles
Added on 23rd September 2020

Oral tradition Scottish ballad

Folk and fairy tales Magic
1001

Thomas is taken to Elfland by the Fairy Queen herself. The story is also known as True Thomas.

Story

Thomas meets the Queen of Elfland who takes him to Elfland and keeps him there for seven years. When he returns he has the gift of prophesy and is able to predict some of the major events in Scottish history.

Why we chose it

A traditional ballad that was popular with musicians in the 1960s. A number of stories of mortal men meeting with the Fairy Queen are found, particularly in Scottish folklore – this is one of the best known.

Where it came from

Thomas may have been based on Sir Thomas Rimor de Ercildoun or Thomas Learmouth, a 13th century laird and poet. He is said to have foretold many major events , battles, deaths, defeats, - and his own death. His first recorded prediction is in manuscript from the early 14th century but well into the 18th century his prophesies were consulted. The fairyland meeting is part of a poem which could have been first written by Thomas himself and which appears in manuscripts in the 15th century.

Where it went next

Walter Scott retold the ballad in 1804. It inspired the novel Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. Scottish folk musician Ewan MacColl recorded the ballad as did the band Steeleye Span.

Associated stories

Other stories about visits to fairyland include Tam Lin and the Arturian story of Morgan le Fay and Ogier Le Danois. Like Arthur, True Thomas is said to sleep somewhere in Scotland waiting to wake at time of need.

Added on 23rd September 2020

Oral tradition Scottish ballad

Folk and fairy tales Magic
1001