(Originally by Robert Burns)

[Editor's note: Since there are so many versions of this song, I put this one together from parts of various ones...]

At Carterhaugh in the borders, where many a strange thing has happened, and there is many a door to Elfland, and it is better NOT to go in, there was a fairy well, and this is the rhyme about it…

Oh I forbid you maidens all
That wear gold in your hair
To come or go to Carterhaugh
For young Tam Lin is there

Tam Lin was a lad who’d been taken away to Elfland, and had an uncanny fame. The girl who lingered by that well would come under his power, and must pay a fee: either a ring, or a silken cloak, or her maidenhead…

And there was a lady called Janet, who was daughter to a great Lord. She wore gold on her hair, and her hair was golden, a gold ring, and a silk gown, and a mantle green as grass. Gold and fair, she was, with the colours of Spring.

And heedless of warning, she went one morning to Carterhaugh, walking swiftly, her green skirts kilted out above her knees, her yellow hair in a braid ‘round her head.

When she came to the well, she saw no man, but a horse was grazing there, and it was Tam Lin’s horse. A rosebush grew by the well, and Janet pulled a spray of two intertwining roses.

Hardly had she done so, when Tam Lin appeared, gray-green his eyes, and his hair in Elflocks, and he said to her, “Janet, Janet, my bold bonny lass, why do you come to MY well without leave from me and pull MY roses?”

“Carterhaugh is on my father’s land,” said proud Janet, “and I’ll come here with or without your leave and pull a rose if I will!”

“Then,” said Tam Lin, taking her by the hand, “you must pay my fee.” He put his arm around her and led her away, and Janet was not unwilling. And after awhile, there was a sweet silence, and the scent of crushed rose petals on the grass…

And at the end of that golden day, she went back to her father’s castle, still with her green mantle, still with her gold ring, but without her maidenhead…

And a change slowly stole over fair Janet – one that could not be missed by her family.

Out then spoke her father dear
And he spoke meek and mild
Ever and alas, sweet Janet, he said,
I think thou goes with child.

“If that I go with child, father,
Myself must bear the blame.
There’s never a Lord about your hall
Shall get the bairnie’s name.

If my love were an earthly knight,
As he’s an Elfin gray,
I would not leave my own true love
Whatever you may say.

The steed that my true love rides on
Is lighter than the wind;
With silver he is shod before,
And burning gold behind.

And Janet kilted her green kirtle above the knee, and was away to Carterhaugh as fast as she could go. She came once more to the well and pulled a double rose, and as before, Tam Lin appeared before her.

“You must tell me,” cried Janet, “for my babe’s sake, if ever you set foot in holy chapel and learned the ways of Christendom?”

And Tam Lin replied,

“Roxburgh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide
And once it fell upon a day
That hunting I did ride

“There came a wind out of the north
A cold wind and a snell
A deep sleep it came over me
And from my horse I fell

“And the Queen of Fairie she took me
In yon green hill to dwell…”

“But every seven years the Queen must pay a tithe to hell for her powers, and I fear this time it will be myself – for the seven years have passed, and tonight is Hallowe'en…and yet at this time, when the two worlds meet, there IS a chance to save me, Janet.

“Tell me, my love, how I may,” said Janet, looking at him with steadfast eyes.

Tam Lin replied, “You must go to Miles Cross, in the deep of the night and fill a cup with holy water. Then make a circle ‘round you with it. The Fairies will ride past in companies. Let the first company ride past and say nothing. Let the second company pass likewise. But I shall be riding with the third company.

Oh, first let pass the black lady
And then let pass the brown
But quickly run to the milk white steed
And pull his rider down

For some ride on the black lady
And some ride on the brown
But I’ll ride on a milk white steed
A gold star on my crown

Because I was an earthly knight
They gave me that renown…

“When you know me, you must take my horse by the bridle and snatch the reins from me. When you let them fall, I shall slip down from my horse, and the queen will cry out, ‘True Tam Lin, stolen away!” Then come fair or come foul, you must hold me tightly. First, they will turn me to a lizard, then to a lion, then to a snake. Hold me fast. I will then be turned into a bar of red-hot iron. But if you love me, you must not let go, however much it burns. Last of all, they'll turn me into molten lead. Then you must carry me to the well, and cover me in there with your green cloak. Only then can I be your ain true love once more,”

They’ll shape me in your arms, Janet,
Into a naked man
Then cast your green mantle over me
And so shall I be won

Tam Lin had vanished, and at sunset the next day, Janet stole away to the greenwood; and in the deep of the night, went to Miles Cross. She made the circle of holy water around her, and she waited…

About the dead hour of the night
She heard the bridles ring
And Janet was as glad at that
As any earthly thing

And it fell out, just as Tam Lin had told her. First, a company of knights rode by on black horses, and then, a company on brown. But when, at the head of the third company, she saw the milk white steed, she rushed forward, seized the bridal, and down slipped the rider.

There rose an unearthly cry, “True Tam Lin, stolen away!”

But now, instead of holding her true love in her arms, Janet is grasping a foul lizard, and now a fierce lion, and now a writhing snake. Still, she gripped tightly. But in her hands now is a red-hot iron bar – yet, burn as it would, she held – knowing that this was the only way to have her heart’s desire. One moment she thought the sensation worse than being in a furnace; then, between one moment and the next, the heat was gone...

By the lightning, she could see his body, looking as if it were made of some dull grey metal. She felt it begin to shrink into itself as it lost it's definite shape and became a molten metal. Once more she was reminded of his words, and knew she now had to place him in the well. Gathering her strength, she stood up, only to tumble forwards from the weight in her arms. Once more calling upon her strength, she slowly stood up again.

She remembered the well to her right side, and began taking small, short steps towards it. A closer strike of lightning showed her where the well was just before she ran into it. Leaning over the edge, she dropped the still-melting lead that was Tam Lin into the water. The liquid steamed and boiled as the metal entered it. Quickly she pulled off her cloak and layed it atop the water. The steam began to emerge from around the edges, seeming more frantic than before. Now it should only be a short time...

They shaped him in her arms, at last,
Into a naked man
She cast her mantle over him
And so her love she won.

Out then spoke the Queen of Fairies
And an angry woman was she
She’s taken away the bonniest knight
In all my companies

“Farewell you to, Tam Lin,” the Elf Queen cried, “but know you this: if I had known yesterday what I know tonight, I would have changed your heart of flesh for one of stone, your two gray eyes to eyes of wood, and I would have paid a ransom seven times to the fiend so that I could have kept you.”

Then she and her knights vanished, and fair Janet and Tam Lin went back to the castle, where they were married amidst great rejoicing.