A fan idea I’ll never get to use

So there’s a classic Scottish border ballad, “Tam Lin.” Briefly, it’s about a young woman who disobeys her father and gets pregnant, then discovers that her baby’s father is due to be sacrificed to Hell by the Queen of Faerie and has to save him.  It’s a good story with a strong female lead and appears on the landmark album of British folk-rock, Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief.  It’s also been adapted into fiction many times; Pamela Dean’s novel version, set in a Midwestern liberal arts college in the 1970s, is one of my all-time favorite books and one of the two best adaptations of ballads into novels, in my opinion. (The other is Through a Brazen Mirror by Delia Sherman.)

Anyway, the place that the heroine, Janet (or sometimes Margaret), disobeys her father to visit is Carterhaugh, which is a real place near Selkirk.  Being a ballad, there are several known variants, and in some of them it’s not Carterhaugh.  In some it’s Blackstock, which gave the name to the college in the Dean novel.  And in some, it’s Carter Hall.  This is where the fan idea comes in…

Carter Hall is of course the secret identity of the original Hawkman (and the one the Silver Age Hawkman, Katar Hol, used on Earth).  And part of the Hawkman concept is that he and Hawkgirl have been reincarnated over and over since ancient Egypt, and it never ends well for them.  This was given particular weight during Geoff Johns’s run on the character, which established that among others their past incarnations included two pre-existing Western characters.

It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Tam Lin and Janet as two past incarnations of the Hawks. (This is heightened by the fact that I picture Janet as a redhead, thanks again to Pamela Dean.) It would imply an unhappy ending that isn’t indicated in the ballad, but that can be further down the line.

The reason there isn’t much that can be done with this is that the New 52 Hawkman doesn’t use this backstory, and this isn’t an idea that would make good fanfic.  Seeing Tam Lin used as the basis of an issue of Hawkman would have been cool, and wouldn’t have been out of place in the series from the ’00s; writing it myself would basically be retelling the ballad with an odd framing sequence.  Not that it would have been likely anyway, but–c’mon!  Carter Hall!  It’s right there!


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