The Nightwood (2010), by Robin Muller: another Tam Lin tale

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 16.1.

The Nightwood

Robin Muller’s version of the Celtic folktale of Tam Lin and Janet (here Tamlynne and Elaine) is richly decorated and illustrated, wrapping the story in layers of magic and mystery.  The language Muller uses lightens the depths of the folktale, rendering it accessible to younger readers, presenting it as a more classic fairy tale of elves and magic than the original Irish myth, in which young Janet’s arrogance is rewarded with an unexpected child.  In Muller’s The Nightwood, Elaine’s grievance is against her father, the Earl of March, who still considers her a child; like young readers, she only wants to prove herself “grown-up.”  Refused permission to dance at her father’s ball, she runs to the Nightwood to dance with the færies.  The story follows the folktale fairly faithfully: she and Tamlynne fall in love; she returns to her father’s house and pines for him; she escapes and seeks him out, only to learn that he is mortal, captive to the Elfin Queen’s magic, and destined to die; she learns there is a way to save him, but only at risk of her own life; in the end, she succeeds and they marry.  Overall, the beauty of Muller’s illustration and the magic of the romantic tale weave together to present a captivating and timeless tale.

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