Tam Lin Balladry

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The Wee Wee Man

Comparison Source: The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1882-1898 by Francis James Child.

Child Ballad Number: 38

cites: A 'The Wee Wee Man,' Herd's MSS, I, 153; Herd's Scottish Songs, 1776, I, 95. B Caw's Poetical Museum, p. 348. C 'The Wee Wee Man,' Scott's Minstrelsy, II, 234, ed. 1802. D'The Wee Wee Man,' Kinlock MSS, VII, 253 E a'The Wee Wee Man,' Motherwell's Note-Book, fol. 40; Motherwell's MS., p. 195. b Motherwell's Minstrelsy, p. 343 F 'The Wee Wee Man,' Motherwell's MS., p. 68. G ' The Little Man,' Buchan's Ballads of North Scotland, I, 263

Summary

A traveller encounters a tiny man of enormous strength, able to trow a large rock a long distance. The traveller asks the man where he lives, and is shown a hall of gold, occupied by dancing women. The strange small man can call mist to his command, which he does, and then disappears.

The Wee Wee Man

  1. 'Twas down by Carterhaugh, father
    Between the water and the wa'
    There I met with a wee wee man
    And he was the least that ever I saw.
  2. His length was scarce a finger's length
    And thick and nimble was his knee
    Between his eyes a flea could go
    Between his shoulders inches three.
  3. His beard was long and white as a swan
    His robe was neither green nor grey
    He clapped his hands, down came the mist
    And he sank and he sainted clean away.
  4. He's lifted up a stone, six feet in height
    And flung it farther than I could see
    And though I'd been a-trying bold
    I'd never had lifted it to my knee.
  5. "Wee wee man, that thou art strong,
    Tell me where thy dwelling be" -
    "It's down beneath yon bonny green bower
    Though you must come with me and see."
  6. We roved on and we sped on
    Until we came to a bonny green ha'
    The room was made of the beaten gold
    And pure as crystal was the gla'.
  7. There were pipers playing on every spare
    And ladies dancing in glistering green
    He clapped his hands, down came the mist
    And the man in the ha' no more was seen.

Similarities

  • A woman meets a strange man in Carterhaugh
  • The man is somewhat otherworldy
  • There are women dancing
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Analysis

Like "The Broomhill Wager", this is a story whose verses often appear in versions of Tam Lin. It is another story from the same region of the world, and like Tam Lin, names Carterhaugh as the woods. The location to which the wee wee man takes the narrator is most likely the under-hill home of the fairies, as indicated by the gold and the dancing women. However, unlike Tam Lin, the interaction with this strange little man is neither sexual nor menacing, and very little appears to occur beyond the demonstration of strength and the odd journey. The man is not stated to be a fairy precisely (although some versions of Tam Lin indicate that the fey came in a number of sizes and had the ability to change appearance).

Version Notes

Added to site: March 2001