Martha P. Hixon


Ballad tales, like fairy tales, perform a sociocultural function in that they exemplify standard codes of behavior in a given society. Also like fairy tales, ballads have been the subject of the late-twentieth-century impulse to break down, reconstruct, and rewrite the traditional tales, either to appropriate the emotional cores of the tales through borrowing motifs, characters, or plot, or else to update the stories for new social agendas and values. This study looks at the sociocultural function of “Tam Lin,” first in its traditional balladric format and then as it became modified and reconstructed in the twentieth century by authors and editors working in the field of children’s literature.