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- Sep 2020
Janet has kilted her green kirtle A little aboon her knee, And she has broded her yellow hair A little aboon her bree, And she's awa to Carterhaugh As fast as she can hie. Both the mantle and its color are symbolic in important ways to the story. Green is the faerie color and it is considered unlucky for mortals to wear it in an place where the faeries might see them (see Alice Brand for an example of this ). Likewise, Janet refers to Tam Lin as "elfin grey" when speaking of him, since the root word for both colors was the same. Green has other symbolic meanings though. One is that a woman who dresses in green is supposed to be sexually promiscuous, since green hides grass stains. The other is that a woman dressed in green has left or been left by her lover, a 'grass widow', from the days back before divorce was a possibility for most folks. Janet specifically wears green into Carterhaugh woods despite the knowledge that faeries dwell there, which supports the earlier notion that she originally went there as an act of defiance, but it is noteworthy that Tam Lin specifically instructs her to wear the mantle when she comes to rescue him. "And then I'll be your ain true-love, I'll turn a naked knight, Then cover me wi your green mantle, And hide me out o sight." Apart from the need to provide cover for a wet and naked man in the woods during late fall, mantles (like the greek Aegis) were signs of protection, so Janet casting her mantle over Tam Lin makes sense as the final act of recovering him from the faeries. It is a statement that he is now her own and under her protection, but the choice of color is interesting. Possibly the color is either meant to confuse the faerie magic when she battles them, or as implied by Tam Lin's further command to 'hide me out of sight', simply as a means of camouflage in the green woods.
symbolism of green kirtle in tam lin