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An Earthly Knight

TitleAn Earthly Knight
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsMcNaughton, Janet Elizabeth
Volume1st ed
PublisherHarperTrophy Canada
ISBN Number0006391885
DescriptorsEnglish Language; Fantasy; Folklore; Folktale; Historical Fiction; Newfoundland and Labrador; Novel; Pregnancy; Scotland; Young Adult

This young adult novel, set in 1162 in Scotland, tells the story of sixteen year old Jenny, the second daughter of a minor Norman nobleman. McNaughton blends two traditional Scottish ballads, "Tam Lin" and "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight" in this mixture of historical fiction and fantasy. Jenny is betrothed to Earl William, the heir to the throne and a violent and unpleasant man, but is secretly in love with Tam Lin, a man who lives in the woods and is rumoured to have been enchanted by fairies . Janet McNaughton lives in Newfoundland.


Newfoundland and Labrador

Age Range


Author Profile: 

Janet McNaughton’s An Earthly Knight follows the journey of sixteen year old Lady Jeanette Avenel as she comes of marrying age in 12th century Scotland. Jeanette, or Jenny, is the youngest of two daughters of the widower Lord Avenel. Her sister, Lady Isabel, has recently disgraced her house and family by running off with one of her father’s knights. Though Isabel quickly returns home, she lives in shame and secrecy about what occurred between her and her former lover. As such, Jenny now must become the matriarch of the family, and learn her new responsibilities. She also now faces the prospect of marriage, and the hope of the family is that she will be matched to a wealthy and powerful man to ensure her family's prosperity. However, Jenny has a strange meeting in the woods with a young man whom she suspects is Tam Lin, the missing and rightful heir to the land that is now her dowry. An Earthly Knight is a young adult fantasy novel based on the ballads "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight" and "Tam Lin." These folktales, particularly "Tam Lin," are popular in Newfoundland.


"Jenny hesitated. Should she trust this man? His clothes were worn and dusty but finely made. The horse obviously belonged to him in the way La Rose belonged to her. He was a man of rank, not some horse thief who might be tempted to hold her for ransom. Still, the stories and songs she heard around the fire were filled with maidens who were carried away by strange men." (57)

"And what would this tocher do for Jenny? Surely it would make her more appealing to Earl William. Aye, Jenny thought, but what lass wishes to be loved for her wealth? She wondered what Tam Lin would say if he knew she was now a lass with a tocher. He would not love me for my wealth. The thought surprised her so, she dropped her comb. I know nothing of him, really, she told herself as she fumbled after it. She went over their last meeting in her mind. What was that he had said to her? “What I need would cost you more than gold.” What could he mean by speaking in riddles like that? Maybe he was mad, just as everyone said. Jenny had not gone back to Carter Hall since that meeting. I will not, she told herself now. Not ever. This was only proper for a lass who might soon be betrothed." (105)