Thomas the Rhymer (novel)

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Thomas the Rhymer
ThomastheRhymer firsted.jpg
Cover of the first edition of Thomas the Rhymer.
Author Ellen Kushner
Cover artist Thomas Canty
Genre Speculative fiction
Publisher William Morrow & Co
Publication date
January 1, 1990

Thomas the Rhymer is a fantasy novel by American writer Ellen Kushner. It is based on the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, a piece of folklore in which Thomas Learmonth's love of the Queen of Elfland was rewarded with the gift of prophecy. The novel won the 1991 World Fantasy Award [1] and Mythopoeic Award.

Ellen Kushner American writer

Ellen Kushner is an American writer of fantasy novels. From 1996 until 2010, she was the host of the radio program Sound & Spirit, produced by WGBH in Boston and distributed by Public Radio International.

Ballad form of verse, often a narrative set to music

A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "danced songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Ireland and Britain from the later medieval period until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America. Ballads are often 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form, consisting of couplets of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. Another common form is ABAB or ABCB repeated, in alternating 8 and 6 syllable lines.

Thomas the Rhymer 13th-century Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston

Sir Thomas de Ercildoun, better remembered as Thomas the Rhymer, also known as Thomas of Learmont or True Thomas, was a Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston in the Borders. Thomas' gift of prophecy is linked to his poetic ability. It is not clear if the name Rhymer was his actual surname or merely a sobriquet. He is often cited as the author of the English Sir Tristrem, a version of the Tristram legend, and some lines in Robert Mannyng's Chronicle may be the source of this association.


Plot summary

Thomas, a harper from court, befriends a humble farmer and his wife. As he begins a relationship with Elspeth, their neighbor, he is whisked to Elfland, ensnared by the Fairy Queen. After seven years he returns to Gavin, Meg, and Elspeth with a parting gift from the Queen: he can only speak the truth.[ citation needed ]



A minstrel who sang in the king's court. Before he is captured by the Fairy Queen, he is a carefree young man.


A young woman who falls in love with Thomas. In the seven years of his absence, her hard life makes her cynical.


A rather simple crofter who takes Thomas in.

The Queen of Elfland

Although powerful and beautiful, the Fairy Queen can be unmerciful. While she does release Thomas after seven years as her lover, she never truly lets him go.


Gavin's wife who sees value in Thomas and believes him when others don't


World Fantasy Award award

The World Fantasy Awards are a set of awards given each year for the best fantasy fiction published during the previous calendar year. Organized and overseen by the World Fantasy Convention, the awards are given each year at the eponymous annual convention as the central focus of the event. They were first given in 1975, at the first World Fantasy Convention, and have been awarded annually since. Over the years that the award has been given, the categories presented have changed; currently World Fantasy Awards are given in five written categories, one category for artists, and four special categories for individuals to honor their general work in the field of fantasy.

Tähtifantasia Award is an annual prize by Helsingin science fiction seura ry for the best foreign fantasy book released in Finland.

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  1. World Fantasy Convention. "Award Winners and Nominees" . Retrieved 4 Feb 2011.