Thomas the Rhymer

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Thomas Learmonth (c. 1220[1]c. 1298;[2] also spelled Learmount, Learmont, or Learmounth), better known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas,[3] was a 13th century Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston (then called "Erceldoune"). He is also the protagonist of the ballad "Thomas the Rhymer" (Child Ballad number 37).[4] He is also the probable source of the legend of Tam Lin.

Contents

Historical figure

Sir Thomas was born in Erceldoune (also spelled Ercildoune - presently Earlston), Berwickshire, sometime in the 13th century, and has a reputation as the author of many prophetic verses. Little is known for certain of his life but two charters from 1260–80 and 1294 mention him, the latter referring to the "Thomas de Ercildounson son and heir of Thome Rymour de Ercildoun".[5]

Popular esteem of Thomas lived on for centuries after his death, to the extent that several people have fabricated Thomas' "prophecies" in order to further the cause of Scottish independence.[5] His reputation for supernatural powers for a time rivalled that of Merlin. Thomas became known as "True Thomas" because he could not tell a lie. Popular lore recounts how he prophesied many great events in Scottish history,[5] including the death of Alexander III of Scotland.

Thomas' gift of prophecy is linked to his poetic ability, although it is not clear if the name Rhymer was his actual surname or merely a soubriquet. 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.

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