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Tam O' Shanter Rides Again

Puppet animation of the Robert Burns poem

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Imaginative amateur animation revisiting the famous Burns story poem.

A night-time scene. Lightning flashes in the sky. A house. Through the window we see Tam take a drink. A landscape. Inside the house, a woman (Kate - Tam's wife) waves a rolling pin. Tam rides his horse. The woman waits, getting angry... We see a water mill, and Tom stops to have his horse reshod. He rides again, and still the woman waits. And then Tam stops in a tavern. Drinking and laughing. A poppy drops its petals as the wind picks up and it starts to rain, bringing out a rainbow.

A grandfather clock nears midnight. Tam leaves the tavern very drunk, riding through flashes of lightning. He arrives at a church and sees ghostly figures dancing to a tune played by Satan on the pipes. We see a skeleton and a severed head, and blood-stained knives and axes. The skeleton joins the dance. Tam manages to tear himself away and rides off, pursued by witches.

One witch flies behind him, catching up with him. She dives for Tam, but only succeeds in catching the horses tail as they gallop over the bridge to safety.

This film was winner of the Humphrey Jennings Trophy for best animation film at the 40th Scottish International Amateur Film Festival.

Questions & Activities


  • Who wrote Tam O'€™Shanter?
  • Who or what is John Barleycorn?
  • What was Souter Johnny's job?
  • How does the film visually convey the changes in mood from the original poem?
  • How does the editing create tension, mood, atmosphere?


Record the whole poem and/or sound effects to give the poem atmosphere.

Compose a soundtrack to add to the film using instruments and things around the classroom.

Research the origins of Tam O'Shanter.

Compare with the other Tam O'Shanter film on this website.

Pick another poem and design an animation/shadow puppet/clay modelling/plasticine to represent the poem.

Create your own puppet show, including your own sets and puppets. Film the show and add soundtrack.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-377-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 3297
Date 1978
Genre Animation
School Subject Expressive Arts, Drama, English, Media Studies, Art and Design
Subject Matter Literacy, Halloween, Witch, Devil
Who Tom Steel (film maker)
Where Alloway, Ayr
Attributes Colour, Silent
Clip Length 11:55
Film Length 11:55