The Scots story is of Thomas of Ercildoune, who met a strange lady of elfin race beneath Eildon Tree. She led him into the underground land, where he remained with her for seven years. He then returned to earth, still, however, bound to come to his royal mistress whenever she should summon him. Accordingly, while Thomas was making merry with his friends in the Tower of Ercildoune, a person came running in and told with marks of fear and astonishment that a hart and a hind had left the neighbouring forest and were parading in the street of the village. Thomas instantly arose, left his house, and followed the animals into the forest, from which he never returned. According to popular belief he still 'drees his weird' in Fairy Land, and is one day expected to revisit earth.
Unquestionably the Venus of the Hürselberg, of the Eildon Hill and of so many other locations all over Europe is the ancient goddess Holda, or Thorgerda. But the legend as it shaped itself in the Middle Ages is indicative of the struggle between the new and the old faith. We see thinly veiled in Tannhäuser the story of a man, Christian in name but heathen at heart, allured by the attractions of Paganism, which seems to satisfy his poetic instincts and gives full rein to his passions. But these excesses pall on him after a while, and the religion of sensuality leaves a great void in his breast.
He turns to Christianity, and at first it seems to promise all that he requires. But alas! he is repelled by its ministers. On all sides he is met by practice widely at variance with profession. Pride, worldliness, want of sympathy, exist among those who should be the foremost to guide, sustain and receive him. All the warm springs which gushed up into his broken heart are choked, his softened spirit is hardened again, and he returns in despair to bury his sorrows and drown his anxieties in the debauchery of his former creed.
A sad picture, but doubtless one very true.