Know Your Creatures: Kelpies

When we were up in Scotland for some Christmas research, some very odd horse-shaped sculptures were on my hit list of places to visit. Today’s creature inspired these statues: the majestic kelpie.

Kelpies feature in the mythologies of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, the Faroes and Scandinavia, and they have cousins in Ireland- the entertainingly-named pookas. They can be found by riverbanks and take the form of either a beautiful human or a horse. But don’t be fooled.

Tales abound of children approaching a kelpie to stroke their mane or ride on its back, only to find themselves stuck to the creature. It will then gallop at full speed into the water, drowning the hapless passenger. Worse, it then devours them, leaving only their heart and lungs to float to the surface of the water. Lovely.

Kelpies will seduce humans, but you usually don’t want to stick around unless you want to be lunch. One story tells of a woman spending the night with a handsome man; as he slept she noticed seaweed in his hair and got suspicious. She freed herself from underneath him by cutting away the fabric of her dress, but he spotted her at church the next day and she was just more watery dindins.

Their more gruesome Orcadian counterpart is the Nuckelavee. There’s a ‘true’ account of one man’s meeting with this hellish creature, and it’s unpleasant reading. If one of those turns up in our world, let’s just hope we have a convenient body of water nearby to cross, or perhaps another world to escape to.

Fortunately, Mor swears she hasn’t eaten a human for centuries, but who knows what could happen if you got on her bad side…




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