Castle - Medieval

The Nickelavee

Hello fair travels and welcome to my side of fantasy and whim. I always look for things that fascinate me and for this article I am featuring a lesser known mythical creature.

While there are many creatures in the magical and mythical categories that have been more and more well-known throughout the years, there are many who are not as well known.

Not Just Unicorn and Dragons

For example, Unicorn and Dragons are almost instantly recognizable in their forms while you may not think of a Selkie or a Joint Snake. Those are two examples of creatures we do not see in most of the fantasy representations.

For this feature, I would like to introduce you to a creature that while some may know it, this was one I was not as familiar with and would love to share some of what I have learned.

Our creature for this article is called a Nuckelavee, and it and its story belong to the Orkney Islands. This archipelago is in the Northern Isles of Scotland off the north coast of Great Britain.

What It Is

The Nuckelavee is said to be a creature of both land and sea but has one of the elements of many familiar sea demons in the fact that it cannot cross fresh water. The name Nuckelavee means “Devil of the Sea” and to hear the description is enough to give you nightmares, or inspiration, depends entirely on your perception of the creature.

According to an islander named Tammas, the only one to have given a first-hand account of meeting the beast and surviving,

“The Nuckelavee has a man’s torso attached to a horse’s back as if it were a rider. The male torso has no legs, but its arms can reach the ground from its position on top of the equine body, the legs of which have fin-like appendages. The torso has a large head – possibly as much as 3 feet (90 centimeters) in diameter – that rolls back and forth. It has two heads; the equine head has an enormous gaping mouth that exudes a smelly toxic vapor, and a single giant eye like a burning red flame.”

* One crucial detail is that the Nuckelavee has no skin, black blood courses through yellow veins, and the pale sinews and powerful muscles are visible as a pulsating mass.

So a skinless horse joined permanently with its also skinless rider. One that is also believed to have the power to abduct inhabitants and take them back to the sea as well as having the ability to breathe on crops to ruin them. Although the ability not to come on land when it rains, and the inability to cross fresh water is undoubtedly information to have on hand should you ever cross paths with such a creature.

The Unusual

This being is just one of many creatures from the world of myth and fantasy that is a hidden gem; I hope through the course of the discovery articles to share many other gems with you. What are some creatures from folklore that you feel are just not seen enough? Let us know in the comments below!

Footnote: Description of the beast came from here, Traill Dennison, Walter (1891), “Orkney Folklore, Sea Myths,” The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, Edinburgh University Press, 5 (19): 130–133

Kendra Hale

2 thoughts on “The Nickelavee

  1. Maybe this creature is what other cultures describe as a merman. Hmm. . . .

    Trolls. They’re popular in children’s literature, but how about adult real-life encounters? Is a troll purely something born of stories on paper, or is there an earthly origin?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I personally like the way that the Eoin Colfer describes trolls and other mystical being like fairy in his Artemis Fowl series. They are more Earthen.

      As to the Nickelavee…I cannot say it is one I would want to meet lol


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