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  The Lore of the Land

Chalk Sketch of Maeshowe,: Sigurd Towrie

"The Orkney I was born into was a place where there was no great difference between the ordinary and the fabulous; the lives of living men turned into legend."
Edwin Muir

The Orkney Islands have always been a place of mystery and superstition.

Until recent times, many of the islands' ancient sites were feared as fairy haunts and therefore avoided at all costs. Numerous stories became attached to these locations - tales of evil little creatures who would steal away children, sicken cattle or terrorise grown men.

Elsewhere, cackling old witches practised their "infernal arts" along craggy shorelines, while the spirits of the restless dead flitted across a misty landscape.

When the Norse settlers first arrived in Orkney, they carried with them tales from their homeland.

Their stories of giants, trolls, elves and dwarfs were soon transplanted from Norway's spectacular mountainous landscape to Orkney's low green islands, adapting, mingling, and in some cases supplanting, the indigenous lore of the islands.

The giants all but vanished from folklore, unable to find hiding places in Orkney's soft rolling hills, and the malevolant hill spirits encountered by the Norsemen gradually became the trows we know today, taking residence, along with fairy-folk and hogboons, in the burial mounds and cairns of Orkney's prehistoric people.

The result is a rich cultural mix in which elements of Celtic tradition is inseperably intertwined with Norse mythology and folklore.

Section Contents

See Also
The Battle Poem of the Valkyries
Orkney and the Arthurian Legends
The Everlasting Battle

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