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  Orkney's Giant Folklore

The Enchanted Quernstone

Grotti: 3D Illustration by Sigurd Towrie

The Pentland Firth is a notorious stretch of water that separates Orkney from the northern tip of the Scottish mainland.

Reputed to be one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world, it is, and always has been, a danger to shipping.

This Orcadian folktale not only explains why the Firth is salty, but also neatly explains the existence of a treacherous whirlpool known as The Swelchie.

"There were two giantesses named Fenia and Menia who were bond-maids to a Danish king called Frodi. King Frodi kept the unfortunate pair continually at work turning a massive magical quern called Grotti that had the power to grind out whatever it was asked to grind.

So merciless was Frodi in his demands that the two giantesses rebelled and using the magic quern ground out an army to free them from their life of slavery. Frodi was killed and Fenia and Menia sailed away with a sea-rover known as Mysing.

While sailing through the Pentland Firth, Mysing asked the giantesses to grind salt which they did but unfortunately in such quantities that the boat sank near the island of Stroma creating the whirlpool called The Swelchie.

At the bottom of this whirlpool lies Grotti, turning endlessly and still making the sea salty."