Faroese Folklore

One of the things I love about travel is the tales you come across, from the religious-based, to mythology, to folklore. They can seem so ridiculous on the one hand, and yet oddly charming on the other. I just imagine the circumstances that led to the genesis of these stories (I mean, assuming they’re not real…), and I suspect that at least in the northern latitudes that the fickle weather and long nights of winter had something to do with their creation.

Here are three such tales from the Faroe Islands that we heard while visiting there this fall. 

The Giant and the Witch.
(Also known as Risin & Kellingin)

When Iceland wanted the Faroe Islands, it sent the Giant and his wife, the Witch, to go to the Faroe Islands and drag them back to Iceland. When they arrived, the Witch tied a rope around the large mountain (seen at right, in case it wasn’t obvious 🙂 ) to hand to the Giant to start dragging it back.

However, the islands didn’t move no matter what they did. They worked all night without any luck. As morning approached, they were still there, and since, as we all know, giants and witches turn to stone in sunlight, they were caught in the rays of the rising sun, where they remain today (I think the Giant is on the left but could be wrong).

The Seal Woman.
On the island of Kalsoy.

So, this is a lengthy (and gruesome) story, but in short: Boy meets girl. Girl is actually a seal spending her one evening a year as a human on land. Boy steals girl’s sealskin so she can’t return. Boy and girl marry living a somewhat normal life. Girl finds her seal skin and escapes back to the sea. Boy is distraught. Eventually, boy kills a bunch of seals that happened to include her seal husband and babies. Girl takes revenge by putting a curse on the entire village saying many of their loved ones would die at sea, so many that if they joined hands they would encircle the island. 

Then the Faroese built a sculpture of her?

The Nix.
Located in the lake near the airport.

The Nix is a dangerous creature found in many lakes in the Faroe Islands. It can take many forms but often takes one of a beautiful horse. He’ll lure people in and as soon as they touch him, they’ll become stuck and he’ll drag them with him back into the lake. 

But never fear, if this ever happens to you, just know that all you have to do is say his name out loud and he’ll lose his power and you can get away. 

So, anyway, one day he was out when a group of children came upon him. Eager to ride such a beautiful horse, they started jumping on his back. When he eventually turned to run back into the lake, one of the youngest boys yelled for his older brother Niclas, but unable to say his name correctly, it came out as, “Brother Nics!” Instantly, the Nix lost its power and the boys were saved.

For a more complete (and accurate) telling of these stories, visit the Faroe Islands tourism website.

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post. Learn more and sign up here.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *