SFR-Fishermen's tales of long ago

Alex MacDonald

that's His Lordship, to you.....
It's a gloomy day today, reminding me of some of the tales I used to tell to my students. Most of you know I taught Medieval history, with an emphasis on northern Europe. There exist many stories of water spirits and the folk who dwelt beside that water. They're known by many names; the Nokk or Nokken in Scandinavia, Kelpies or Silkies in the Hebrides, water sprites, mermaids, Nix in Germany, and are featured in the legends of all Germanic peoples. Where they originated, no one knows. It's my theory that, long, long ago, someone saw an Eskimo, washed up on shore after a storm, in a kayak. The voyager probably climbed out of his boat and went looking for food and water. On closer inspection, whoever observed this man wander off, discovered his craft was made of sealskin, and assumed the man was a shapeshifter, leaving behind his skin.

While our latitude is lower than that of northern Europe, use your imagination!

Here we sit, beside a strong river. The weather is dark and pregnant with rain, and the power of the stream is clear. You fear to cross, but cross you must.
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As you sit, working up the courage to face the water, you think you hear soft, haunting music, which seems to come from the water. There is no other sound but the whisper of the river, and the drip of water from the moss-bound trees. Drawn to the song you are, the music of moving water over stone, with a seeming undercurrent of a beautiful woman's voice. Beware, for the Nokk sings to you, and will lure you to your death.

While it's all legend, let me leave you with this final tale: Once, the son of the chief of Clan Macleod fell in love with the daughter of the king of the Silkies. The love was mutual, and as the king loved his daughter, he granted her the ability to live among mortals, and she married the son of Macleod, and bore him many sons. However, as it always does, the time came for her to return to her own people, and her husband, now chief of the clan, was distraught. As she left, she gave him her silken shawl, and told him whoever carried it into battle would receive no wound, either great or small. That banner hangs today in Castle Dunvegan, in a nitrogen-filled heavy glass case, last having been carried in the battle of Aden as well as (parts of it) having flown with MacLeod airman over Europe. As has been documented more than once, no one in contact with the banner has ever received so much as a scratch. We Gaels know it as "am Bratach Sith MacLeod"; Legend? Who can say...