The oral culture of Scottish tinsmiths reaches, for the first time, readers in Spanish through the sixteen stories that make up this volume. Only in the middle of the 20th century did folklorists and poets from Scotland and different parts of the world begin to show a lively interest in this oral tradition, whose tales offer a rich variety of motifs and characters.
To the parade of princesses, mermaids and devils are added the presence of other supernatural beings, typical of Scottish folklore, such as seal-men (silkies) and brownies. The picaresque stories, in which the hero prevails thanks to his ingenuity, alternate with tales of animals and legends of silkies, characterized by a compromised ecological balance between man and his environment.
The lands of Scotland seem to be tied to horses especially. This magnificent animal is part of the folklore and mythology of this country to the point of dedicating great monuments to its memory. The races are in turn another important event within the country, with a very long tradition that dates back to the 12th century.
Kelpie, a supernatural horse
Celtic mythology created the Kelpie in the shape of a horse that lives in the vicinity of the seas and lakes of the Highlands. History tells us that this being has the shape of a black or white horse with a permanently wet mane and with algae entangled between them. The touch of his body is cold and moist, even being compared to the coldness of death.
Legends say that this being bewitched with its gaze the human beings that roamed the shores of the lakes and that, when caressing it, they remained attached to its skin. Once trapped, the horse would gallop into the water, where he would drown the unfortunate victim before feeding on her. Sometimes he too took the form of a handsome man, so in ancient times it was normal for any Scotsman to be wary of people he met near a river or lake.
Selkies, The Seal People
Like so many other creatures in Scottish mythology, Selkies are therianthropic beings, that is, they are human creatures with the fantastic ability to transform into animals. In the case of the Selkies, tradition has it that they change at will between their animal and human forms by the method of shedding their skin. In most cases, Selkies are spoken of as female creatures, but the truth is that they can also be male.
And where does the name “selkie” come from etymologically? Well, it’s quite simple, since it derives from the Scots term search, which means gray seal. His legend extends throughout the North and Isles of Scotland (particularly Orkney and Shetland) and has parallels in some Icelandic and Faroese traditions.
Nessie, The Loch Ness Monster
Rivers of ink have been spilled over Nessie and her sightings in the dark Loch Ness! It is probably the most famous creature in Scottish mythology. And it is not for less, given that its legend dates back to the 6th century when Saint Columba supposedly performed the miracle of ridding the people of the loch of a terrible aquatic beast.
The international fever about the Loch Ness Monster has unleashed in 1934 thanks to the so-called “photo of the surgeon”, a montage recognized decades later that would lead dozens of people to dream of “hunting” this elusive aquatic creature. In the 70s the bells were launched on the fly and some media came to confirm the existence of Nessie thanks to some images obtained and retouched by Robert Rines to look like a rhomboid fin.
In contemporary Scotland, it is sometimes difficult to determine when a native speaks English and when he speaks Scottish: it is as if a Zurich citizen oscillated from Swiss German to Hochdeutsch, the standard German of Germany.
This is the interesting phenomenon called code-switching (or code-switching in English): in the same sentence or conversation, two or more languages are put into it, respecting the rules of all the languages involved.
In many cases, one does this without even realizing it, and, likely, many of the code shifts that take place in Scotland are also unintentional.