Thursday Fun: Kelpies

There is some debate as to whether the Kelpie and the Each Uisge are in fact the same creature. Most sources class them as identical. However, the Kelpie, an aquatic species of shapeshifter native to Scotland, is generally thought to be somewhat less powerful than its cousin, the Each Uisge, although still quite dangerous in its own right.

The Kelpie prefers streams, rivers, and small, fast-moving tributaries, while the Each Uisge, or water horse, is native to the larger freshwater lochs of Scotland, and to the sea.

Often appearing as a lost pony, the Kelpie will entice children to pet or ride it. Once the victim is astride the false pony, however, it draws its unfortunate rider down to the river-bottom, in order to consume its prey in peace.

A Kelpie may be caught, if it can be bridled and harnessed. A captive Kelpie is extremely valuable, due to the fact that once harnessed, it will work tirelessly, tilling even the hardest ground. However, the farmer must be prepared for the grisliness of its care and keeping, because at the end of the day, even the domestic Kelpie must eat human flesh.

The Each Uisge typically appears in the form of a fine horse, or, if the creature has a desire to lure maidens, as a handsome young man. When in the presence of water, the skin of the Each Uisge becomes incredibly sticky, adhering to the body of its rider and making escape impossible. Although similar to the Kelpie in many ways, the Each Uisge is considerably more ravenous, consuming not only children, maidens and grown men, but also sheep and cattle.

In any form, both the Kelpie and the Each Uisge may be identified by their perpetually dripping hair. Thus, it may be considered prudent to avoid wet strangers, and to refrain from riding any mysterious unsupervised horse.

7 thoughts on “Thursday Fun: Kelpies

  1. Interesting stuff….

    *muttering* must not work on half-completed kelpie/urban legends novella. must finish daily werewolf supermarket word count goal first. must not work on kelpie/urban legends novella. must not work on kelpie/urban legends novella. must not work on kelpie/urban legends novella.

  2. Oh, but that sounds so interesting, and there’s really *no* kelpie-centric fiction I can think of, and . . . I’m probably doing terrible things to your morale, so I’ll shut up now.

  3. Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age UFs have a very prominent water horse named Whiskey. Which is the best Each Uisge name ever. He’s quite keen. And bloodthirsty. (Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water, esp.)

    ps. “However, the farmer must be prepared for the grisliness of its care and keeping, because at the end of the day, even the domestic Kelpie must eat human flesh.”

    Hellooooooo horror novel.

  4. Holly Black’s ‘Tithe’ has a very important kelpie but yes a kelpie-centric novel would be very cool.

    Wet strangers nibbling on your ear – yeah – definitely urban fantasy/horror novel potential here!

    BTW where does the Each Uisge originate from (which country/region)? Could the legends have traveled from one place to the other? Are kelpies and Each Uisge both part of faerie or are they their own separate monsters? Just curious. (tucking information away into recesses of brain for yet another project…)

  5. Ooh, Tithe–that’s a good point, and as Tessa mentioned above, I totally forgot about Elizabeth Bear (inexcusable!)

    The Each Uisge is Scottish, or maybe old enough to be considered Celtic–I’m not really sure how that works, and other cultures have aquatic shape-shifters too, so it’s very possible that there’s been “borrowing.” One of my personal favorites is the Slavic vodyanoy, who doesn’t change shape but is pretty gruesome all the same.

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