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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Scottish folklore on the Isle of Skye: The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr (Wikipedia image)
While researching a setting for BATTLE EAGLE (my current work in progress, Book #3: The Warrior Brothers of Skye), I came across The Old Man of Storr—a unique stone formation on the north of the island.

Actually, this landmark has some fascinating stories attached to it, which have inspired me! I have my characters going to a Gathering of the Tribes here.

I'll get to the folklore in a minute, but first, some detail about what this land mark actually is.

Situated off the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye is known for its beautiful scenery and unique land formations.The 160ft tall pinnacle stands below the 600ft cliffs of the Storr itself. The spectacular ridge of hills (the result of a massive landslip) that runs for about 30km, form the backbone of the Trotternish peninsula in the north east of Skye contains one of the islands most recognisable landmarks, the Old Man of Storr (in Gaelic ‘Bodach an Stòrr’).

Giants, brownies and fairies

Brownie (source: Wikipedia)
There are plenty of tales attached to The Old Man of Storr. One story goes that the Storr is the thumb of a giant who then became buried in the earth after his death. Another version of this is that while fleeing from attackers two giants—husband and wife—made the error of looking back and turned to stone.

Another story features a brownie. In this tale, a man saved the life of a brownie but never asked for anything in return. The pair became good friends and after the man died (of a broken heart following the death of his wife), the brownie carved two stones, one became the Old Man of Storr, and the smaller one his wife.

The brownies, fairies (or the Fair Folk as they're named in my books) are often found in Scottish folklore. The are both beautiful and terrifying, and often trick humans. In this story, the fairy folk offer an elderly man the chance to always have his wife with him. Previously, the man would walk up to the top of a hill with his wife, but she is now too old. The old man accepts but it is a trick and the fairy folk turn both he and his wife to pillars of rock, ensuring that they would indeed always remain together.

Find out more about these fascinating stories on The Haunted Palace Blog.

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