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  The Fairy Folk in Orkney Lore

"The fairies only left Orkney when folk stopped seekin' them"
Anonymous Orcadian

Capering Trows: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieThe situation surrounding Orcadian fairy lore is somewhat complex.

Generally speaking, in Orkney, the term "fairy folk" was simply a blanket term used to refer to a wide range of supernatural creatures. Of these, the trows were the most common.

To the Orcadians of yesteryear, there was no distinction between the terms "trow" and "fairy". So it is not uncommon to encounter what is obviously the same tale, or legend, with a "trow" in one instance, but a "fairy" in the next.

So does Orkney's "fairy" lore simply recount the exploits of the islands' trows?

In most cases, yes.

But there are a few tales in which the characteristics, appearance and behaviour of the fairy folk are distinctly different to that of the archetypal trow.

Because of this, I have chosen to present the tales of the fairy folk in their own section, and not bundled in with the pages dealing with trows.

One crucial element remains throughout - the Orcadian fairy was not the benign gossamer-winged nymph of popular tradition. Far from it.

The Orcadian fairy folk, like the trows, were feared immensely.

The Origin of the Fairy Folk

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