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  The Sorcerous Finfolk

The Finman

Traditionally, the Orkney Finman had the appearance of a well-made man, but tall, dark, thin and sinewy with a stern, gloomy face. He had unparalleled rowing skills, able to cross from Orkney to Norway, or Iceland, in seven "warts", or strokes, of the oar.

Other documented accounts relate that the Finmen were often seen rowing in a small boat "that never showed a sail". This, however, was said to be a mere pretence. Instead, the Finmen used their powerful magic to propel their boats.

This magic was also thought to allow the Finman to render his vessel invisible, or even surround it with a fleet of phantom boats. All regarded as sure signs of the power of the Finman's sorcery.

The relationship between human and the Finmen was tense to say the least. Although both races seem to have tolerated each other, there was certainly no love lost between them.

Beware the Finman!

The Finfolk were extremely territorial and took great exception to humans trespassing, or fishing, in their waters.

Whenever a mortal fisherman dared enter the Finfolk's domain, the Finmen would seize the man's line and hang on until the line broke. This left the distraught fisherman without hook and sinker, and therefore unable to earn a living until new tackle was acquired.

On other occasions, the Finmen would wait until the fisherman had returned home and had put his boat to anchor. Then, they would slip off the anchor stone, leaving the vessel floating free to the perils of tide and current.

Worst of all, in the dead of night, the marauding Finmen were known to wreak extreme vengeance on these seemingly fearless, but hapless, fishermen. Their retribution for the trespass was to either smash the oars of the fisherman's boat or to hole the vessel - actions that could, at some later date, cost the impertinent fisherman his life.

Needless to say, to avoid the wrath of the Finmen, Orkney's fishermen relied on numerous precautions. Life was hard, and circumstances often meant the fishermen had no choice but to enter the areas regarded as Finfolk territory.

They had to fish where they knew they would land a decent catch.

In these situations, a cross cut into the line sinker and marked with chalk or tar on the hull of the boat, ensured that no Finman would come within half a mile.

The Finmen abhorred the Christian sign of the cross.

The lust for 'white metal'

Another remedy relied on the Finmen's passion for "white metal" - silver.

It was once common knowledge that a pursuing Finman could be shaken off by throwing a silver coin in his general direction. Because of their passion for silver, the pursuer was sure to give up the chase in order to retrieve the precious coin.

This silver obsession meant that the Finmen were often seen to enter the service of a human, but more often they were the ones who hired the mortals.

To read one such story, click here

The Mermaid - Daughter of the Finfolk

Section Contents
The Finfolk

See Also

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