Saturday, April 19, 2008

Monsters From Scottish Folklore

FROM ghosts and goblins to sea monsters and cannibals, Scottish history is littered with tales of the weird and wonderful. While some Scottish legends have become much-loved parts of our culture, other stories have disappeared into obscurity over the centuries. Now Glasgow University is set to revive Scotland's folklore thanks to a new postgraduate course examining mythical creatures, superstitions, beliefs and the storytelling that kept them alive. Here's a look at just some of the myths and legends that got handed down through the generations.

Legend has it that the Monster of Glamis was a deformed member of the Bowes-Lyon family, who was kept in a secret chamber in Glamis Castle. The "monster" was alleged to be Thomas Bowes-Lyon, the eldest child of the Queen Mother's great great grandparents, who was born in 1821. Official records suggest the child died in infancy but, over the years, rumours spread of his survival. According to the story, Thomas had an enormous chest with his head running straight into his body and had tiny arms and legs.

These mysterious sea creatures lived in the stretch of water between the Isle of Lewis and the mainland. They looked like humans but had blue skin and would swim alongside fishing boats, making their way through that stretch of water trying to lure sailors into the sea. Legend had it they would also conjure up storms to wreck ships and that they lived in underwater caves, where they were ruled over by a chief. It was said fisherman could escape them if they were good at rhyming.

Although the idea of the village that only appears once every 100 years is now considered a Scottish myth, it actually has its roots in the mythical cursed German village of Germelshausen. It was this story that inspired composers Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe but, in 1947, a musical set in Germany was a no-no, so they relocated the musical in Scotland. So the story of the Scots village where the passing of a century seems no longer than one night became part of our national folklore, with tourists still asking guides where they can find it.

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