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Folklore Friday - The Trows

Folklore Friday - The Trows
By Sophie 2 months ago 494 Views No comments


As far as Orkney folklore goes, the Trows are one of the most well known and widespread. Known as an ugly, mischievous, small creature that resided in the ancient mounds scattered across Orkney.

Some tales state that a Trow could pass as a human if spotted, although they could only pass for a very old, wizened or deformed one. Generally, the Trows tend to be short in height, stunted in growth and usually considerably smaller than a human man. Traditionally grotesque and outlandish, their appearance is confirmed as being so by the common names used for them, such as Truncherface (meaning trencher face) and Bannafeet (meaning Bannock Feet).

Known as being nocturnal, these famous creatures never appear in daylight. Even when they appear at night, to some they are still invisible. Legend has it that an Orkneyman was walking along the shore, with his wife, when she cried out in disbelief. She pointed across the beach to where she was adamant stood a group of Trows, dancing. Seeing nothing the man was confused and claimed his wife was seeing things. Grabbing her hand to guide her away from the beach, he was suddenly able to see the Trows himself. Although, to the Orkneyman alone, the Trows were invisible, when holding his wife's hand or standing on her feet, he was able to see them and watch their exploits.

There are other accounts, traced back to Shetland, that explain only certain people have the power to see the Trows. According to these accounts, 'normal' mortals cannot see the Trows, unless they touch one of these gifted individuals.

Being nocturnal creatures, the Trows are known to come visiting households once the inhabitants have gone to sleep. Entering the building and sitting by the glowing fire, the Trows are notorious for making noise. Many accounts from terrified farmers claim that they would lie in bed and listen to the scuttling of their unwanted guests, who were lurking at the other end of the house. With a known hatred of locked doors, farmers and their wives were conscious to keep their doors open so as not to agitate the Trows during their, already unwanted, visit.

When they aren't visiting nearby houses, the Trows live in earthy mounds, dotted around Orkney. Known as hoews or knows, the dwelling places of the Trows are said to be dazzling and glamorous. Decorated with gold, silver and precious materials, the Trows settlement is something to be envied. Only fine food and drink is served at their tables at all times. Satisfying their passion for music and dancing, the Trows often attempt to lure unsuspecting fiddlers into their knowes, to perform at their otherworldly celebrations.