In the folklore of the Orkney Islands, “Nuckelavee,” meaning “Devil of the Sea,” is the Orcadian name for a malevolent, monstrous, amphibious beast in the seas of the archipelago. It is one of several mythical marine entities in the islander’s folklore. It is considered the most dangerous, with no redeeming features and utterly bad to the bone. The more powerful Sea Mither keeps it in restraint during the summer and its abhorrence of fresh water found in streams, lochs, and rain keeps it under further check. Hence, to counter this handicap it is believed to be the cause of prolonged droughts. Islanders believe Nuckelavee brings disease to the land to ravage the human population and their livestock. Its vile breath spreads the mould and mildew that blights food, crops, and anything else it touches and is blamed for driving animals over cliffs and everything wrong that happens on the islands. It hated the islander’s practice of burning seaweed for kelp and was exceptionally hostile to the folk of Stronsay who began it. In revenge, it sent a deadly disease that attacked their horses and spread throughout the other islands, making the kelp.
The form of its body takes in the sea is unknown, possibly because few folks escaped alive with an encounter with Nuckelavee. But according to local tradition, one man succeeded in escaping alive with an encounter on land and his horrific, detailed description is given below. But first, it should be explained the islanders believed any mention of the monster’s name should immediately be followed by the phrase, ‘Guid save us a’ I’, which invokes divine protection and probably means something like “God save us all!” In addition, that phrase should be inserted in any narrative at various interludes for increased safety.
A Close Encounter with Nuckelavee
The name of this lucky escapee, was Tammas, who one late night who was walking home along a coastal road between the sea on one side, and a deep freshwater lake on the other. There was no moon that night, but the sky was filled with stars giving enough light to see a fairway. Looking up the road ahead, he saw a massive dark shape rushing towards him. It was something beyond his experience, and sensing it was evil realised he was in a dangerous position. To one side of him was the deep freshwater lake, and to the other, the salt sea.
If he went onward, he would meet whatever was coming face to face, and he did not fancy that. But, on the other hand, if he returned the way he had come, the approaching threat would be at his back, leaving him vulnerable to attack, and he did not fancy that either. He could not go to his left because of the lake, and he could not go to the right because of the salt sea, and he had to decide. He had heard that turning your back to an evil thing was the worst possible act, therefore, all he could think of doing was uttering a quick prayer,
“The Lord be aboot me, an’ tak’ care o’ me, as I am oot on no evil intent this night! “
In fact, this was probably the most effective thing he could have done, although he had no way of knowing that at the time.
How Tammas Escaped
Nevertheless, he was not without courage and was known for being rough and ready and never backed down from a fight. Therefore, he stood tall, squared his shoulders, and marched forward to meet head-on whatever was speeding towards him, and from this point Tammas takes up the narrative,
“Unfortunately, as the thing drew near, I realised I was drawing face to face with Nuckelavee – ‘Guid save us a’ I ‘.
Like everyone else on the islands, I had been brought up to believe it was the most savage, evil, and malicious monster that had ever stalked humankind. Now I know why!
Whether it was one terrible beast or two, I could not tell. It looked like an oversized horse with a massive misshapen man either riding on its back or as part of its back; I could not tell!
The lower horse-like part had fin-like flappers growing from its legs. It had a massive and deformed head the size of a whale and a wide, gaping maw from which breath came hot enough to boil a kettle or strip paint from the door. In the centre of its forehead, it had a large red oval eye that glowed like a red-hot coal.
On its back, either part of it or separate, I could not tell which sat what looked like a massive legless man with long thick arms that hung down to the ground. Again, I could not see if he was connected to the lower part or separate. Its terrible head rolled from side to side, giving a sick, ghastly aspect.
Yet, worst of all was its lack of skin on top of all these unworthy and frightening defects. I could see its raw flesh and muscles in motion, stretching and contracting as it moved and the blood pumping and pulsating through arteries and veins.
I was terrified, my entire body trembling in fear and drenched in a cold sweat.
Nevertheless, I dared not turn my back and run, knowing it would surely catch me. If I must face death, I preferred to face it head-on, so I advanced doggedly to meet it.
Fortunately, despite my fear, I managed to keep my wits and recalled from some long distant memory that Nuckelavee – ‘Guid save us a’ I ‘- hated fresh water. Therefore, I walked the side of the road that ran beside the freshwater loch.
As I and the ghastly thing met on the road, the lower head of the beast turned to me, its awful maw gaping wide open, like a black tunnel leading to hell, opened towards me!
I felt its hot, rancid breath on my face, and its elongated misshapen arms reached out to grab me! Instinctively I shrank from its reach, but in doing so, one of my feet stumbled into the loch, and a splash of freshwater hit the forelimb of the beast.
It was only a splash, but it dramatically affected the beast. It gave out a panicked snort loud as thunder and shied over to the other side of the road. The long arms reaching out to grab me missed, brushing over my face.
Luckily, I still had my wits about me, and despite my fear, I sprinted down the road, and I now had my back to the beast, which I had wanted to avoid but now had no other choice. Therefore, I hoped to either outpace it or jump into the loch even though I could not swim.
Glancing back as I ran, I saw, despite its initial reaction, it had quickly turned and gave chase, roaring like a hundred lions and was catching up fast.
I knew I could not outpace it and was unsure of the depth of the loch, but I remembered the road was crossed by a small stream of fresh flowing water that drained from the loch into the sea just ahead.
This gave me hope, as I knew if I could get across that stream, I would be safe, as it is a law of nature that no evil entity can continue to pursue a quarry that has passed over or through fresh flowing water.
It was a law that even the Devil was bound, so I ran as fast as possible, hoping my legs and lungs would hold up long enough to get across.
I tell ye, I was fast, but Nuckelavee – ‘Guid save us a’ I’ – was faster and nearly upon me.
My legs were near to breaking, and my lungs nearly burst. I did not look back but could feel the beast’s hot breath on my bare neck.
I saw the stream ahead just as I thought I would not make it.
Despite the pain in my lungs and legs, I found extra strength to surge forward.
Just as its long arms reached to grab me, I took one almighty leap and jumped over the stream, leaving those ghastly long limbs snapping empty air. All the beast managed to catch was the cap from my head.
Landing safely on the other side, I collapsed exhausted to the ground.
Nuckelavee – ‘Guid save us a’ I’ – pulled up sharp to avoid contact with the fresh running water and because it was bound by the law.
If the stream had not been there, I would have been caught, but now all it could do was vent its frustration and rage in a series of unearthly screams and roars and stamp the ground, but despite its wild anger, it could not follow and thankful am I for that!” (1)
There are many cases in recent times where towns and villages have been deliberately flooded by humans where a change in the landscape was required for purposes such as to form a reservoir for fresh water. These are usually well-documented and their history known though folklore and legends may evolve from them.
All around the world there are also legends of towns, cities and lands that have been destroyed or lost, leaving only rumor and myths of their existence and demise. Many such places were rich and successful, well established and populous, making their loss all the more tragic and mystifying. These legends often tell of a catastrophic natural event such as a flood caused by high tides, storms or perhaps covered by sand or snow. Sometimes it is some geological phenomenon such as an earthquake and sometimes this is combined with a natural event or act of war. The loss of such well-established and prosperous places left a deep impression on following generations. Myths and legends evolved to explain the cataclysmic event and very often these were carefully crafted to provide a warning to following generations of the consequences of breaking God’s laws or their excessive pride or hubris.
Myth of Origin
These places were very often situated on a site that became transformed by a disastrous natural event in t a new feature of the landscape. An inland town situated in a valley may be covered by a watery lake. A town situated by the sea may be flooded and drowned by the waves or covered by sand becoming a massive dune. A town in the mountains may be covered by snow and ice becoming a glacier. The story created to explain the disaster may be mostly fictional but based on some historic cataclysm like a powerful storm, earthquake or other natural disaster that actually happened. Sometimes these myths and legends can help archaeologists and scientists investigate real disasters that happened long ago. In some cases such disasters are well documented from the time but the legends and myths evolve after.
These events when combined with the mysterious origin of some well known feature in the landscape create a compelling story that can have a profound and lingering effect on those it is told to. Especially when the narrator is a local priest or who uses the story to impress upon their audience the consequences of offending the Almighty. Although such myths and legends are often designed to uphold Christianity, other religions and philosophies have also used such techniques for this purpose. In some case it is pagan deities or spirits that have been angered in some way by rulers or citizens. Although warnings may be given they are ignored invoking the wrath of the powerful divinity to wreak some form of divine retribution.
Once divine retribution is invoked the fate of the town is sealed. Often it unfolds as a weather event such a rain, sand or snow storm. Once divine retribution manifests the end is inevitable. All that will remain will be the myths and legends of a once rich and prosperous society that was drowned, buried or destroyed along with most of its population. Perhaps a lake or some other feature of the landscape appears where the town once stood.
From this a talented storyteller can weave a tale that will work quietly among following generations for centuries that impresses and extols the danger of angering the all powerful deity. In this way a naturally occurring catastrophic event such as a storm or earthquake may be transformed into something altogether more sinister and in many ways more dangerous. Very often it becomes the judgement of God that is dispensing retribution for wrongdoing on an immoral and corrupt society. This and similar themes are quite common in these legends. Warnings of impending retribution and vengeance are offered in an attempt to change people’s behaviour but are ignored. Punishment is inflicted often destroying that society in its entirety not just the perpetrators. Sometimes a few are saved but often the innocent perish along with the guilty.
There is a concept of collective guilt that runs through generations until some chosen time when punishment is enacted. Sometimes vengeance is suspended for several generations and the deviant behaviour forgotten by people. Sometimes it becomes part of normal behaviour. Nevertheless, the Almighty works at his own pace and punishment eventually arrives when least expected with devastating consequences. This does seem harsh on those who were not born when the original sin was committed but it seems there is an expectation to strive to recognize and put right the wrongs of the past. The message is that the sins of one, even when committed in the past, must not be tolerated either at the time, or perpetuated in the future. What is sown will eventually be reaped in a time and in a way that suits the Almighty. This obligation to right and discontinue past wrongs does not mean that they be wiped from history or that they should be. It is important to keep records of such wrongs and our attempts to right them to monitor our own evolution and to make sure we do not make the same mistakes again.
The All-Seeing Eye
There is a sense that the individual and collective behaviour of people is being watched by some all-seeing eye. It sees and knows all our deeds and looks into our hearts and minds making judgements upon us. Legends such as these warn that we are always being watched and judged and even our innermost thoughts are known to the Almighty. They emphasize we must remember and obey the laws of God and will be held answerable for any transgressions at anytime in the present or future no matter how long ago the indiscretion. Furthermore, we have a collective responsibility that runs through the past, present and future to keep ourselves and others in society on the straight and narrow. The message is the all-seeing eye sees everything and in a manner and time that suits the Almighty we will reap what we sow and then –
Orkney, also known as the Orkney Islands,is an archipelago that is part of the Northern Isles. It is situated off the north coast of Scotland consisting of about 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited. Over time the islands evolved their own folklore with Scottish, Celtic and Norse influences. An important part of that folklore are the tales of the Finfolk who have an underwater city named Finfolkaheem. They were said to spend the winter in Finfolkaheem and summer on a magical hidden island paradise called Hildaland. The Finfolk were a dark mysterious race of humanoid amphibians who moved easily between sea and land. The following is a retelling of an Orcadian folktale from various sources listed below that tells of a strange encounter an Orkney boatman had with one of the Finfolk that he would regret for the rest of his life.
A Close Tongue Keeps a Safe Head
In Kirkwall, on Mainland, the main island of the Orkney archipelago, the Lammas fair was a popular event that brought people together from the other islands.Many, many, years ago at one such gathering a local boat owner named Tom, struck a deal with a tall, dark morose-looking stranger. The stranger wanted him to ferry a cow to somewhere east of another island called Sanday. Maybe Tom should have insisted the stranger be more specific in his destination but as he offered twice the normal fee he was pleased to accept. With the agreement concluded and to the surprise of the boatman the stranger, without hesitation, easily lifted the cow off the ground and carried it on to the boat. Tom was astounded by the strength of the stranger but once all was ready set sail as was agreed.
Tom was an amiable, affable person who liked to chat. To begin with he chattered away to the stranger who simply glowered back in silence. Eventually he growled,
“A close tongue keeps a safe head.”
Tom was staggered at his rudeness but he was getting a good price so he ceased trying to be friendly and sociable and concentrated on sailing. The sullen stranger was not good company and he began to feel embarrassed and uneasy.
The stranger would only speak to direct the boatman to sail to the east of each island they passed. At last the boatman, puzzled by the route he was being instructed to take asked exactly where he was taking them. The stranger turned his dark glowering eyes upon him and growled,
“A close tongue keeps a safe head.”
Once again, although upset by his abruptness, Tom thought of his fee and decided to keep quiet and follow the instructions of the surly stranger.
After a while they came into a thick fog which persisted for some distance and then quickly lifted. As it lifted Tom saw before them a magical island that basked in a shimmering light. He could hear the sweet singing of the mermaids who had sensed the presence of a human male and the possibility of a husband.
As he eased his boat towards the shore the stranger insisted on blindfolding him. It dawned on him that the silent stranger was none other than one of the feared Finmen of local legend and he asked if that was so. The strange gave his usual surely reply,
“A close tongue keeps a safe head.”
Wanting to fulfill his contract with the stranger as quickly as possible Tom agreed to the blindfold but as it went on he noticed how the mermaids stopped their beautiful singing and began shrieking and wailing.
The blindfolded boatman could not see how easily the Finman lifted the cow from the boat and placed it on shore before returning to drop a bag of coins beside him. The Finman then turned the boat widdershins against the course of the sun and against all sea lore and with a mighty shove pushed it out to sea. No human mariner would have done such a thing and Tom was angry at the Finman for breaking the lore of the sea.
When he took the blindfold off he found the enchanted island was gone but found the bag of coins by his side. When he reached home he checked the bag finding the money was exactly what was agreed though all the coins were copper. The Finmen will not part with their silver.
Twelve months passed and Tom again visited the Lammas Fair at Kirkwall. To his surprise he was approached by the same stranger he met the previous year at the fair and invited him to drink a jar of ale with him.
“I am happy to see you again!”
said Tom cheerfully to the stranger taking a long draught of ale. The stranger’s gloomy face grimaced and he growled,
“Indeed, did you ever really see me? Be sure you will never see me again!”
As he was speaking, he took out a small box containing a mysterious white powder. Puffing his cheeks he blew some into the eyes of the stunned boatman. After promptly downing his ale the stranger left. The powder covered the eyes of Tom and from that day on he was blind and for the rest of his life bitterly lamented the day he had met the dark, sullen stranger.
Presented here is a retelling of a folktale from the Portuguese islands of the Azores called , Linda Branca and her Mask, from a collection calledThe Islands of Magic, Legends, Folk and Fairy Tales from the Azores, by Elsie Spicer Ells and illustrated by E.L. Brock. According to the author, women in the Azores would often say “Stay pretty,” as a farewell to each other when parting and wonders if this story had anything to do with it.
Linda Branca and her Mask
There once lived a long, long, time ago a very beautiful girl who had grown tired of being beautiful whose name was Linda Branca. Many girls of her age would have envied her as her beauty made her the focus of all of the handsome young men in the neighborhood and indeed for miles around who were all desperate to court and marry her.
Every night in the street under her balcony young men would appear singing the most beautiful romantic ballads they had written themselves just for her. Their songs were carefully written hoping to impress her and make her fall in love with the singer of the song.
In fact none of them did and she grew bored and tired listening to the same performance every evening. She did not like hearing them sing in public of her glowing hair, flashing eyes and beauty finding it all disconcerting and in truth false. Some nights she could not sleep with all the singing under her balcony and would be grateful when her neighbours opened the windows and shouted at them to be quiet.
Nevertheless, all of her suitors were all very good looking, very rich, and very cocksure of themselves. They placed bets among themselves, each betting they would be the one to win the hand of the lovely Linda Branca. When Linda heard about this she was angry and unhappy. Although most girls would have given anything for her beauty and such male attention she began to see it as a curse.
Her mother had died giving birth to her leaving her father to bring her up. Although he loved her very much and tried his hardest there are always times when a girl needs her mother. To make it harder as she grew up he was always away on business.
“I wish I was as homely as the girls in the marketplace and not considered beautiful and desirable by men. I want a man who loves me not for my beauty but for who I am. I don’t want to be owned by anyone and I don’t want to own anyone else,” she said one day. She knew the young men only desired to possess her beauty and cared not for what she did, what she thought, or who she was. To them she was a prize that would prove their manhood and how handsome and wonderful they were to possess her.
Linda Branca did not want to be possessed by anyone. Linda Branca was determined to be the mistress of her own destiny. Yes, she greatly desired a soulmate – a companion – who knew and understood her intimately and who she knew in the same way. She knew that he would not be found singing under her window under the moon above. She knew that those who had laid bets on owning her would be losers for she would never accept such young men.
Linda Branca now saw her beauty as a curse and standing upon her balcony looking down into the street said aloud in frustration,
“If only I could be as homely as that girl walking over there I would have a chance of finding my star – my soulmate, my lover, my hero and would gladly marry him. All these handsome young men are indeed very attractive but they are shallow and fickle and when I begin to age they would forsake me, that is what they do all the time. I want someone to grow with to an old age becoming closer and closer.”
As she spoke she looked at the girl’s plain homely face and eyes, Her ordinary hair and body and said, not realising the girl could hear her,
“If only I was as plain and homely as her I could find someone who loved me for myself to marry and be happy, but with all of these unsuitable young men in the way I fear I shall never find my husband and soulmate.”
The girl heard the complaints of LInda Branca and looked up and seeing how beautiful she was she was truly astonished. She thought she must have been hearing things and challenged Linda Branca to say it again. Although a little embarrassed at being overheard Linda Branca was unrepentant and repeated what she had said that she wanted to be as homely looking as she, though she apologized if this should offend her.
However, the girl was not offended and smiling up at her said, “It so happens I am an artist and one of my arts is making masks. If you really want I can make you a mask to be as plain and homely as you want, but be careful with what you wish for!”
Linda Branca was astounded and at the same time very pleased with the suggestion. “Please make me a mask to make me look ordinary and homely, it is very much my heart’s desire!” she exclaimed joyfully.
“Are you really sure about this? asked the artist.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! Please make it as fast as you can!” begged Linda Branca.
As evening fell the usual cacophony of young men singing their hearts out found Linda Branca stood on the balcony looking this way and that. This was a most pleasant surprise to them as she usually never appeared to acknowledge their romantic efforts.
But it was not the love songs that Linda Branca was on the balcony to for. She was hoping to see the artist appearing along the road with her mask but she did not come.
Evening after evening she stood looking out from the balcony. The young men below crooned their hearts out thinking that she must be choosing her most favored suitor. Indeed, as she stood looking out from her balcony her sparkling eyes and dark flowing hair sent them into raptures of song. While the young men below were all very excited by her appearances the young woman besieged upon the balcony was not remotely interested in them at all. She was simply looking out for the arrival of the artist who bore the mask of Linda Branca.
The idea of a mask had greatly excited her and she hoped it would solve all her problems. She was so excited she would not have been able to sleep even if the barrage of love songs floating up from her desperate suitors below ceased to exist. When she did manage to sleep in her she dreams she saw herself wearing the mask. Sometimes her beauty was covered up by the likeness of a plump homely girl. Sometimes a skinny homely girl and once or twice with the face of a donkey. She thought they would all have adequately covered her loveliness and would gladly accepted any of them.
At last a week later the artist finally arrived with the mask which was none too soon as she had grown very impatient and began to give up hope. When the artist showed her the mask she could see why it had taken so long. It was indeed a very plain face, though not ugly, but homely and unremarkable and just like a real human face. The kind of face that does not stand out and is easily lost in a crowd. It was an amazing work that had required great skill, patience and artistry to create and now it was here ready for her to wear and said, “Why, it is even better than I had hoped. It will cover my beauty and is not too ugly but plain enough not to stand out in the crown and be recognized!” She was confident that when she put it on not one of the flocks of admiring suitors would recognize her and she made a plan.
Having no mother to answer to and her father being away on business would make her plan easier. Her father was a successful businessman who made a great deal of money and doted on his daughter. When he came home after being away he would take her out and buy her expensive presents of jewelry and fine clothes that enhanced her beauty. She rarely wore them but there were two gowns that she particularly liked. One was blue and trimmed with silver and the other was also blue but trimmed with gold. Although at the time she had no plan to wear them she thought that maybe one day she would be in need of something finer to wear on some occasions. Therefore, she packed these and a few other belongings into a bag.
Placing her new mask upon her face and a long, dark cloak around her shoulders she left the house walking through her crowds of admirers who never gave her a glance. Wasting no time she traveled to the city and finding the palace of the king, knocked on the door and asked a surly looking woman who answered if they required a maid. The surely looking woman was the King’s mother and glaring at Linda replied, “It is my son who is the King, therefore you must ask him,” and took her to see the King.
The King looked down on Linda unkindly and said, “Only last week I employed a new girl servant purely because she was so very pretty. I think I will employ you purely because you are very plain.”
Not a very nice thing to say you would think, but this was music to the ears of Linda Branca as she took up her employment in the service of the King. However, although the song sounded nice to begin with she would find it would go on far too long for her liking.
She met the pretty maid whom the king had employed the previous week and saw that although she was pretty she was not anywhere near as pretty as herself without the mask. Furthermore she discovered that it was she who would get all of the hard and dirty jobs while the pretty maid smiled and fluttered her eyes at her employer and was given the easier tasks.
Although her sleep was no longer being disturbed by her many suitors singing under her balcony, because of all of the hard work she was going to bed exhausted and sleeping through until sunrise. When she awoke she would have a quick breakfast and then begin work again carrying water, scrubbing floors, washing dishes and doing all the tiring unpleasant jobs around the palace.
While she was working away the pretty maid would be doing all the easy tasks like waiting upon the King and laughing at his jokes. As the days went by the more work she was given the less the pretty maid received. Furthermore, she could not help but notice it was the pretty maid who received all of the praise and attention from all of the high people. All she ever received was more and more work. It was clear the pretty maid had the easier, happier life and was never as tired as herself when she went to bed. Linda Branca began to think that just maybe there was something to being pretty after all. “I am wondering if maybe I should once again be pretty!” she said to herself as she climbed exhausted into her bed one night.
The following evening there was to be a great banquet that would be held over two days and Linda went to the King’s mother to ask her if she could attend. As usual the King’s mother was not in a very good mood and told her angrily, “Go and ask my son for he is King!”
Therefore Linda bided her time until she was in the King’s presence tasked with the job of polishing his boots.
“Please may I go to the banquet tonight?” she asked as politely as she could.
“What? Go away or I will boot you!” replied the King.
In the evening after the feast had begun Linda Branca unpacked her beautiful blue gown trimmed with silver. She put it on and taking off her mask looked into the mirror. She saw she was still just as pretty as she had ever been and far prettier than the pretty maid. Indeed, she found it quite a pleasure to see herself pretty once again after such a long time of being plain. Wasting no more time she took herself down to the banqueting hall and mingled with the guests.
The Land of the Boot
Everyone was astonished to meet this beautiful and mysterious young woman. She was the talk of the evening and the King paid her special attention dancing and chatting gaily with her becoming completely beguiled by her beauty.
“May I ask where it is you come from, beautiful one?” he said as they danced.
“Why, I come from the land of the boot,” replied Linda Branca laughing gaily at her own little joke and slipped from his hand and was gone leaving the King bemused and trying to puzzle out where the land of the boot was.
The King was most perplexed. He had never heard of the land of the boot and he asked his mother and all of his wise men but they had never heard of any such place. The next day he spent his time pouring through books and maps searching in vain for the land of the boot but could not find even one single mention of it.
“I want to marry her, she is the most beautiful maiden I have evers seen. How will I ever be able to see her again if I cannot even find the land she comes from?” he cried to his courtiers.
The King fell into a depression and all of his courtiers and counsellors were worried. It was very disconcerting that their King had fallen deeply in love with a mysterious and unknown maiden from a far country and nobody knew its location or could even find it on a map.
The next day Linda Branca donned her mask and went about her work as usual but found she seemed to have even more and harder tasks than usual while the pretty maid had none. The King passed by looking down at the plain girl he had employed as she scrubbed the floor.
Later after she had completed her work she went to the King’s mother to ask permission to attend the banquet that evening. “You must ask the King,” she snapped in reply. Therefore at an opportune moment while the pretty maid was brushing the King’s hair she asked him ever so politely if she could attend the banquet that evening.
“What!” cried the King, “Get you gone or I will hit with my hairbrush!”
In the evening after she had finished her work she put on her beautiful blue gown with the gold trim, took off her mask and looked at herself in the mirror. She was pleased to see that if anything she looked lovelier that ever and went down to mingle with the guests in the banqueting hall.
The Land of the Hairbrush
As she entered the King, who had been watching the door attentively, gave a happy cry and ran over to greet her. From then on he danced with her all evening chatting and laughing gaily and never left her side.
“And what country did you say you came from?” he asked politely.
“Why, I am from the land of the hairbrush!” said Linda giggling at her own little joke.
“And where is that land?” asked the King but the intriguing maiden would not tell him no matter how he implored. He turned around to call over his wise men and asked them where the land of the hairbrush was not none of them knew. When he looked round again he found the beautiful and mysterious maiden had gone.
“Find her!” he commanded and although the banqueting hall was searched high and low there was no sign of that mysterious maiden, just some plain servant girl washing up in the kitchen.
The next day the King and all of his wise men poured over books and maps searching for the whereabouts of the land of the hairbrush but found not even a mention. The king flew into a rage and chased them all out and went through the maps and books alone.
He would not eat and he would not sleep but continued to study all the maps and books in the palace. When he had studied these and found nought he decreed that all the books and maps in the land must be sent to the palace. From then on he studied each and everyone himself for the land of the hairbrush and the land of the boot refusing to eat, sleep or drink until he had found it.
All the books and maps in his kingdom were brought to his palace and as good as his word he studied each one without taking a single sip to drink, a single bite to eat, or a single wink of sleep. By the time he had finished he was so weak he had to be carried to bed by his physicians but he had not found those mysterious lands. They begged him to eat and drink but he refused and said, “What do I care for food, or drink or sleep? I only care for the beautiful maiden I was dancing with.”
When Linda Branca heard the King was ill she took off her mask and put on her blue gown with the silver trim that she had worn on the first night. Looking at herself in the mirror she thought, “Maybe, It is not such a terrible thing to be pretty after all!”
The Masquerader Unmasked
Sneaking outside she made her way to the window of the King’s bedroom and peeped in for a few minutes before one of the King’s counsellors saw her.
“Whose is that beautiful face looking through the window at the King!” he cried.
“It is the mysterious maiden from the land of the boot,” said one.
“Nay, it is the beautiful maiden from the land of the hairbrush,” cried another.
The King jumped out of bed and ran to the window but when he opened it, there was no one to be seen.
“Mother, tell me who was at my window!” he cried.
“There was no one, or maybe just a masquerader,” she answered nonchalantly but she was very worried about her son fearing he was so ill he would die.
The following day the King had grown weaker and the royal physicians feared the worst. The King lay on his bed, refusing to eat, drink or sleep with his eyes set firmly on the bedroom window should the lovely face return. The entire palace fell quiet and as an atmosphere of gloom pervaded, Linda Branca, this time dressed herself in the blue gown with the gold trim and sneaked to the King’s bedroom window and peeped in.
She looked directly into the face of the King and he looked into hers. “Ha!” he cried jumping up and running to the window and managed to grasp a handful of the blue skirt.
“Masquerader, unmask yourself!” he cried.
Linda had quickly put on her mask and looked into the King’s face with the face of the plain girl he had employed for her plainess. He stepped back in surprise and then she slipped off the mask revealing her true beautiful face smiling at him with shining eyes.
“Ha! Now I know who the beautiful mysterious maiden from the land of the boot and the land of the hairbrush is!” he cried.
With that Linda Branca confessed to the king and his mother and all present. She told them the entire story of how she had longed to be plain and how she had concealed her beauty with the mask the artist had made for her.
No one had ever heard of a maiden who had yearned plainess instead of being proud of the beauty that nature had bestowed upon her. The King’s mother said, “I have always been confident my son would one day choose a rare and beautiful woman to be his wife,” while giving him a little dig in the ribs.
The King remained silent for a long time gazing upon the lovely face of Linda Branca with such love in his eyes but what he said was not what his mother expected. “If it was the will of Linda Branca I would humbly beg her hand in marriage.”
Linda Branca looked at the King in surprise and in his eyes she saw nothing but love but then turning quickly she placed her mask quickly on and turned again to face him,
“And how would you have her as your wife?” she said looking him full in the face while she wore the mask, “Like this?”
The King looked at her in the mask and looked deep into her eyes for they were still her own beautiful eyes that he saw.
Or perhaps like this?” she said pirouetting and pulling the mask off to face the King in her own natural beauty.
After a pause the King answered thoughtfully, speaking with deep sincerity, “I am asking for the hand of Linda Branca in marriage but in doing so I wish her to know that if she should accept there are three conditions that she must understand and agree. The first is that she would be her own sovereign over her own body and her own mind. The second is that she will have complete sovereignty over my body, soul and all my worldly goods. The third is that should she so wish she may wear or not wear the mask as is her want and it will make no difference for my love to her.”
Linda Branca looked at the King in surprise and for once she felt loved and desired above all. At last she knew deep down that she was happy to be blessed with beauty and from then on she would stay pretty.
The Azores are a Group of Portuguese islands situated roughly in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Over the centuries the people evolved their own folklore and traditions that explain certain aspects and features of volcanic landscape. Lagoa das Furnas (Pond or lake fire) is an volcanic crater, or caldera where local people use natural geothermal steam vents, mud pots, geysers and earth ovens to cook food and for health and recreational purposes. Dishes such as Cozido das Furnas or Furnace Stew are offered in local restaurants. Presented here is a legend that tells of the disappearance of a village at Lagoa das Furnas on the island of São Migue and explains the origin of these geothermal features.
The legend tells that there was once a beautiful village where the people were very happy. Life was so good that they needed to spend little time in working to make a living so they spent most of their hours celebrating and holding big parties.
One glorious morning when the sun was shining and the skies were blue one of the boys of the village went to a nearby lake to draw water for the family household tasks and to give to their animals. When he had drew some he drank some himself to quench his own thirst but noticed that the water had an unusual salty taste when it normally was fresh and clean. The boy then experienced a terrifying vision of disaster. This worried him greatly and ran home to tell the villagers and seek their advice. When he ran into the village waving and shouting about the water the villagers were in the middle of another celebration and were in no mood to listen to him. Instead they told him he must be having a fit of some kind and carried on with their fun dismissing him as being wrong in the head.
Indeed, no disaster materialized and a few days later the boy returned to the well once again. Going to the east end of the lake where he normally drew water he dipped his buckets into the lake but to his surprise fish began to jump out of the lake to lay gasping and dying on its shores. The shocked boy was now fully convinced that something dreadful was going to happen so he ran back home to warn his family and the villagers about what he had seen. Again the people were busy celebrating and no one took any notice of him, but this time, his grandfather who knew the boy very well did.
His grandfather warned the villagers to stop their celebrations. He wanted to send the fastest runners in the village to the highest peaks to look all about to see if anything unusual was happening. From the heights they could look to the north over the sea to see if it was calm or rough or if any bad weather was approaching. They could also look inland over the hills to see if anything was amiss. The villagers laughed at the old man and carried on with their celebrations and the runners were not sent. As no one would listen the old man decided he would go himself to the highest mountain to see what he would see and along with his grandson he climbed the very highest peak.
The Island of the Seven Cities
At the top the old man and his grandson looked out over the sea and could see great mists on the horizon and emerging from the mists a new land could be seen rising from the sea. The old man knew this was the Island of the Seven Cities. This frightened him greatly and he and his grandson hurried back to the village to warn the villagers shouting at them to take shelter in the church. The villagers were still busy having fun and celebrating and the music was so loud no one hear them. Those that did laughed at him or just ignored him.
Two days passed and no disaster came and nothing untoward at all happened. Nevertheless, the boy and his grandfather still remembered what they had seen on the mountaintop as they looked out over the sea. The old man decided they would take their animals to the market at a nearby town. So they drove their animals to town and spent a few days bargaining and negotiating good prices. With all business complete they decided to return to their home to the village.
As they approached the village along the same path they had left by they became aware that things were different. The landscape had changed. There were new hills and mountains and when they reached the place where their village should have been they were shocked and frightened to see that it had gone. In its place was a lagoon of clear water that bubbled volcanic gas.
Today the local people will tell you that the people of the lost village continue to live underneath the waters of the lagoon. The bubbles in the lagoon are when the people are doing their cooking under the lake and the smoke that rises at times from the water is from the cooking pans of the people. The smell is when they are cooking cornbread in the hidden crevices of the lagoon.
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum – By Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598) – Public Domain
Five Fabled Islands
Hy-Brasil, Buyan, Saint Brendan’s Isle, the Island of Antillia, and the Isle of Avalon are five fabled islands that were once believed to have existed by many people through the ages. All had their own magical qualities and characteristics that were given to them by the human culture they appeared in.
From the elusive island of Hy Brasil, King Breasal had a safe place to rule the world ensuring the natural order was kept. The Slavic people gave Buyan magical qualities to keep safe important concepts such as the Alytar and the Sacred Oak Tree and it was safe enough for Koschei the Deathless to keep his soul there.
St Brendan’s Voyage – By Unknown mediaeval scribe. (University of Augsburg, Germany (image)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
For Saint Brendan, although he found many islands, the Land of Promise, which he really sought may have been more of a goal of spiritual attainment. The seven Visigoth bishops found a distant island where a way of life they believed in and cherished could continue untroubled and in safety out of reach of their enemy. The Isle of Avalon holds a special place in the mythology of the British Isles as the place where their King awaits the call to return and save his people. Of course, there are many other ideas concerning these mythical places, but what really matters is what each person makes – or is made, from these five islands of fable.
A folktale from the Azores tells how there was once a Girl of Oranges who lived a solitary and lonely life in a world full of sorrow and dreams. You see there was once a time when she had been in love with a handsome prince. They had loved each other with all their hearts and had believed they had been made for each other and were full of happiness and hope for their future together. Sadly he was taken from her by unfortunate circumstances beyond either his or her control and although life went on for the Girl of Oranges it was never as it had once been.
This had a devastating effect on her and she came to believe that she could never love again. She looked around and saw lovers walking and holding hands, getting married and raising children and she worried about being on her own for the rest of her life. It seemed to her the door to happiness had been forever slammed shut and she became anxious and depressed.
She dreamed many dreams and in those dreams created many wonderful scenes of love and came to live in a fantasy world but she could not escape the real world. The strange thing was that the real world she imagined became gray and sad but the beautiful world she dreamed in her dream world never materialized and hope began to fade in her heart.
All around her, she saw many open doors that led into magical realms and many people entered these realms and were happy but as soon as she even thought about entering they were slammed shut. Despair and despondency fell upon her and she sank into a dark and lonely place keeping herself alive purely by her dreams but she came to no longer believe in love.
Seeing her sadness the gods came to her in one of her dreams and suggested that she go to the oracle to ask her for advice. She thought that she had nothing to lose and so went to see the oracle seeking her aid. The oracle was a kindly old woman who had been born with the gift of foresight which she used to help the people.
The girl talked to the oracle about her problem. The oracle listened to what the girl said and was greatly touched. She offered her all her sympathy and tenderness and by counseling her wisely and cleverly she succeeded in lifting the spirits of the girl. Indeed she took her to another place that was beautiful beyond compare and full of light. In this place the Girl of Oranges was reborn and she was able to begin to recreate her life again like a beautiful work of art.
The Girl of Oranges looked again at all the doors that had slammed shut and realized that none of those doors had locks and that when she approached one it would open up on its own, or only needed a push. With this discovery, she began to open the doors and explored the paths beyond and found new and magical places she had never heard of or dreamed about.
One day she opened a door and walked down a narrow path between beautiful flowers and amazing trees and to her wonder she saw lying in the middle of the path a big beautiful orange covered all in gold. The girl was astounded and ran to the golden orange and excitedly looked at it admiring its beauty. She looked around but could not find the orangery that it had come from so she went back to the oracle to asked her advice. The oracle told her that there was a magical and wonderful orangery that the golden orange had come from and that it was a long way down the path from where she had found it.
So she went back through the door and down the path carrying the golden orange in her hand. She walked and walked and walked along that path and eventually she found the wonderful orangery. When she found it she discovered that she was suddenly free and knew she was safe. Looking at the golden orange she carried in her hand she saw that it glowed gently and emitted a glorious light. In that light, she saw the face of her beloved and his lips whispered,
All around the globe legends abound of mythical cities, lands and islands that have been lost for some reason. Some, such as the mythical cities of El Dorado and Shambala are lost in jungles or impenetrable mountains.
Depiction of Thule – Public Domain
Others such as Lyonness, Cantre’r Gwaelod, or Atlantis, were drowned by the seas. Others such as Thule were rumored to exist on the edge of the ancient world their locations disputed, or like the legendary island of Antillia, also known as the Isle of Seven Cities, faded from view when approached by ships. Still others just could not be rediscovered or were located in inaccessible places like Agartha said to be located at the Earth’s core. Read more