Trows are fascinating creatures found only in the folklore of the Orkney and Shetland islands. But, describing them accurately is difficult because sources are not clear. Folklorists have long insisted that the word “trow” is a corruption of “troll,” and that Orkney’s Trows descend from their Viking ancestors’ stories of Trolls.
Country and County: Shetland
THOM and Willie, two young fisher-mates of Lunna, in Shetland, were rivals for the hand of the fair Osla, daughter of Jarm. Now it so happened that, one October afternoon, they took their hand-lines and went out fishing together in their boat.
OF mermen and merwomen many strange stories are told in the Shetland Isles. Beneath the depths of the ocean, according to these stories, an atmosphere exists adapted to the respiratory organs of certain beings, resembling in form the human race, possessed of surpassing beauty, of limited supernatural powers, and liable to the incident of death.
A STORY is told of an inhabitant of Unst, who, in walking on the sandy margin of a voe, saw a number of mermen and mermaids dancing by moonlight, and several seal-skins strewed beside them on the ground. At his approach they immediately fled to secure their garbs, and, taking upon themselves the form of seals, plunged immediately into the sea.
In the following tale which appeared in ‘Some Folk-Tales and Legends of Shetland (1920)’ by John Nicolson, the ‘elements’ referred to are the bread and wine of the Eucharist and I suppose it is supposed to show the reputed strength of Christianity over pagan fairy magic.
In July 1833 a team of six fishermen entangled a mermaid in their fishing lines off the Isle of Yell.
Up-Helly-Aa is a Norse festival on Shetland during which a replica Viking longship is burned. It is to celebrate the 24th day after Christmas, or Up Helly Night. The festival is relatively new in Lerwick (early 19th Century) and has evolved over time. In 1840 a tar barrel raft was burned as part of the proceedings. By the 1870’s the long ship and Norse costumes were introduced.
Two Norse giants lived on the Isle of Unst, which is the most northerly of the Shetland Islands. One giant was called Herman and his rival was Saxi (Saxa).