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Legend of the Kelpies: Myth, Mystery, and History

An Artistic Interpretation of Scotland's Mysterious Water Spirit by Linley Barba

Deep within the lochs of Scotland lurks a creature feared by many. Known as the Kelpie, this malicious being is said to use its supernatural abilities to lure and trap unsuspecting victims. While the story of the Kelpie has persisted through folklore, only a few who have encountered this creature have lived to share the tale.

The Kelpie’s Origins

The Kelpie or water horse is an aquatic spirit originating from Scottish folklore. The origin of the name Kelpie is unknown, but the word may be derived from the Scottish Gaelic words’ calpa’ or ‘cailpeach’, meaning heifer or colt. These creatures inhabit the water banks and lochs, preying on any humans they encounter. The Kelpie will entice their victim, tempting them to move closer and closer, and once you are in their grasp, your flesh becomes bound to their hide. The Kelpie will then quickly stride to deep water to submerge and drown their victim. Some tales say the Kelpie then devours the flesh of its victim, spitting out its entrails on the water bank; others simply say the victim is never seen again.

The origins of the Kelpie are believed to be rooted in human sacrifices to the water gods. However, this concept eventually passed, and the story was then used as a cautionary tale for adventurous young children, advising them to be wary of nearby lochs and rivers. In addition, the story may warn of the advances of unknown strangers feigning kindness, who may have more malicious motives.

Appearance and Abilities of a Kelpie

The Kelpie is described as a beautiful, majestic black or white horse. They can also transform into human form, typically as an attractive young man, but can’t morph their hooves into human feet; additionally, in human form, their hair can often be bedraggled with seaweed. However, the true form of this creature is said to be a water demon, with the body of a horse, the fins of a fish, and a mouth of razor-sharp teeth to tear through human flesh. Through the Kelpies’ ability to shapeshift, they can take on any form they wish to deceive their victim best.  In addition to their shapeshifting abilities, The Kelpies possess a diverse range of aquatic, supernatural abilities, such as running on water or summoning floods and waves to wash travellers to a watery grave.

Kelpie’s Held Captive

Despite the Kelpie’s ghoulish tale, they have a weakness. If you can dismount their harness, they will be compelled to obey your every command. Possessing the strength of over ten horses and the stamina of many more, their abilities are well utilised by their masters. Many castles in Scotland have been attributed to a Kelpie’s brute force, such as the House of Murphy. However, if you decide to use the power of a Kelpie to do your bidding, you and your family will be forever cursed.

Legend of the Kelpies: The Tale of the Ten Children

The Legend of the Kelpies, a cornerstone of Scottish folklore, one of the most famous accounts of the creature, involves a Kelpie and ten children. The Kelpie lures nine children onto its back and turns to chase the tenth. The child strokes the Kelpie’s nose, and his fingers become stuck. However, he manages to cut off his finger and escape the beast. He’s then forced to watch his friend’s passing, dragged beneath the depths of the water, never to be seen again.

Kelpie’s in Scottish Culture Today

The Kelpies, towering horse head sculptures, stand against a clear blue sky in Falkirk, Scotland.
The iconic Kelpies sculptures, situated between Falkirk and Grangemouth in Scotland, glow under the sunlight. Image from a contributor at Horror Obsessive, personal collection.

The story of the kelpies is still held firm in Scotland today. Standing at 100 ft tall, a monument of two horse-heads named The Kelpies was launched in November 2013 in Falkirk, Scotland. The name was to represent the creatures, but the design was to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture, shaping the layout of the Falkirk area. Sculptor Andy Scott said: “The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures.” He continued to state that he “took that concept and moved with it towards a more equine and contemporary response, shifting from any mythological references towards a sociohistorical monument.”

In Conclusion

The haunting legend of the Kelpies has stood the test of time and remains a source of fear and fascination for many in Scotland today. Its story has been handed down from generation to generation, sending shivers down the spines of those who hear it. This mythical creature is a stark warning of the perils beneath a peaceful facade, reminding us to always stay vigilant and respectful of the natural world.

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Written by Charles Buttle

Meet our writer, Charles from England, a horror expert and enthusiast of unearthly tales. Growing up in a real-life haunted house, he developed his interest in the unknown at a young age. Charles has always been fascinated by the horror genre and what it tells the audience about human psychology and modern culture.

From gaming, film/television, creepypastas, and urban legends, Charles has explored every horror aspect and uses his expertise to create informative, engaging, and high-quality articles for his readers.

In addition to his work with Horror Obsessive, as a freelance journalist and content writer, Charles has contributed to various publications and websites, covering a diverse range of topics and stories.

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