People have always had an instinctual fear of what lurks beneath the surface of the water. People all over the world have heard stories about sea serpents or man-eating whales or creatures who have grown a bit too big and dangerous in the depths. One of the most famous water monsters is the Loch Ness Monster, which supposedly resides in the Loch Ness in the highlands of Scotland.
Most people have probably heard the theory that the creature residing in Loch Ness is a plesiosaur whose ancestors somehow survived the event that wiped out the dinosaurs and the Ice Age. However, scientists have pointed out that the loch does not have the warm waters that plesiosaurs lived in. And that, being cold-blooded, a plesiosaur would never be able to survive in waters that were so cold. And if it did happen to be warm-blooded, than the lake wouldn’t have enough wildlife to sustain the massive amounts of food a creature of its size would require. Below is the image of a plesiosaur, for those who might never have seen one before:
Others believe that the creature in the loch could be some variety of long-necked newt. Others have decided that the monster is nothing more than a large fish, an otter, or a seal that has been mistaken for something more unusual.
In 1933, modern sightings of the creature of Loch Ness began with the building of a road along the loch. In 1934, the famous “surgeon’s photograph” at the top of this blog post was taken. It was at this point that there was a ton of excitement around the possibility of a real life lake monster living in the Scottish loch. However, there are much earlier accounts and legends of things living in Loch Ness, as well as in bodies of water all over Scotland.
Kelpies and Each Uisge
There have long existed stories of kelpies and each uisge dwelling in the lochs and rivers and streams and brooks of Scotland. These creatures both belong to a family of creatures of European myth known as water horses. In fact, the name each uisge (pronounced augh iskey) is Scottish Gaelic for “water horse”. Water horses are typically white, gray, or black horses (depending on the specific kind of water horse) that have a habit of standing around looking pretty for any humans that might pass by. However, any human that gets onto a water horse’s back is in for a nasty surprise. While some are nicer than others, in the case of the kelpie and the each uisge, any human that climbs astride them will soon find themselves stuck to the horse, whose skin has become like tar. At that point, the water horse makes a mad dash to its home, which is usually the closest body of water, and drags their rider to a watery grave. Both the kelpie and the each uisge would then devour their victims, with the each uisge leaving only the liver behind. The main difference between the kelpie and each uisge is habitat. Kelpies typically inhabited brooks and streams and ponds. The each uisge inhabited lochs and was the more ferocious of the two. Below is one rendition of what a kelpie or each uisge could look like:
Now, the water horses didn’t only take the form of a horse. They would also often take the form of a human in an attempt to lure people in. Interestingly, the kelpie and the each uisge usually took the form of an attractive young man, although most water monsters stereotypically take the form of a gorgeous young woman, like the Rusalka, some versions of mermaids, and the Lorelei. Many people now believe that the tales of kelpies and each uisge were used to keep young children away from strangers, in addition to keeping them away from waters where they could accidentally drown. The most telling aspect of a water horse was that they typically had waterweed in their hair in human form, or in their mane in horse form. I am among the people that believe the Loch Ness Monster is merely a modern interpretation of the belief of a horrifying creature lurking in the depths of Scottish waters.
Kelpies and Each Uisge in Folklore
In one tale, there was a gorgeous young farmer’s daughter that met an attractive stranger near town. She let him lay his head in her lap to sleep and quickly noticed the waterweed in his hair. She carefully cut away the bits of her clothing that had touched him, in case they got stuck to him, and removed his silver necklace (which was a bridle when he was in horse form). He immediately was forced back into his horse form and had to listen to the woman as long as she had his necklace. So she took him home and made him work as a horse on her father’s farm for a year and a day, as he was far stronger than a normal horse. However, during his time as a farm horse he was not treated unfairly. He was well-fed and taken care of in exchange for his work. As such, when the woman gave him back his bridle, he told her how much he admired her bravery and cleverness and compassion, and asked for her hand in marriage. She accepted, on one condition: that he never take horse form and eat humans ever again. He agreed and lived out a normal human life with his wife.
Another story involves two brothers and an each uisge. The two brothers were down near the loch, playing or fishing or the like depending on the version of the story. Soon the brothers happened upon a gorgeous horse, either white or black in color. The brothers approached the horse and quickly found it to be friendly. One brother clambered right up onto the horse, while the other brother was more wary and merely pet the strange creature. However, the creature’s skin soon got sticky like tar and the brothers quickly found themselves stuck fast: one brother by a decent bit of his body and one by his hand. The horse than bolted towards the loch, dragging both the boys under. However, the brother who only had a hand stuck pulled out his knife, cutting off his hand and freeing himself. His brother wasn’t so lucky and was pulled down to the bottom of the loch before his brother’s horrified eyes.
In another tale, seven small girls wandered upon a beautiful horse, once again either white or black depending on the story. They all quickly climbed astride it, wanting to ride the beautiful creature. The horse’s back stretched to accommodate every new rider. Their older brother soon found them and heard the horse in his mind, beckoning him to come for a ride. But the boy ignored the call, rushing forward and trying to warn his young sisters. The horse immediately took off, diving into the water with the young girls. The only thing ever found of them were the entrails that washed up on shore.