Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mermaid Avenue

Wilco and Billy Bragg - Secret of the Sea

Today's post is loosely hobbled together around the theme of dangerous creatures of the sea - so I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from a Scottish folktale, Morag and the Water Horse. If you're not familiar with this particular beastie, a Water Horse is a shape-shifting monster that lives in lochs and roams the hillside searching for unlucky people to devour...

"One golden morning as (Morag) was turning her shuttle without a care in the world, a dark shadow came between herself and the sunlight, and she broke off her song with a scream.

'I did not mean to startle you,' said a pleasant voice; and looking round, Morag discovered a young man standing beside her. He was tall and comely, and there was the look of strength on his broad shoulders. Yet his appearance was strange, for his clothes and hair were dark and dripping with water.

'How is it you are so wet?' asked Morag. 'For there is not a cloud to be seen in the sky.'

'For sure,' the young man answered easily, 'the sole of my foot slipped as I passed by a tarn high in the hills, and I fell into the water. The sun will soon dry me.'

He sat on the ground by Morag's side, and she was not loth to let her spinning-wheel hang idle while he spoke fair words to her. Yet in spite of the charm in his manner, his pleasant speech, and tender glances, Morag could not help feeling that there was something strange about him, although she tried to push this thought away from her mind.

As he felt the sunlight on his scalp, the young man brushed one hand over his damp head.

'Lay your head upon my lap,' said Morag, 'and let me smooth your hair.'

And while the young man did as she bade him, she began to comb his dark locks with gentle hands. But suddenly she paused in her combing, and terror entered her soul.

For she saw that the teeth of the comb were choked with fine green strands of weed and grains of silt. That weed and silt she knew well, for had she not seen it often in her father's net when he fished in the great loch below the hill-side? In truth, it was the liobbagach an locha that was wrapped round the roots of the young man's hair . . . Young man? This was no young man, but the dreaded Water Horse itself, risen from its lair and present in this comely shape to lure her to her death. . . ."
(source for quote: Scottish Folk-tales and Legends retold by Barbara Ker Wilson, published by Oxford University Press, New York, © 1990)

the merciless Water Horse???

The Pixies - Palace of the Brine (thanks Robin!)

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