A Whole Lotta’ Ugly from Scotland: The Nuckelavee

by Rebecca

Many creatures of folklore embody a balance of good and evil. For instance, the Domovoi that we discussed in issue one would help around the house, but if you ticked him off, he might kill you while you slept. See, good and evil, I am not going to give you the percentages  (30% good, 70% evil). It is why I’m fascinated with the Nuckelavee; it’s bad to the bone! Moreover, since it’s skinless you can really tell!

The Nuckelavee hails from Scottish lore. It is a member of the Fuath family, the Fuath are water spirits. Let me tell you, this thing is evil through and through.  We’ll start from the outside in.

You could describe the Nuckelavee as an aquatic centaur, but that does not really do it justice. It is generally described as a mix of horse and man, like a centaur, but unlike the traditional centaur, its legs are part fin. The Nuckelavee’s head is human shaped, like the centaur’s, but larger with a wide mouth that sticks out like a pig’s snout. Instead of two eyes, the Nuckelavee only has one that is huge and bloodshot. Sometimes the eye is described as flaming. It is muscular and strong, just like a centaur. Nasty, right? Well get this, it is skinless. That’s right, it is hairless and skinless. You can see the Nuckelavee’s black blood as it courses through the yellowed veins of its muscles. To quote Cleveland from The Family Guy, “That’s just nasty.”

All right, it’s ugly as sin, but I’m sure it’s not all bad. Guess again. The Nuckelavee’s breath is deadly. If it breathes on an animal, it could very well die immediately, the same with plants. The Nuckelavee is blamed for crops that fail from sea winds, and for livestock that would fall over high rocks near the shore.  At no point have I read of a Nuckelavee doing anything that did not result in destruction, disease, or death. See, bad to the bone!

What now? How do I avoid this bad boy? For starters, do not burn seaweed to make kelp. The pungent smell this creates drives the Nuckelavee to utter vengeful madness. You know, all that killing crops and such is it on a good day! Important tip, the Nuckelavee cannot cross running water. It also cannot abide fresh water. The well informed traveler in the Scottish Isles carries a bottle of spring water on their person, just in case. Also, since the Nukelavee is a member of the Fuath family, cold steel will kill it.

See kids, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover! Ugly on the outside, ugly on the inside; that’s the Nuckelavee.