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In Orkney folklore, Finfolk are sorcerous shapeshifters of the sea, the dark mysterious race from Finfolkaheem who regularly make an amphibious journey from the depths of the Finfolk ocean home to the Orkney Islands. They wade, swim or sometimes row upon the Orkney shores in the spring and summer months, searching for human captives. The Finfolk (both Finman and Finwife ) kidnap unsuspecting fishermen, or frolicking youth, near the shore and force them into life long servitude as a spouse.


According to folklore, the under water dwelling of the Finfolk, known as Finfolkaheem (literally "Finfolk's Home") is regarded as the place of origin for the Finfolk, and their ancestral home. A fantastic under water palace with massive crystal halls, Finfolkaheem is surrounded, inside and out, by ornate gardens of multi-coloured seaweed. It's never dark in Finfolkaheem, because it is lit by the phosphorescent glow of tiny sea creatures at night. Its great halls and vast rooms are decorated with moving underwater draped curtains whose colours move and dance with the underwater currents.

Human Abduction

Unlike the "Selkie" made famous by the "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry", the Finfolk are neither romantic or friendly. Instead of courting the prospective spouse, Finfolk simply abduct them. Regarded as territorial and greedy, the Finfolk, in addition to their lust for humans, have a weakness for silver and things made of silver metal, such as coins and jewelry. According to legend a possible way to escape abduction is to exploit this Finfolk weakness by tossing silver coins away from one's self. The motivation for the amphibious abductions are inspried, in part, because marriage to a human is preferred over other Finfolk.

To capture the unsuspecting human bride or groom, the Orkney Finfolk cunningly disguise themeselves and their fins as other sea animals, plants or even as floating clothes. The Finfolk kidnapping attempt begins by approaching the prospective mate cautiously, floating ever closer, until it is possible to leap up and grab the victim. The Finmen often use another tactic, appearing in human form disguised as fishermen in a row boat, or a fishing boat propelled by oars. The Finwife prefers a more natural form, and often appears as a mermaid

Married Life

Whatever the method of abduction, the (often screaming) hapless human captive is ferried away to the floating, and sometimes disappearing, mystical island of Hildaland where the rest of one's days are spent performing rigorous duties as either the husband to the Finwife, or wife to the Finman. Yet another compelling reason for Finfolk intermarriage with humans; should a Finwife mary a Finman, she loses both her beauty and mystical charm. As she ages (without a human husband), her ugliness increases until she becomes the Finwife hag.

References in Orkney Folklore

Modern Renditions

  • "A Time to Keep and Other Stories" Brown, George M, ISBN 0-8149-0929-9
  • "Selected Stories" Brown, George M, Vanguard Press, Incorporated, NY 1983 ISBN 0-8149-0929-9
  • "The Wheel of the Finfolk" Jackson, R. Illustated By Warner, P. Capricorn Books. 1984 ISBN 0-7011-0487-2

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