The Kelpie

My family has Irish roots, so I thought I'd talk about a monster from Celtic mythology.


The kelpie is a malevolent water creature that haunts the rivers and lochs (lakes) of Scotland and Ireland primarily. It can take multiple shapes but usually appears as a horse with a dripping wet mane and it tries to trick women and children into taking a ride. Once the victim is on horseback, the kelpie runs into water and drowns the victim. Then it's munch-munch-munch. When it's craving men for dinner, it tends to take the form of a beautiful naked woman with seaweed in her hair.

Similar to the selkie legend, it's said that if you can steal the kelpie's bridle, you can capture it. No mean feat, because it doesn't wear a bridle.

What do you think? Are they scary?

I haven't read too many books that feature kelpies. In fact, only Nicole Peeler's Jane True series comes to mind. One of the protaganist's friends, Trill, is a kelpie who  mainly lives in the sea. Her two forms are a sea-pony and this bizarre humanoid shape with grey skin and a bony skull. She's kind of scary-looking and uses a glamor to pass for human, but she's not malevolent. She doesn't speak human languages very well, but she's just an average supernatural creature in a world populated with all kinds. I do recommend the Jane True series, they're funny, adventurey urban fantasy books with plenty of romance and I quite enjoy them.

A couple other books that reportedly have kelpies or similar creatures:

In Tithe by Holly Black.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Obviously, I think kelpies are under-utilized in fantasy storytelling. Maybe I'll try writing a kelpie flash fiction.

Falkirk, Scotland has two large, 30 meter high horse head sculptures that are scheduled to be completed this month, called The Kelpies. They're pretty fantastic.

Lastly, I leave you with a song about a kelpie from Jethro Tull.

Jethro Tull - Kelpie.

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Image: Boy on White Horse by Theodor Kittelsen

1 comment:

  1. Kelpie are one of my favorite creatures! Anne Bishop has some in her Ephemera novels. They're fascinating. I'd love to see them in more fantasy novels!


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