I have read much about Scotland and have travelled there twice, so I feel I am well acquainted with its folklore, but I have recently learned about a new legend of the Highlands, that of the “water demon”, or, in Gaelic, each- uisge.
This creature is described as a water horse that appears on the shores of lochs (Scottish lakes) and whispers in order to attract its victims. When mounted by humans, it takes them into the water and devours them, throwing the entrails onto the shore.
An amazing book
Strangely, I came across this most Scottish of creatures in a book by a Spanish author, Arturo Fuentes. His is also an interesting story: in his early retirement, he decided to write a book, and if I’m right he has found a new career. He has written an amazing book, a thriller that combines history and modern times, crime and supernatural, all taking place in the beautiful, at times eerie, but always mysterious Scottish Highlands. In Spanish the book is called “También los demonios tiemblan”, literally meaning “Even the demons tremble”, so it’s quite suggestive, as is the cover. And when you begin reading it really enthralls you – I had this feeling that I didn’t want to put it down so that I might learn more, but at the same time I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it to end. I had to finish reading it of course, but I went back for more details, for another glimpse of the story.
The story unravels around the disappearance of four young girls in a swamp area around the town of Locharron, in the Highlands. No trace of them is found but for the heart and other entrails near the place where they were last seen. The people in the area are terrified and say it’s the work of “the one who whispers”, meaning the water horse or each uisge.
The police begin to investigate and they ask for the help of a marine archaeologist, James Allen, who happens to be on holidays in the area – where he was born – who teams up with a young police agent, Patricia Banner and a white-hat hacker who goes by the name of Collins. As the synopsis goes “they will be drawn into a fierce fight against evil, local superstition and the lack of cooperation of the local authorities. In order to get to the bottom of this strange case and defeat a dark opponent, Allen and Banner will have to find the connection between the heinous crimes, the Celtic legend of the “water demon” and a macabre object built in the XVI century”.
The description of the mysterious landscapes is so vivid I’m sure the author must have toured the Highlands at some time. He actually takes us there, and it is almost as if we feel the mist invade us as we guess the whispers of the water demons in the distance and glimpse its haunting shape on the shore of a loch. Having been to Scotland’s lochs I am not surprised they give rise to so many legends about strange creatures living in their depths: the waters are dark, pitch black in some cases as those of the Loch Ness. When I sailed its deep waters I was in awe as at any moment I expected the Loch Ness Monster to jump out of them and show itself!
But then, that is the magic and allure of Scotland, especially in the Highlands. A tough land, with a harsh climate, steep mountains and deep valleys, dark forests and green fields and the ever present mysterious lochs. Not to mention the old castles, most of them with their very own ghosts – and it’s this combination of scenery and folklore that makes Scotland a unique place in the world.
So remember. Next time you find yourself in the Scottish Highlands touring around the lochs, beware of a fine horse standing on the shore with an inviting look for you to ride it. If in addition you start hearing whispers drawing you to it, run for your life, for it will certainly be the creature Arturo Fuentes tells us about. I’ll certainly have that in mind, and in the meantime I’ll try to persuade Arturo – whose wife is a good friend – to have his book translated into English, so that you may all read it – it’s definitely worthwhile. For the time being, unless you speak Spanish, you’ll have to do with this post.
A final word to congratulate Arturo on his splendid book, and to ask him to start writing the new book of this series, as I know is his intention. I can’t wait to see where Allen and Banner’s adventures will take us next!