|Monster Art Show I: The Nuckelavee
|Written by Jonathan C. Wojcik - Thanks everyone who contributed art!
To many people, the word "fairy" immediately calls to mind a delicate, liliputian woman with an
insect's wings, flitting like a butterfly in a trail of sparkling pixie dust; a guardian angel at best and
mischievious at worst, they turn our teeth into spare change, turn our puppets into children and
sell Disney merchandise like hotcakes. Of course, in proper usage, "fairy" (originally "fae") is a
blanket term for a whole culture's worth of supernatural beings, including gnomes, dwarves,
goblins, trolls, and far stranger, sometimes horrifying monsters. One such example is known as
the Nucklavee, Nucklavis or Nuckelavee; a gruesome Scottish legend as far removed from
Tinkerbell as one could possibly get.
An almost god-like force of destruction and hatred, this particular "fairy" was said to haunt the
waters surrounding the 70 Orkney islands, where its very name is still considered unlucky by the
superstitious. Invisible and intangible in the sea, it assumed a body only upon breaking the
water's surface; a form described by local fables in nightmarish detail. The being was
sometimes horse-like, sometimes man-like, but most famously a fusion of both; a legless "rider"
growing directly from the back of his horrendous "mount." Whatever the shape, the Nuckelavee's
most terrible and single consistent feature was its completely skinless appearance, with pulsing
veins and raw muscles plainly exposed.
Though the creature was said to be tremendous in size, its actual proportions were bizarrely
mismatched. The humanoid's head was supposedly so large that it rolled from one shoulder to
the other on a seemingly useless neck, and its oversized hands dragged along the ground at the
ends of long, gangly arms. One or both heads - especially the horse - were said to bear only a
single, fiery eye. The horse's legs were rather vaguely described as being "part flipper," fully
flipper-like or accompanied by fin-like projections. Its mouth, or mouths, were huge and gaping,
with hideous teeth and fetid, filthy breath that struck all living things with disease.
Plague, famine, drought and catastrophes of every sort were blamed on this insidious entity,
whose powers ran as deep as its undying spite for mankind. The harvesting and burning of
seaweed was said to especially infuriate the Nuckelavee, who would strike the island's horses
with a deadly disease known as mortasheen. (And now you know where that word came from...)
Only two things kept the Nuckelavee under control: an aversion to touching or even crossing
fresh water, and a more benevolent spirit known as "Mither O' the Sea" or "Sea Mother," able to
lift the curse of mortasheen and drive the demon back to the briny depths.
Despite its rich background and striking appearance, this monster has been seldom
immortalized in artwork - until now! In January of 2009, I invited readers to submit their own
interpretations of the Nuckelavee for the first in hopefully a series of collaborative art galleries.
Prior to the endeavor, there were less than a dozen images of the Nuckelavee across all of
google and deviantart combined, but by the end of the month, I'd received over fifty! You've just
seen a few of them, but there's really no room to show off all the best on a single page. Do
yourself a favor and check out every entry in the gallery below, and if you feel inspired, it's never
too late to send in your own!
Click thumbnails for full-sized artwork and click submitter
names (where applicable) to see more of their creations!