Mermaid Myths: The Finfolk of Northern Scotland

Mermaids have been a major part of folklore all over the world for centuries; and Northern Scotland is no exception. The myth of the shapeshifting Scottish Finfolk has been one of the major influences on what we consider to be the modern mermaid; just as the Sirens, Merrows, and Nereids have been. Dive into one of the four MerMapp Mermaid Origins, and discover the myths behind one of Europe's most iconic mermaids.

Xandria Wilcox

4/2/20243 min read


The FinFolk are an old myth, originating in the Orkney Islands of Northern Scotland. Their appearances vary depending on whether or not the Finfolk in question is a Finman or a Finwife. The Finmen, the male counterparts to the Finwives, are described as tall, thin, and gloomy. They are crafty magicians, able to row from Norway to Orkney in seven oar-strokes and make their ships invisible. They often attempt to trick fishermen out of their silver, which FinFolk are incredibly fond of, or even their wives!

Finwives are known as the stereotypical beautiful mermaid, with long golden hair and lovely voices. Many are dead set on capturing themselves a handsome human husband to take care of their home, because if they do not, they’ll be forced to marry a Finman and work on land for silver to add to his hoard, or risk a horrible beating. If they are trapped on land, they’ll have a black cat companion that can turn into a fish, and relay messages to their family: but one could understand why they would prefer to avoid the whole mess entirely and simply marry a human.

The FinFolk's Spouse

But do not be fooled! Finfolk are not romantic figures to be pined after. Besides the obvious reason to prefer a human spouse over another Finfolk (we’re pretty great, when we want to be) a Finfolk’s Spouse is kept, not for their great beauty, but for demanding physical labor. Once they’ve been dragged off by their new spouse, a human will be dropped on the mystical island of Hildaland and immediately set to work maintaining their Finman or Finwife’s home.

Finmen, who are already off-putting, only want a human spouse for the bragging rights and the access to the Finfolk weakness: silver. A Finwife, however, will want a human spouse not only to avoid marrying a Finman, but also to avoid losing their incredible beauty, youth, and magic: a Finwife captured by a Finman will eventually turn into a Finhag.

FinFolk will lure their potential spouse in a variety of ways; Finwives tend prefer to lure people the old fashioned way, appearing as beautiful women and singing to attract attention. But just like the Finmen, Finwives will also disguise themselves as animals, inanimate objects, and even floating debris: just until they get close enough to snap you up. And unlike a Finwife stuck on land; you don’t get a magic cat to tell your family where you ended up!

How To Ward Off Your Future Bride

FinFolk have few recorded weaknesses beyond those of the normal fay-like creatures of Pre-Christian Myth; but of the ones they possess, their lust for silver is the strongest.

Silver is a rare commodity to the residents of Finfolkaheem, the underwater crystal halls from where the Finfolk hale. To avoid being abducted, one may toss a silver coin or bauble far from them, to lure the Finfolk away long enough to escape. The only thing that surpasses their love for humans is their love for silver, so they will surely take the bait.

Another way to ward off the Finfolk, and specifically the sailing Finmen, is to draw, engrave, or paint a cross on the bottom of your boat (because all of us have those, of course). Finfolk hate the symbol of the cross with a passion, and will do anything to avoid it. Although the Finmen are territorial, they will still avoid the cross if you sail into their waters.

The Modern Mer’s FinFolk Origin

Modern Finfolk are fairly secluded people because the habitat that best suits a Finfolk’s personality is the cold waters of the north, where you’re fighting large animals like sea lions, orcas, and sometimes sharks for food.. Finfolk aren't solitary, however; usually traveling in small groups for safety in numbers: and this can reflect in the way the modern FinFolk makes friends, preferring a tight knit group to a large group of acquaintances.

Some Finfolk may prefer warmer or landlocked waters, but one of the defining features of the Finfolk is their love for their peaceful, quiet life in the waves. To learn more about the FinFolk origin, and to see what your Origin is, take our Origin Quiz here. Share your results on social media and tag us so we can see your pod grow, and as always, happy swimming!