Blue Men of the Minch

Merbeing of Scotland.

Physical description: Blue skin. Long, gray face.

Behavior: Swims alongside ships to lure sailors into the water but can be overwhelmed by a skilled rhymer or riddler. Able to conjure storms.

Habitat: Underwater caverns. Distribution: The Minch, the strait between the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides and Scotland, especially off the Shiant Islands. Possible explanations:

(1) A personification of dangerous waters.

(2) A folk memory of Tuareg slaves from North Africa taken to Scotland in the ninth century by Norse pirates and slave traders. These nomadic people are still known as Blue Men today because of their indigo robes. The wide-ranging Vikings did apparently visit North Africa and may have even engaged in some slave trading there. However, equating the two Blue Men groups seems a stretch.

Sources: John Gregorson Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Glasgow, Scotland: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1900), pp. 199-202; Donald Alexander Mackenzie, Scottish Folk-Lore and Folk Life (London: Blackie, 1935); Gwen Benwell and Arthur Waugh, Sea Enchantress (London: Hutchinson, 1961), pp. 173-174.

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