Boat spirits, sea monsters and seal women: Fishermen and hidden aquatic dangers in the Faroe Islands

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Abstract

This article discusses aquatic mythologies of the Faroes with focus on the narratives about the shoveller (also called ‘the man on board’), a boat spirit nesting in deep-sea fishing ships. The aim of the article is to examine and interrogate cultural representations of the relation between sea and land in the Faroes today by means of critical reflection on and analysis of the meaning of water-related mythology and folklore: what is the role of the stories and legends about the shoveller and other supernatural beings in present-day conversation about the sea, the islands, and the future? The shoveller, the seal woman, and the others on the ‘other side’ are protagonists of the polyvalent narratives shaping the folklore of the Faroes. They continue to reappear in new settings and among new generations. The spirits, water monsters, and seal women help people envisage what lies beneath the surface, the ocean, and the evident aquapelagic landscape. The shoveller is also a metaphor for the risk and danger in life beyond the fishing vessel today – he is a figure fooling, entertaining, frightening and1 confusing the islander in the age of globalisation, but also a kobold instructing and guiding the precarious islander in everyday struggle at home and away.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)173
Number of pages185
JournalSHIMA
Volume16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Ocean
  • Folklore
  • Spirits
  • Coastal communities
  • Fishermen
  • Sea monsters
  • Seascape
  • Faroe Islands

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