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Published: 17 February 2017

By Andy Ross

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Shetland stories

Shetland, as in the rest of the world, is part of a storytelling tradition which harks back to Viking tales.

All across the planet people tell stories. About animals with magic powers who talk and converse with people. About the wiles and ways of everyday folk. About kings, and queens, and rulers. In Southern Africa we have tales about zebras getting their stripes, and chameleons which can see into the past and the future with their amazing independently rotating eyes. We tell stories of ghosts and spirits, and of everyday people. We relate family stories too, a never-ending cornucopia of knowledge and wisdom passed down through generations. 

In these islands the storytelling tradition is just as magical. There are tales of trows, the little folk who live in the peat hills, and of ancient gods. There are wonderful stories about people sleeping for thousands of years, and of selkie wives, seals which come ashore and cast off their skins to reveal their human forms. There are stories about the ways people used to live and modern stories which have become part of the mythology of the place. In the long winter nights when the wind howls around the chimneys, these stories have cheered many a heart for many a year. 

So, as the last of the winter weather eases and the strengthening daylight dawns earlier each day, and as the Spring bulbs sprout up through grass with their promise of cheery colour, draw up a chair and "set dee doon" beside the fire to listen to two anecdotes told by Lawrence Tulloch and his father, Tom, in Shetland dialect. And let's raise a glass to those who keep memory and tradition alive.

(In memory of Lawrence, February 2017)