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The wulver or wullver is a kind of wolf-like humanoid creature in the folklore of the Shetland Islands of Scotland.[1] In modern times, the origin of the wulver has been disputed.[2]


The wulver is said by the Shetland folklorist Jessie Saxby to be benevolent,[3][4] although later accounts state that they became violent if provoked.[5] They were generally friendly to locals, however, and were known to share the fish they caught with them.[6][4] They were usually described as looking like furry people with the head of a wolf.[3][4] Some accounts claim they were never human to begin with.[6]

Saxby, in Shetland Traditional Lore writes:[7]

The Wulver was a creature like a man with a wolf's head. He had short brown hair all over him. His home was a cave dug out of the side of a steep knowe, half-way up a hill. He didn't molest folk if folk didn't molest him. He was fond of catching and eating fish, and had a small rock in the deep water which is known to this day as the "Wulver's Stane". There he would sit fishing sillaks and piltaks for hour after hour. He was reported to have frequently left a few fish on the window-sill of some poor body.

In previous publications, Saxby spelled the word as "wullver."[8][9]


After researching folklore traditions gathered primarily from Gaelic areas of Scotland,[10] an authority on congenital disorders, Susan Schoon Eberly, has speculated that the tale of the wulver may have its basis in humans suffering a medical condition; possibly Hunter syndrome, she suggests.[11] This theoretical basis of wulver lore has been criticised as not useful, or, especially, reliable, particularly given a lack of any surviving detailed description of the wulver; the malleable and shifting nature of oral traditions; and the existence of other, analogous, mythological creatures in many folklore traditions (suggesting that tales of such creatures are likely to spontaneously arise in many places).[12]

Others, such as Brian Smith, argue that the wulver is an entirely fictitious creation that was never part of Shetland folklore, contending the creature is solely the creation of Saxby. The proponents of this view argue that Saxby, whether intentionally or in error, misinterpreted the meaning of a name in her sources.[2] In this interpretation, Jakob Jakobsen and John Spence had mentioned a hill called Wulvers Hool in their writings, stating that it was named after a fairy. Saxby, not understanding that the word wulver was derived from an old Norse word for fairy, accidentally created the wulver as Shetland folklore, writing about it as if belief in such a creature had always existed.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bane, Theresa (2013). Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology. McFarland. p. 346. ISBN 978-1-4766-1242-3.
  2. ^ a b c Smith, Brian (18 May 2021). "The real story behind the Shetland wulver". Shetland Museum Archives.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Allardice, Pamela (1990). Myths, Gods and Fantasy: A Sourcebook. Prism Press. p. 224. ISBN 1853270520.
  4. ^ a b c Briggs, Katherine Mary (1976). A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures. Pantheon books, New York. pp. 445–446. ISBN 0-394-40918-3.
  5. ^ Narváez, Peter (1991). The Good People: New Fairylore Essays. Garland Pub. p. 243. ISBN 9780824071004.
  6. ^ a b "Six ancient myths from the Scottish islands". The Scotsman. 7 July 2016.
  7. ^ Saxby, Jessia (1932). Shetland Traditional Lore. Grant and Murray. p. 141.
  8. ^ Saxby, Jessie (11 January 1930). "Trows and Their Kindred, Part II". The Shetland Times.
  9. ^ Saxby, Jessie (1905). "Sacred Sites in a Shetland Isle". The Antiquary. 41: 138.
  10. ^ Black, Ronald (2005). The Gaelic Otherworld: John Gregorson Campbell's Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands.
  11. ^ Eberly, Susan Schoon (1988). "Fairies and the Folklore of Disability: Changelings, Hybrids and the Solitary Fairy". Folklore. 99 (1): 58–77. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1988.9716425. JSTOR 1259568.
  12. ^ Schmiesing, Ann (2014). Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Wanye State University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8143-3841-4.