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The wulver resembled a man with the head of a wolf.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The wulver has been described by folklorists as a fairy being, part of the folklore of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. A type of werewolf, it is part man, part wolf. A modern-day academic has speculated that the creature may be based on a human being suffering from Hunter’s syndrome; a local archivist however, suggests that the tale has no basis in folklore, and instead originated from a misinterpretation by an imaginative folklorist.

Narrative


The wulver was a type of fairy being[1] that kept to itself and was not aggressive if left in peace. The folklorist Jessie SaxbyJessie Margaret Saxby was an author and folklorist from Unst, one of the Shetland Islands of Scotland. She also had political interests and was a suffragette. , in Shetland Traditional Lore, writes:[2]

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 fishing, 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.

Explanations


After researching folklore traditions gathered primarily from Gaelic areas of Scotland,[3] Susan Schoon Eberly, an authority on congenital disorders, has speculated that the tale of the wulver may have its roots in a human condition known as Hunter’s syndrome.[4] Writing in May 2021 an archivist based in Shetland considered the narrative of the wulver was based purely on a misinterpretation made by Jessie Saxby in the 1930s.[5]

Citations



Bibliography


Bane, T. (2013). Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology. McFarland & Co.
Black, R. (2005). Commentary. In The Gaelic Otherworld: John Gregorson Campbell’s Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands. Birlinn.
Eberly, S. S. (1988). Fairies and the Folklore of Disability: Changelings, Hybrids and the Solitary Fairy. Folklore, 99(1).
Saxby, J. M. E. (1932). Shetland Traditional Lore. Grant & Murray.
Smith, B. (2021, May 18). The real story behind the Shetland wulver. Shetland Museum & Archives. https://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/blog/the-real-story-behind-the-shetland-wulver