A shape-shifting horse like water spirit said to haunt the rivers and streams of Scotland. Kelpies are said to have backward hooves and could change between horse and water. It is said that the horse would mate with a mortal horse and its off spring would have golden wishing hooves. However, when approached, the offspring would suck one in to drown in the nearest body of water. Kelpies are also said to aid water mills and dispose of trash in the sea. Kelpies may hate humans for ruining their home. It is said that one who mentions Christ’s name after being trapped will be thrown off the horse.
The Kelpie was also known to lure humans, especially children into the water to kill and eat them. It usually does this by encouraging children to ride on its back, where its skin becomes sticky – almost adhesive – and it then drags them to the bottom of the water to devour leaving only the heart or liver. A common Scottish tale is the story of nine children lured onto a Kelpie’s back, while a tenth kept his distance. The Kelpie chased him and tried to catch him, but he escaped. A variation on this is that the tenth child simply stroked the Kelpie’s nose, but when his finger became stuck to it he took a knife from his pocket and cut off his own finger. He saved himself, but was unable to help his friends; they are pulled underwater with the Kelpie.
Commonly known as spirits of the dead, Kelpies are not benevolent creatures and some folklore even says that they will not come unless summoned, or to eat.
There was one way in which a Kelpie could be defeated and tamed – the Kelpies’ power of shape shifting was said to reside in its bridle, and anyone who could claim possession of it could force the Kelpie to submit to his or her will. A Kelpie in subjugation was highly prized, it had the strength of at least 10 horses and the endurance of many more, but the fairy races were always dangerous captives, especially those as malignant as the Kelpie. It was said that the MacGregor clan were in possession of a Kelpie’s bridle, passed down through the generations from when one of their clan managed to save himself from a Kelpie near Loch Slochd.
Kelpies are referenced in some modern books. For example, in Holly Blacks’ books Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, the Kelpie was a water horse that would grant a boon/wish for something in return.