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In the folkloric traditions of the Orkney and Shetland islands, a trow (alternatively trowe) is a small, troll-like fairy creature.


Trows, in general, are inclined to be short of stature, ugly and both shy and mischievous in nature. Their traditional grotesque and outlandish appearance is confirmed by some of the names ascribed to them - names such as Truncherface (trencher face) and Bannafeet (bannock feet).


In many stories, the trow remains invisible to humans which somewhat echoes with the Norwegian troll that is unable to venture outside in sunlight.


Like the troll of Scandinavian legend, with which the trow shares many similarities, trows are nocturnal creatures; venturing out of their ‘trowie knowes’ (earthen mound dwellings) solely in the evening, often proceeding to enter households as the inhabitants slept. While trows were more than likely to reward the provider of a service, they could also take revenge on those they felt had slighted them, and it never paid to cross one if you didn’t want your best cow to end up trow shot.

Trows traditionally have a fondness for music, and folktales tell of their habit of kidnapping musicians or luring them to their trowie knowes to play at their wedding feasts. The length of these feasts could often stretch into years in the outside world for the poor soul concerned, although it seemed to them that only a few days had passed.


Trows used to live inside earthen mounds, known locally as howes or knowes. The dwelling-places of the trows were said to be sumptuous and dazzling. Gold, silver and previous materials decorated the walls, while only fine food and drink was served at their tables.