Books by Tom Muir 

Orkney's only traditional Orcadian storyteller

Bryce Wilson's mermaid illustration from The Mermaid Bride and Other Orkney Folktales by Tom Muir, Orcadian storyteller

One thing about Orcadians - they don't "toot their own horns," as we say in America.

I'm writing this page because Tom never would. But I love the Orkney stories he's retold in his books.

If you like folklore I think you'll appreciate them, too.

Tom Muir, Orkney's traditional Orcadian storyteller, Orkney Islands, Scotland. Photo by Katarina Juvancic

Skip down to find books by Tom Muir here.

Tom is the one who can best describe his love of the old stories ....

Intro from the first of the books by Tom Muir 
~ The Mermaid Bride  ~

The winter sun had passed beyond sight, and darkness spread over the land. The people had fed their animals and closed them in for the night. Inside the broch the fire burned brightly in the centre of the room, casting shadows on the wall that twisted and danced. 

Photo of campfire

The long winter nights were ideal for telling stories, and all the eyes in the room were turned towards the old man with the long white beard as he began to speak.

They had all heard his tales before, but he had the gift to turn his words into colorful pictures in the imagination of all who listened to him. 

Old illustration of storytelling around a fire

His story was a well-known one, of how the faeries had stolen a baby and replaced it with one of their own, a spiteful little creature with a cruel heart.

They all knew where the faeries lived, and they avoided those places. But the people now had iron to protect themselves, and they were not so frightened anymore.

Iron age broch - Broch of Borwick, Yesnaby, Orkney Islands, ScotlandIron Age Broch

Generations passed, and the Vikings found these green islands off the northern tip of Scotland, so different from the lands they knew. The Picts who lived here spoke a strange language that the Vikings could not understand. One man had learnt to speak the Vikings' tongue, the first of many to do so.

He told them the tales that were told to him as a child. Of the beautiful mermaid who lured away a man from a house by the shore, never to be seen again. And of the selkie folk who swam in the sea for most of the year but who could throw off their skins and dance in human form when the tide was at its highest. 

Rackwick Beach on the island of Hoy, Orkney, Scotland. You can imagine the selkies dancing here.

In the Viking longhouse the men feasted by the long fire that ran down the middle of the room. As the ale flowed, the old saga man stood up to recite the stories of the kings of old, and the jarls who fought great battles and won riches and land.

The children who were playing at the door ran to an old woman sitting in the corner spinning wool. "Granny, tell us that story of the Ash Raker who kills the Stoor Worm."

Bryce Wilson's illustration of the Mester Stoorworm in The Mermaid Bride, by Orcadian storyteller Tom Muir

Orkney's folktales are as old as the prehistoric houses that grace our islands. They were told for hundreds, even thousands of years, until they were stamped out in the name of progress.

Science explained the things that we could not understand. Archaeology has answered many questions about the ruins that lie hidden in the mounds, once the homes of the fairy folk. 

Cuween Hill Tomb in the Orkney Islands, Scotland

We forget that the creatures in the stories were once as real to people as the fish in the sea or the birds in the air.

Bryce Wilson's illustration of a finman in The Mermaid Bride, Orkney folklore by Orcadian storyteller Tom Muir

If we forget our folklore then we are in danger of losing an important part of our heritage. For the first time ever, the folktales of Orkney have been brought together in one book.

No doubt there are other stories that are still lying hidden on bookshelves, or half forgotten in people's memories. 

Katherine Soutar's cover illustration for Tom Muir's Orkney Folk Tales

This collection is as much as I can discover, and has taken many years to find. Some of the stories are familiar, others not so. Many of the tales are published here for the first time.

It is time to read these stories to our children, and our children's children. We live in the computer age, but surely there is still room for magic and wonder in our lives.

- Tom Muir, November 1997

The Ring of Brodgar in the moonlight - Stenness, Orkney Islands, Scotland

* A big thank you to Bryce Wilson and Katherine Soutar for allowing us to showcase their beautiful illustrations here.

Tom's latest book!

Hear one of Tom's favorite tales
from his new book.

Tom Muir's Scottish Folk Tales of Coast and Sea

More books by Tom Muir


The long-awaited 25th anniversary edition of Tom Muir's The Mermaid Bride is out! With new stories and illustrations added, and at the originl price, this book is a real bargain. Buy it here.

Orkney Folk Tales, books by Tom Muir, illustrated by Katherine Soutar and Sheila Faichney
Tom Muir's Tales of Viking Lands, illustrated by Anna Anglemark
Landscapes of Scapa Flow, War - Peace - Nature

By Tom Muir and Scapa Flow Partnership
Silent II: text by Tom Muir, photographs by Keith Allardyce

And two for the bairns ...

Assipattle and the Stoorworm, as told by Tom Muir, Orcadian traditional storyteller
Books by Tom Muir: The Hogboon of Hellihowe

And finally, a few collectible books worth searching for ...

Go here to discover the little-known story of Orcadian John Rae, the Arctic explorer who discovered the last navigable link through the Northwest Passage.

Traditional Orkney folktale, told by Tom Muir, Orkney IslandsAnother traditional Orkney folktale for the bairns
The Shorter Orkneyinga Saga - by T Muir, Orkney Islands
Silent - Orkney abandoned buildings photographs by Keith Allardyce and text by Tom MuirThe original, haunting Silent book - photos by our dear friend, Keith Allardyce

You might like these, too:

Books by Scotland's only living Orcadian storyteller, the Orkney Islands' Tom Muir. Find out more about Orkney at

Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!

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