Herman and Saxe

In Shetlandic folklore, two giants who once lived in Unst. Herman resided in a capacious cave (heljer) in the neighborhood of Hermaness, called Herman's Ha', which Saxe occupied a subterranean cavern in the side of the Muckle Pobie, called Saxe's Ha'.

Now, it happened that Herman had captured a whale at Burra-firth, and as it was exceptionally large, he asked neighbour Saxe for the loan of his kettle (a great, cauldron-shaped cavity in the rocks), in which to boil his gigantic prey. But Saxe, having an eye to business, would only lend the kettle on condition that he got half of the whale. These terms seemed exorbitant to Herman, and indignant at the churlish conduct of his neighbour, he seized a huge boulder and hurled it at Saxe. But, unlike the giant of Ronies Hill, he overshot the mark, and the stone fell into the sea near the Horns o' Haggmark, where it stands high above the waves, and bears the name of Herman's Stack.

A standing stone once stood near the old churchyard of Norwick, in Unst, which was also connected with the giant of the kettle. This stone had a hole in it, and its origin was traditionally said to be as follows. The giant Saxe came to Kirkatown, where dwelt a famous kowdie (midwife), whose services were required at his residence, and not finding a suitable fastening for the beast that he had brought to carry the cummer, he drove the monolith into the ground and pushed his thumb through it, making a hole, into which he tied his horse's rein.



  • Spence, J. (1899). Shetland Folk-lore. Lerwick: Johnosn & Greig, pp. 152-154.

This article incorporates text from Shetland Folk-lore (1899) by John Spence, which is in the public domain.