Another kind of water-horse or water-spirit is called "Tangi." In Shetland folk-lore, "Tangi" and the njogel are generally considered as different. The latter is more of a fresh-water being, while the former is usually connected with the sea. There are some, however, who declare that the two are one, and that "Tangi" is merely another name for "the njogel." Although the characteristics of the two are on the whole much alike, they differ in some important points, and it is clear that in the minds of some people they are quite distinct. Inquiry in different parts of Shetland might perhaps clear up this point.

The Tangi is described as generally appearing in the shape of a small and beautiful horse of a dark gray or black color. In size and outward appearance he was almost the same as the njogel, but usually darker in color (sometimes pure black). He apparently did not possess the wheel-like appendage of the latter. Although usually seen in horse-form, Tangi not infrequently appeared as a man; and, according to some, he could also assume the form of a cow or other animals. When he assumed a human form, he generally appeared as a good-looking young man. When in this guise, he often had amorous propensities towards young women, and tried to deceive them as to his true character.

His usual haunts were the seashores, where he was sometimes seen in daylight ascending and descending the "banks" overlooking the sea. He also frequented the mouths of streams, and often went inland, along the stream, into the lakes. Some claim that his real abode was in heljers ("caves into which the sea flows") and below the sea underneath high cliffs. He seems to have had a preference for wild and lonely parts of the coast. Crews of boats approaching the land at night, and others fishing offshore under high slopes and cliffs, have frequently seen Tangi moving rapidly up and down, or along these steeps, in the shape of a small fire or blue light. As in the case of the njogel, flames darted out from his feet when he travelled rapidly; and at times he seemed to be wholly enveloped in a kind of vivid halo, which could be seen at a considerable distance on a dark night. At closer range, the figure of a dark horse could often be observed within this halo.

Tangi had the power of casting a spell over people and animals, which made them insane and led them to drown themselves by jumping over diffs into the sea. This spell was especially potent if he ran in circles around people. This caused them to become insensible. On awaking, they would be in a dazed condition, which lasted sometimes for days.

Although harmful (probably even in greater degree than the njogel), there seems to be not as many tales about Tangi as about the njogel. Like him, he was afraid of fire, a knife (or iron?), the naming of God (and his own name).

Once a man, at the Ness (or at the Westin) in the hills, met a black horse at dusk. The horse started to run around him in circles and with increasing speed. The man struck him with a knife, or some iron instrument that he was carrying, thus saving himself from becoming spellbound. The horse then ran off, and, enveloped in a blue light, disappeared over the edge of a high cliff. Another story, very similar to the one just related, is told of a man alone in the hills who had some kind of encounter with Tangi in human form. Somehow or other the man beat Tangi, who thereupon became transformed into a horse, and ran off.



  • Teit, James A. (1918). "Water-beings in Shetlandic Folk-Lore, as remembered by Shetlanders in British Columbia." JAF 31:180-201, pp. 186-188.

This article incorporates text from Water-beings in Shetlandic Folk-Lore, as remembered by Shetlanders in British Columbia (1918) by James Teit, which is in the public domain.