The Nykur of Sørvágsvatn – Faroe Islands - Atlas Obscura

Faroe Islands

The Nykur of Sørvágsvatn

In Faroese legend, this sinister horse-shaped beast lures unsuspecting passersby only to drown them in the lake. 

A Nykur is a mythical beast of Scandinavian folklore. It’s often depicted as an aquatic monster that takes the shape of a gray, horse-like creature with inverted hoofs. The Nykur generally appears on the lakeshore, with half its body in the water, and looks to be quite tame to its unsuspecting victims. 

The legendary Nykur (also known as the “Nix” in English) uses its beauty to lure passersby to pet and mount it, and once an unsuspecting man, woman, or child does so, the beast’s “sticky skin” traps them in a terrifying barrel roll as it drags them down to the bottom of the lake to drown. This legend is mostly invoked by parents of small children, to scare them away from the edge of dangerous bodies of water.

The Nykur’s one weakness is that if someone calls its name aloud, the creature will lose all of its power and retreat to the depths from which it came. And the Faroese legends say that once, a small child happened to see a Nykur roaming through the shallow water of Lake Sørvágsvatn while he was out playing. In awe of the creature’s beauty, the child approached the Nykur. The child wanted his brother, Niklas, to see the pretty horse as well, so he called out to him. Since the child was still small and unable to speak properly, he accidentally shouted the word “Nykur” instead of “Niklas.” Thus having spoken the creature’s name, it lost all its power and returned to the deep cold waters of lake Sørvágsvatn to try its luck another day.

On the island of Vágar in the Faroe Islands, a silver statue of the mythical Nykur rises from the northern tip of Lake Sørvágsvatn. The statue was created by local artist Pól Skarðenni, and appeared in the waters of the lake in 2017. Nearby, a plaque tells the legend of this sinister beast.

Know Before You Go

You have to pass this statue if you are heading to Torshavn from the Vágar airport. It is well visible from main road. There is also a turn off to access the lake and get a closer look if you like.

Community Discussion