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Two arms, two heads, six legs and a whole lot of nope.

"Bloody hell. Bloody hell. They're nightmares. Been on watch two nights in a row, one just…appeared right there, right in front of me. 20 feet, had to be at least 20 feet away. Towered into the sky. Got my flare to go off in time to see it pick up a couple wounded Jerry's in the mud. They don't have bloody skin. There's just muscle, and fat. The thing on its back... wasn't human, no way could it be human. Had no skin either, no legs, just merged straight into the horse at the stomach. I took a couple shots at it with my rifle... did absolutely nothing, like I was shooting it with a sling shot. It stopped soon as my flare reached its highest point, and turned. Looked straight down at me, both the horse and the…thing on its back. It smiled."
— ''SCP-3456 -- The Orcadian Horsemen" August 13 Journal Entry

The Nuckelavee (Knoggelvi or Mukkelevi in the Orcadian and Shetlander Scots dialects; "Nuckelavee" is the Anglicized spelling) is a demonic creature from Orcadian (that is, the Orkney Isles of northern Scotland) mythology that resembles the torso of a man merged to the middle of the back of a horse, where a rider would usually be sat. The "man" part has arms so long that they reach the ground and an oversized head, while the "horse" part only has a single eye and fins on its legs. The entire creature lacks skin, with its muscles bared for all to see. Described as the nastiest of all Orcadian monsters, the Nuckelavee was said to have a breath that caused sickness and decay in animals, humans, and plant life alike. The Nuckelavee was feared by all islanders, but itself feared fresh water, and would not cross running water or come ashore while it rained. Nuckelavees only appeared during winter, as during summer, they were kept imprisoned by the Mither o' the Sea.

Mythology scholars have theorized that the Nuckelavee is related to similar water-borne malicious spirits in Northern European mythology, such as the Scottish kelpie or the Norwegian nøkk.

When they appear in fiction, the Nuckelavee rarely deviates much from its mythological portrayal, though they may have minor visual differences in order to make them distinct. Commonly, it's allowed to have skin, likely because the original portrayal was deemed too gruesome. An element that is rarely brought up is that the aforementioned description is only how the Nuckelavee appears on land, but there are no accounts of how they appear in their natural environment underwater.

Compare Hellish Horse, Headless Horseman, and Our Centaurs Are Different. Nuckelavee are often considered part of The Fair Folk.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Zanbamon is based on the appearance of the Nuckelavee and also has the armor of a Japanese cavalryman.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: Made In Heaven, the ultimate form of main antagonist Enrico Pucci's Stand, takes the appearance of a horse fused with its jockey, albeit missing the back half of the horse. Fitting with the Nuckelavee's association with decay, it has the ability to accelerate time, ultimately leading to the decay and rebirth of the universe itself.

    Art 
  • In an art contest to make an original, mythology-inspired boss fight for the then recently-announced Elden Ring, the first and second place entries both resemble Nuckelavee.
    • The second place, called simply the Nuckelavee by Andrei Sherstuck, deviates the least from the mythological description, aside from its human head not being human in the slightest, instead having a single eye surrounded by skin flaps. As a gimmick for the fight, the horse part and human part actually takes damage separately, and splits off into their own second phases, each giving a unique drop.
    • The first place entry, the Drowned of Saoidh by Jonas Müller, is a Body of Bodies made up of every drowned corpse from the village of Saoidh, taking the shape of a human torso on a horse... At first. In the second phase, it abandons all humanoid shape.

    Comic Books 
  • Saga: In the eighth arc, Petrichor is attacked by a family of bounty hunters. The husband is a human and the wife is a centaur, while their son is a Half-Human Hybrid resembling a nuckelavee.

    Fan Works 
  • The Archmage's Last Bow: Summoning these made out of shadow is something King Sombra and Envy demonstrate multiple times. Early on, Envy summons one to keep Twilight occupied while she enjoys a one-on-one conversation with Nova to torment him. Later on in the story, King Sombra sics three of them on Twilight, Nova, and co. to both test their ability and to keep them busy while Envy is sent to assassinate Bright Gleam. They are described as being horned and are protected from exterior attacks, so Nova, Twilight, and several members of the Crystal Guard are forced to find ways to strike at their insides, which they do via the mouth.
  • Nine Days Down: Nuckelavee is one of the monsters imprisoned in Tartarus, and resides in the Fields of Asphodel. He has the usual horrifying appearance, with no features on its humanoid head save a single nostril and a too-wide mouth full of needle teeth; Twilight, who has never seen anything humanoid before, can only describe his second body as a strange apelike thing. He has a particular hatred for ponies and other equines for reasons lost to history, and delights in spreading plague among them using the toxic vapors that he exhales.

    Films — Animated 
  • The The Animatrix short "The Second Renaissance" features machines that look like riders on horses. Close inspection shows that the rider part is not a separate unit, and the equine portion appears skeletal in its design, which likely invokes the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    Literature 
  • The Secret of Platform 13 portrays all its magical creatures more or less positively, including the nuckelavee. A shy creature, it lives in the river and only comes out when Cornelius summons it as part of the Midsummer show. Everyone in attendance is awestruck by its lack of skin, marveling at this firsthand look at a living body...except for Raymond, who screams that it's gross and causes the poor creature to slink away for another century.
  • Short and Shivery: Book 1 features the story "Nuckelavee" (identified as a folktale from the Orkney Islands, off the northeastern coast of Scotland), the title character of which is a particularly monstrous fae that is described as some sort of hulking, skinless monstrosity resembling a man conjoined with a horse. It has one major weakness: it Cannot Cross Running Water (specifically fresh water), to the point where it gets repelled when it's splashed by water from a freshwater lake and refuses to come out when it's raining. Aside from describing the creature, the story tells of a man named Thomas who narrowly escapes from the creature one night by taking advantage of these weaknesses, running into the shallows of a lake to get out of its range and then crossing a nearby freshwater stream to escape it for good.
  • Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen: The first demon that Elisabeth slays on-page is an underling of the weakest of the fourteen ranked demons: a being that takes the form of a skinless horse and rider and charges through the wall of Elisabeth's castle to attack her. She effortlessly slays it with her Iron Maiden.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Grimm: One of the many examples of Wesen, creatures that are human but have an animal side to them, is a horse-like one that's literally called a Nuckelavee.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Nuckelavee appear in the Mystara setting, and is described in detail in Dragon #343. They resemble piscine, centaur-like creatures with transparent skin that gives a clear view of their ropy white muscles, yellow veins, and pulsing black blood (though the illustration has blue skin). They usually live in the ocean, but come up to destroy everything in their path For the Evulz. Depending on who you ask, they are either descended from evil centaurs or created by evil gods as mockery of centaurs. In combat they can breathe jets of freezing water and emit auras that drain life and instill terror; however, as they are creatures of the sea, they are categorically unable to enter or cross freshwater.
  • The Magic: The Gathering set Shadowmoor (based on dark fairy tales with helpings of Celtic Mythology) has a Nuckelavee card. It strangely lacks most of the features of the mythic being, being instead a multi-eyed fish thing.
  • Pathfinder: Nuckelavee are swamp-dwelling water spirits commonly known as Devils of the Sea. They arise from swamps and polluted water and go wreak bloody vengeance, but ironically spread filth and corruption themselves. They're very difficult to approach in any kind of peaceful manner, but if a mortal sufficiently impresses one the nuckelavee may secretly gift it a token in the form of a bracer of damp, briny gray flesh. If worn, this allows its bearer to purify water at the cost of polluting their own blood and becoming sickly and ill. Notably, because they survive on polluted water, they generally don't take kindly to those that try to clean it up, and rather than enact their vengeance on those who threaten the environment, they attack anyone and everyone around them.

    Video Games 
  • The Bard's Tale: A Nuckelavee shows up in one segment as a boss, having originally been imprisoned beneath a stone circle until the Bard accidentally released it. Like in the folklore, it causes sickness and pestilence. The locals even sing a song about it.
  • La-Mulana: The Nuckelavee appears as a miniboss in the Spring in the Sky.
  • Scribblenauts: The Nuckelavee appears as a monster in most of the games in the series.
  • Tomb Raider features some skinless centaur enemies which bear a strong resemblance to the Nuckelavee and serve as the guardians of one temple area, beginning a shift to more supernatural and horror-themed enemies and areas.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: A Grimm called the Nuckelavee is a recurring Volume 4 antagonist for Team RNJR. It looks like a rider on a horse, but it is a single, fused being. Both heads have eyes that glow red. The humanoid arms are so long that the knuckles drag along the ground and the fingers seem longer than the length of the hooves. The forelegs of the equine body end in claws instead of hooves. The humanoid body is skeletal and has weapons from past fights sticking out of it like it's permanently impaled. The primary difference from the mythological figure is that its territory is nowhere near the sea, and it functions as Two Beings, One Body; the "Imp" and the "Horse" can be "awake" at the same time, but one is often dormant to ensure the active other has a power boost.

    Web Original 
  • The Midgaheim Bestiary: Nuckelavees are given as an example of "Monstrous Fairies", fairy beings who have dwelled in Fairyland for ages and become so mutated by its magic that their original, mortal ancestors are impossible to guess at. They're typically grotesque members of their clade, with bodies half skinless and half covered in rotting hide, skeletal horse heads, and fins on their hooves and tails.
  • Monstrum has an episode on it. Part of which is recounting a traditional tale of a man who's chased by one while walking along the seashore, and is able to escape by splashing fresh water on it from a nearby loch and finally crossing a stream. The episode notes that it was likely inspired by the dangers of being swept out to sea by an errant wave.
  • Mortasheen:
    • The very name "Mortasheen" itself is derived from the Nuckelavee — this was supposedly the name of the disease the monster carried.
    • Hestermoan, one of the setting's "ultimate" monsters, is based on the Nuckelavee. Its breath causes viral infections, its blood is corrosive, its feces spread fungal blight, and its presence makes parasitic insects reproduce like crazy. It's also the size of a Kaiju and may have wiped out an entire civilization.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-3456 ("The Orcadian Horsemen") can have multiple human torsos but are otherwise standard Nuckelavee. They appear near sites of mass death and collect survivors, often torturing them in the process, but can't cross running water. It's also strongly implied that they are made from the humans they capture.
  • In his video on the League of Legends champion Hecarim, TB Skyen argues that Hecarim should look like a Nuckelavee instead of a Centaur since his backstory is that evil powers merged a cruel warrior with his war horse.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs (2020): In the episode "Warner's Ark", a Nuckelavee can briefly be seen in the group shots of the titular ark, which ferries mythical creatures that Noah left behind.


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