Da Peesterleeties an da Curse o da Njuggle
Characters from the world of Shetland folklore come to life in Valerie Watt's novel for bairns (2005). Here, two young trows get into real trouble when they befriend a njuggle.
Fae Da Peesterleeties an da Curse o da Njuggle, by Valerie Watt, The Shetland Times Ltd, 2005.
Chapter Five. A Tirn Trippa.
Tivla rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stretched. He jumped as he unexpectedly heard the thud of his sodden boots hitting the bottom of the boxbed. As he woke and felt his damp clothes, memories of their disastrous njuggle hunt came flooding back to him.
“Fivla, waaken up!” he demanded whilst rubbing his stiff neck, “Whit wye ir we back in da howe? We wir gaein tae droond...”
Fivla simply gave a groan and turned his back to his brother. His hair stood out from his head stiffened by the salt water. Tivla felt his own and realised it was exactly the same. He ran his fingers behind his large ears and discovered a soggy strand of seaweed. Realising they would have to do something, he continued to poke Fivla until he wakened.
“C’mon, waaken up...”
Fivla stirred then suddenly bolted upright and, once again, gave a squeal.
“Gadge! Wir soakin, an wir hame... Whit wye dat?”
“At last!” declared Tivla.
Suddenly the coloured squares of the knitted blanket thrown over them began to wriggle.
“Is yon dee?”
Tivla didn’t need an answer as Fivla was cowering behind a pillow. The petrified pair watched as the blanket continued to wriggle then, without warning, was thrust into the air. Fivla couldn’t take any more and buried his head into his pillow.
“Hit’s da njuggle, du saftie!” Tivla giggled.
Fivla peeped with one eye and saw curled up at the bottom of the boxbed the beautiful njuggle. It shyly lifted its head and began to hum the sweet tune they heard it sing whilst at sea. Close up the njuggle’s silver coat had a gentle shimmer to it and its sea green mane looked so velvety and soft.
Slowly Tivla reached forward and gently tucked the cosy blanket around the njuggle. “I tink dy name should be Tangie, eftir da seaweed du sweems among. Du’s no intae burn sweemin lik da idder njuggles, is du?” he whispered in the njuggle’s ear.
Fivla was deep in thought. “Did Tangie save wis an tak wis hame?”
Before Tivla had the chance to voice his opinion, the njuggle stopped its soothing song, turned to Fivla, looked him in the eye and gave a gentle nod. Fivla suddenly warmed to their new companion. He tossed aside his pillow and crawled down the bed. Lifting the blanket he nestled beside Tangie and softly stoked his mane. Tangie gave a sigh of delight and laid his head on Fivla’s arm.
As Tivla lay and listened to the gentle snores of his brother and their new companion, he could not sleep so easily. His mind was racing with questions. How did Tangie save them? Why did Tangie save them? Was he safe in their bed here away from the sea? What would happen tomorrow? How would Da and Mam react? Could their plan to revive the bulwand work? Tivla couldn’t wait to find out.
With these questions fleeting through his mind Tivla tossed and turned. He tried every sleeping position possible. He simply couldn’t sleep. There was no other option, he had to waken Fivla to discuss their next move. Soon Mam and Da would be returning to the howe.
“Fivla, waaken up! We need tae spaek...”
Tivla was frustrated at having to waken his brother for a second time.
Fivla gave a grunt, rubbed his eyes and began to stir. As soon as he caught sight of the njuggle resting beside him, the night’s events obviously came rushing back to him. Suddenly he leapt up into sitting position and opened his mouth to speak.
“Sssshhh!!” Tivla stopped him, “Listen, yon’s Trippa comin in...”
Tivla’s big ears did have their uses. Fivla struggled to hear anything but after a moment could hear Trippa’s footsteps coming along the burrow into the howe. Once she got inside they could hear the familiar sounds of her pouring fresh water from the bucket she carried into a china vase. Every morning Trippa had the same routine in caring for her bulwand. The stalk was always firm and the leaf in perfect condition. Typical Trippa!
But this morning she changed her routine. Once she had dealt with her bulwand she didn’t fill the copper kettle or rekindle the fire. She headed towards the boy’s boxbed and promptly slid open the door.
“Mam said I wis tae check on da twa Peesterleetie pests,” she announced as she shoved her head inside. As Trippa viewed the turmoil of damp blankets and pillows inside she was suspicious they’d been up to no good. She pulled back the blanket and gasped as she caught sight of a seagreen hoof.
“WHIT IS YON?” she demanded pointing at the hoof.
Tivla saw the anger in her eyes and decided to avoid getting into deeper trouble. Maybe if he was honest with Trippa she wouldn’t tell Mam or Da. It was worth the chance.
“Y..y..yon’s a n..n..njuggle...” Tivla stammered.
With that Tangie stirred from under the blanket, tossed his thick mane and looked Trippa straight in the eye. “Oh!” gasped Trippa, “Whit boannie sheenin een...”
Tivla hoped Tangie’s shining eyes had softened his sister’s fury. He began to introduce her to their new friend, “Trippa, dis is Tangie. We fan him in da sea...”
“TANGIE!” she screeched in horror, “Hit’ll be you pair dat’ll need sea names whin da njuggle curse taks hadd o you!” She leapt back from the boxbed as if it was on fire.
“Da n..n..njuggle c..c..curse?” repeated Fivla nervously as he stuck his head out. “Whit’s dat?”
Trippa stood at the other side of the table as if she needed it to shield her. “If onybody taks a njuggle fae da sea den day slowly turn intae a sea creature demsel. In twartree weeks baith o you will hae tae live in da sea!”
The twins looked at each other in horror. They should have searched the burn for longer. Fivla slowly pointed at his brother’s big ears. Tivla lifted his hand and felt scales beginning to form on the pointed tips.