skip to main navigation

Oral Tradition

Storyteller Davy Cooper in full flow Storyteller Davy Cooper in full flow For a language or dialect to be considered truly alive it should be spoken as well as written. Shetland dialect has a strong oral tradition represented on this website through the mediums of storytelling drama and song.

The long winter nights in Shetland are ideally suited for storytelling and in the days before the advent of television the storyteller often teamed up with musicians to provide an evenings entertainment. This created a rich vein of folklore, mythology and tall stories that is now mined by a new generation of storytellers.

During the last 100 years drama has become a mainstay in the preservation of the dialect. Many of the best plays and concert sketches performed regularly in the islands have made extensive use of the dialect. With new young dramatists and actors appearing all the time the future of this thread is looking assured.

Song has always been slightly in the shadow of fiddle playing in the minds of the Shetland public and yet we have an extensive collection of dialect songs stretching from the ancient Unst Boat Song, one of the last remnants of Norn, to very modern ballads written within the last few years.

The oral tradition is still strong in the islands lending its support to the continued performance and development of the dialect. This website will give you the opportunity to explore a representative selection of the available material.

back on top