Loch Ness residents are braced for a new round of Nessie-mania with the release this Christmas of the family movie The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
Playing off the legend of the Loch Ness Monster (although neither the loch nor Nessie is mentioned by name), the title refers to the water horses or "kelpies" of Scottish legend.
The kelpies were malevolent shape-changing water creatures that came onto land and assumed the form of horses. They would lure victims -- usually children -- onto their backs, then dive back into the water where the humans would drown and be consumed by the kelpies.
Derek Brash, a guide and collector of highland lore, says the kelpie tales were usually told to keep children from playing near the edges of the deep and dangerous lochs.
The first recorded tale of a Loch Ness Monster dates to AD 565, when St. Columba supposedly called upon the power of God to beat back such a creature as it attacked his party of missionaries.
By the mid-1800s, the ancient kelpie legends had mixed with more recent local Loch Ness stories of "strange fish gamboling in the water."
Sightings were rare until the early 1930s when a road built closer to the shoreline gave an almost unobstructed view of much of Loch Ness. Eyewitness accounts of strange creatures in or near the loch suddenly became front-page stories in the British press.
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