The Faroe Islands (Danish: Færøerne, or "Sheep Islands") are an island group of 22 islands (18 inhabited) in the North Atlantic, between the Shetland Islands and Iceland. They are nominally under the Danish Crown, but have been self-governing since 1948, when the Faroes' official status was changed from "county of Denmark" to "self governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark".

Of the 18 inhabited islands, the chief ones are Strømø, Østerø, and Vågø; chiefly hilly, the terrain -- whilst breathtaking -- limits agriculture to sheep raising, and the production of hay and potatoes. Fishing and fish processing are also important. The coastal cliffs provide nesting sites for large numbers of sea birds, such as puffins, fulmars and kittiwakes, and inland one can find great skuas, ducks and species of wading birds. Land mammals are mainly cattle and sheep, and trees are virtually non-existent, partly due to the large numbers of sheep. Therefore, the classic image of the islands -- underrated -- is of bare grassy hill-sides soaring out of the sea.

The islands have come under criticism in recent years for the traditional grindadráp, or pilot whale culling.

The capital is Tórshavn, and the chief language spoken is Faroese (q.v.), though Danish has equal status in official matters.

As the Faroe Islands is a very old and rocky place, there are lots of mountains that have legends and myths attributed to them.

A well-known formation of rocks is Risin & Kellingin (The Giant and the Crone), that is two large rocks on the southern sea-border. The legend tells us of a giant and a crone from Iceland who came to pull the Faroe Islands to Iceland. They put a rope over a mountain in the southern end and started pulling the islands. But the sun rose up before they were done and they petrified. You can still see them, standing there. The rope left a mark in the mountain, where it had pulled.

Once, the queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, visited that particular formation, and asked how you could tell which was the crone. The answer was "The one with the hole in the bottom..."

Audited October 5, 2001

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