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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Selkies...Myth or Fact?

TGIF! I survived the week of football practice from hell! *bangs head against the wall* Now Thursday night rolls around and I realize a few things:

One, a biggie… it is actually Thursday. Where the hell did the week go? Did I blink and it time warp in that short amount of time? It sure feels like it did.

Two, I haven’t even thought about my blog today.

Worse…Three, my muse has vanished. Gone on an extended hiatus again! Seriously, I’m too busy to think clearly or stay focused on one topic long enough to actually write.

So, I gave a mega sigh and broke out my handy dandy book, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, and the first magical creature I turned to was Selkie. So, I did a Google search of Selkie to see what the internet had to say about them.

According to Wikipedia (, a Selkie is a seal like creature with the ability to shed its seal shape and take human form when it comes to land. They are typically depicted in romantic stories where the human isn’t aware that their lover is a Selkie, but when they wake their lover is gone. There is also the legend of a human hiding the Selkie’s skin so that the Selkie cannot return to the sea and turn back into seal form. To further complicate things, Selkies can have contact with one person for only a short period of time before it becomes necessary for them to return to the sea. After that, they cannot have human contact for seven years. With one exception, a human may betray them by stealing their Selkie skin and hiding or burning it (this just seems exceptionally cruel to me), thereby forcing the Selkie to remain here on earth since they cannot return to the sea without their skin.

Call me crazy, but I immediately thought of the Charmed episode, A Witch’s Tail, where the Mermaid was given one month by the sea hag, an evil witch, to find true love. Of course, the sea hag had ulterior motives. Don’t they always! LOL If the Mermaid couldn’t get her lover to admit his true love for her within one month, then she would have to give the sea hag her immortality. Maybe that’s a little farfetched in the comparison between Selkies and the Charmed episode, but both have a short period of time unless: 1) the Selkie’s skin is hidden from them; or 2) the Mermaid is able to find true love and her lover admits it. My opinion, the Selkie version isn’t all that romantic. Sounds a little too much like kidnapping to me.

Selkies also brought to mind the 1984 movie, Splash, with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid in this movie, but she’s also able to shed her tail for various periods of time while on land. And in Splash, the Mermaid and human fell in love, so it had its romantic theme. Kind of like a Selkie, right? ;-) Okay, maybe another long stretch, but my brain saw the similarity with the way she was able to take human form on land. Seeing this movie as an impressionable kid, I loved the romantic mermaid aspect of it.

I didn’t forget Ariel and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, just chose not to discuss it since it was so similar to the Charmed version in The Witch’s Tail.

Okay, none of these movies/shows have anything do with Selkies really, but rather Mermaids, right? Or, maybe…well, let’s see what The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures has to say about Mermaid. In folklore, Mermaids have a dark side and were kind of scary actually, nothing at all like the above romantic elements. Mermaids were responsible for luring young men to their death. The appearance of a Mermaid presaged storms and disasters, not only bringing about misfortunes, but also provoking them. Legend has them enthusiastically seeking human lives by either drowning or consuming men. Yowza! Talk about a black widows death ala Mermaid style. Suddenly, instead of having the beautiful Ariel image in my head, I'm picturing a sea monster with piranha teeth. It was said, Mermaids were born without a soul and the only way they could obtain a soul was by marrying a human. Does this remind anyone other than me of the sirens from the Odyssey that lured men to their deaths by singing?

These aspects of Mermaid folklore had very little deviations from The Celts, Irish, Scotts, British, Dutch, and Asian regions. In fact, the character of a Mermaid differs very little between the nations of the world, signifying that belief in these odd creatures has been around for an extremely long time. And to tie in Mermaids with Selkies, one of the many regional names of a Mermaid is Selkie.

So, what is your opinion of the selkie/mermaid folklore? Fact, fiction, or over active imaginations?

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!
Note: All images were found on either or Photobucket and no copyright infrigement was intended.

6 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

Let's do the Time Warp today....

Sorry, couldn't resist!

I first learned of the Selkies in Cindy Spencer Pape's 'Stone and Sea', available at Ellora's Cave.

LOVE Little Mermaid, that Charmed Episode, and Splash:) And wanted to be a Wiki Wachi Mermaid (Florida amusement park) when I got older, but never got the chance. Bummer....But then again, I don't think I would have been allowed to wear my noseplugs!

Carrie said...

Let's not forget the mermaids from the lagoon in Peter Pan!

Okay, so they only had a small part, but they were there.

Carrie said...

If you want a good Selkie Tale (sorry I forgot about this before), watch the movie, The Secret of Roan Inish.

Roan Inish is an island of the coast of Ireland (I think it's supposed to be anyway) and the story revolves around a this legend. The thing is, according to the movie, there's more to the legend then just forcing the selkie to stay in human form.

If that should be done, legend has it that the selkie will reclaim their own. You won't know when or where it will occur, or who it will be, but the Selkies will take one of the ancestors back to replace what they've lost.

That's as far as I'll go with this. If I say anymore, I'll give too much of the movie away. It was a really good movie and little girl in there was fantastic and for some reason, as I type this, I'm speakin' it in an Irish brogue!

Sheila Deeth said...

So many legends. Nothing to add, but enjoying the read.

Gracen Miller said...

Molly, I used to fantasize about being a mermaid when I was little. That combined with Wonder Woman, it was a hell of a combination! lol I'll have to check out Stone and Sea! Thanks for the recommendation!

lol @ Carrie's Irish brogue! That sounds like a very interesting movie. *runs off to Netflix*

Thanks, Sheila! It was interesting researching it! I didn't know half this stuff until I went to my handy-dandy Encylopedia!

Cate Masters said...

Oh, I had never heard the part about mermaids souls. Very interesting! It fascinated me, too, that mermaid lore varied so little across continents. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? ;)