Selkies are mythological creatures in Irish, Icelandic, and Scottish mythology that can transform themselves from seals to humans. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney Islands where "selkie" is the Orcadian word for "seal."
Selkies are able to transform to human form by shedding their seal skins and can revert to seal form by putting their selkie skin back on. Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. Other times the human will hide the selkie's skin, thus preventing them from returning to seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one particular human for a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. They are not able to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human is to steal their selkie's skin and hide it or burn it. The Grey Selkie of Suleskerry is a ballad typical of the former, while The Secret of Roan Inish is a movie telling the latter tale.
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Books on the Selkie Legend
In this original
story, Peter befriends and frees a seal girl after she is captured by a
greedy oysterman who wants her to teach him the language of the sea. The
story ends abruptly, leaving readers with a feeling that something is
missing. The brief text does not contain enough details to explain what
"the language of the sea" is or why it is so desirable. She teaches it
to Peter, and, according to the text, he makes use of it to get back to
shore. At this point, the illustrations show the boy getting home by
following his trail markers in the sand rather than anything mystical.
Full-color illustrations take on a number of sizes and shapes, adding
visual variety. The attractive palette is appropriate for the sea and
island setting. This is a picture book for PreSchool - Grade 3. But a
sweet and short retelling of the legend for adults as well.
The Selkie Girl (Hardcover)
The illustrious author and artist have created a haunting version of the Scottish folktale about the selkie. Newbery Medalist Cooper tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman; she becomes a seal as she swims away. A year later, he steals her sealskin so she cannot leave and makes her his bride. The tale focuses on the longing of the selkie, Mairi, a "wild creature" who goes "back to the wild, in the end." When Mairi accidentally finds out where her husband hid her sealskin, she tells her children she must leave them because she also has children in the sea. Her daughter understands, saying, "You must go to them. It's their turn." The lyrical text weaves a tale of sweeping dimension; this is storytelling at its finest. Particularly lovely are Hutton's sensitive and muted watercolors, which successfully capture the mood evoked by the book's opening and closing sentence: "The islands rise green out of the sea, where the waves roam over the grey rocks, and strange things may happen there." Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. Amazon.com