Leave it to the Scots’ to keep the magical folklore running… This 13th is dedicated to the Selkies (yo, yo where my selkies at!?).
WHAT IS IT?
These mythological creatures are seals in the sea and transform into humans on land by stripping away their skin. The tales usually involve a female Selkie (original telling’s included mainly males that would enter land to impregnate a women and return to the water until the birth of the child, becoming a devoted father and husband there on) shedding her skin on shore and transforming into a beautiful maiden, only to fall in love (or get kidnapped) and have her seal skin hidden and be stranded on land. What is clear is that if the skin is hidden, a selkie can never return to the sea without it. A good proportion of the folklore ends with the female selkie distraught and her children uncovering the hidden skin, helping her escape and entering the ocean’s as well, turning into seals.
Though they have been several countries that the legends could have originated from, the most significant tales derive from Scotland (in Orkney and Shetland specifically) as well as Ireland. There appears to be varies origin stories of the selkies (some say they were damned human beings, others say they are fallen angels, and some connect them to Celtic mythology or was passed on by the tales from Norway). Its interesting the shift from the perspective of the male selkie stories versus the female ones. Though, there is little surprise of the variety of tales considering they originate from places directly on the water in a large span of time and lands.
The first film I ever watched that involved selkies is the Secret of Roan Inish. It was a great film and since then, there hasn’t been a whole lot of movies but a crazy amount of books. See the pictures below of the movies and books involving selkies (please note, some of the stories involving selkies is straight up erotica).
There is a fair amount of flexibility when writing about the Selkie because its been viewed in several different ways and spans several countries with their own tales. As for books, there seems to be no shortage while movies are little lacking this subject matter. Whether your main character is male or female, whether they are a selkie or interact with one, whether they are young or old, there is a lot that can be done. However one fact seems to be consistent in selkie folklore, which is hiding the selkies seal skins strands them to land. Going through a few books, it seems the stories all take place in Scotland and Ireland (where the legends originate) so perhaps going beyond those areas would be interesting or adding a horror theme to the book. I would be very interested to hear other people’s ideas with using selkies in their manuscripts or screenplays.