The Selkie Girl and Song of the Sea
Hello, dear readers! I may be landlocked in Kansas, but I have the ocean on the brain. Well, not really. Just selkies.
Selkies are not the most well-known mythological creatures in my part of the world. I never heard of such a thing until I saw The Secret of Roan Inish on video in the mid-nineties. [Sigh. I love that movie so much.] We still haven't bought a copy of Cartoon Saloon's Oscar-nominated Song of the Sea, but my patience with the library finally paid off. Our hold came through this weekend, so the girls and I settled in to watch our movie.
Oh, my. I love this movie. I am an animation junkie, and as much as I love Pixar and some computer-made flicks, I miss traditional animation.
Song of the Sea is about a brother and sister, Ben and Saoirse, who live with their father, alone by the sea. Their mother disappeared soon after Saoirse's birth, and their father is depressed, Ben is full of resentment, and Saoirse has yet to utter a single word. One night, Saoirse sneaks into Ben's room and grabs the musical shell his mother left him. As she begins to play a haunting melody, magical lights fill the room and lead her to a locked trunk. There, she finds a little white sealskin coat...
The children move with their grandmother to the city, but on Halloween, three little men arrive, telling them that Saoirse must return to the sea, find her voice, and save the fairy folk. The whole thing is so beautiful.
My father gave the girls a book. We've had it for a bit, but I saved it to read it the night we watched our movie. It's published by Floris Books, the company responsible for the beautiful English-language Elsa Beskow and Sybille von Olfers now in print. The Selkie Girl is the sweet story of a lonely Scottish boy and the week he spends with a selkie girl. It's a beautiful paperback with French flaps.
|The Selkie Girl, retold by Jani Mackay, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane.|
Floris Books, 2014.
|Back cover of The Selkie Girl.|
Fergus is the son of a fisherman, a widower who is having a streak of bad luck. One day as Fergus is beachcombing, he finds an odd fur. He takes it, not hearing the cries of a girl farther down the beach. The girl is a selkie. The tide is rolling in, and she is trapped. She dives into the ocean, her swimming made difficult without flippers or fins. She makes her way to Fergus's cottage, where she knocks on his window.
Fergus promises he'll return her skin, if she will only spend a week with him. He is lonely and friendless. She agrees. While she refuses to sleep in the cottage, preferring an overturned boat on the beach, she and Fergus spend a fun week together, flying a kite, playing, cooking on the beach. She shows him how to catch fish with his bare hands, which is useful to his father. When the week is over, he begs her to stay but she refuses. He returns her skin. From that day on, his father's luck changes. The fish become more plentiful, and he has plenty to sell in the village. Fergus meets the village children, and he is friendless no longer.
It's amusing to me that here in America, if we know anything about selkies, it's from movies set in Ireland: The Secret of Roan Inish, Song of the Sea, Neil Jordan's Ondine (which is on my Netflix list, and I will watch it someday.) In researching selkies for this post, I discovered that while the lore exists in Ireland, Scotland, and the Faroe Islands, with similar traditions in Iceland, it is Scotland that seems to have the best hold on the legend, particularly in the Orkney and Shetland islands. I put together a new Pinterest board, just for selkies, linking to art, books, songs, and films. Enjoy!
And if anyone has a particular selkie-related work to recommend to me, please mention it in the comments. Thanks!
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