In essence, 'selkie' is the orcadian word for 'seal'. And as such one can see a lot of selkies on the beaches of Orkney, their heads bobbing up and down in the water. Or they lay on the beach, watching passerbys with gentile and uncannily human-like eyes. It is easy to imagine that these amongst others led to the believe in the selkie folk.
I do have to mention though that they are not -not- the same as the finfolk! Finfolk have a far more malicious nature than selkies and even though the usually peacefull selkies can be quite the nuisances they hardly ever delve in such 'depraved' acts as Finfolk. Most of the time they only turn their tricks when they are hassled first.
Selkies, when in seal form, appear as the normal gray and blackish seals native to Orkney. When they shed their sealskin and appear in humanoid form they are said to be creatures of great beauty and allurance, both male and female. They are said to be so beautiful that no human man or woman who laid eyes on a selkie in humanoid form could look away from their unearthly beauty. Much like the beauty of Elves, I'd say.
Changing and the Seal-skin
Much like some legends about werewolves, selkies have a skin they have to look after when they are in human form. This is the seal-skin they shed when they turn temporarily into humanoid form. The same as with said werewolf legends the one who finds the selkie's skin can hold great power over them, forcing them to stay on land and do one's bidding.
Therefor, of course, most selkies hide their seal-skin even though the transformation (usually) leaves them stark naked on the beach. Only rarely they go inland, prefering to dance in the moonlight and bask on the beach opposed to the staring looks of humans. Unless they were selkie-men, hail the mischieve of men: XD
(this is ofcourse the most interesting part ;) )
The selkie-men were renowned for their many encounters with human females, married and unmarried!
A selkie-man in human form was said to be a handsome creature, with almost magical seductive powers over mortal women. They had no qualms about casting off their sealskins, stashing them carefully, and heading inland to seek out “unsatisfied women”.
Should a mortal woman wish to make contact with a selkie-man, there was a specific rite she had to follow. At high tide, she should make her way to the shore, where she had to shed seven tears into the sea. The selkie-man would then come ashore and, after removing his magical sealskin, seek out “unlawful love”.
In the words of the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison, these selkie males:
"..often made havoc among thoughtless girls, and sometimes intruded into the sanctity of married life."
If a girl went missing while out on the ebb or at sea, it was inevitably said that her selkie lover had taken her to his watery domain, assuming, of course, she had not attracted the eye of a Finman!
But while the males of the selkie race were irresistible to the island women, selkie-women were no less alluring to the eyes of human men. The most common theme in selkie folklore, however, is one in which a cunning young man acquires, either by trickery or theft, a selkie-girl’s sealskin. This prevents her from returning to the sea, leaving the seal-maiden with no option but to marry her “captor”.
The tales generally end sadly, when the skin is returned, usually by one of the selkie's children. In some accounts, her children go with her to the sea, while others have them remaining with their mortal father.
Selkie x human children
Because of the aforementioned selkie-man's lust for mortal women there are tales abound about these hybrid children. The children looked ordinary enough aside from some outstanding qualities they may or may not have inherited from their father:
- unearthly beauty (obviously)
- the amorous brown eyes know to people like me as 'dog-eyes'
- webbings between their fingers and toes
- natural swimmers (meaning they are, from a very young age, good swimmers and at ease in the water)
Yes, yes here I go again, shamelessly advertising my art.
It's my selkie npc/subcharacter Ariel and no, Ariel isn't a little mermaid. Infact, there's nothing 'little' about Ariel! Enfin, to get back to the point: a Selkie!
Though I suppose that I am the only one that finds him 'unearthly attractive' XD
Nb: Yes [Linn Scarlett] made him and he's not a free image so keep your hands -mouse- at home! :/
Sources: www.orkneyjar.com; www.wikipedia.com; Celtic and Norse Folklore - Librero - 1999; my withered brain that knew some other details of which I couldn't find the sources anymore. :/
A selkie in nature is an ordinary human who can transform into a seal at will. Selkies in human form can be easily seen by their large black eyes.
Back to Creature_List / The Creature List