Saturday, January 15, 2011

Water Legends - The Selkie

One of the things I really enjoy about writing is research.  My short stories in particular are taking me in directions that had previously lived on the fringes of my consciousness.  In the spirit of discovery I am immersing myself in a variety of things, including folk stories, historical accounts, and film

My current exploration involves the myths of selkies.  Selkies (which can be spelled and pronounced in a number of different ways) are shapeshifters who generally take on the shape of a seal.  The stories are almost always tragedies - the boy might get the girl, but only until she turns back into a seal and leaves forever.  The message tends to be that a sea woman will always leave, and her children will almost always inadvertently help her do so.

Obviously the stories are to meant to deal with what happens when a woman leaves a man (as this is how the majority of the stories go) as well as the wonders of the sea.  Living in a place where the seasons are rough and the sea is rougher, it would be nice to know that a selkie might happen upon you and help you get to safety during a storm. 

There is something about the water, that calls to us.  Water is life.  The majority of our bodies are water.  The majority of our world is water.  Beyond that, it is clear, and yet hides so much in its depths.  There, suspended in that great moving mass is a world within a world, so much of it still undiscovered.  So much under the surface is shrouded in mystery that it follows we would still tell ourselves stories of sea monsters, mermen, and kelpies.

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