The Selkie Wife

There once was a young fisherman from Castletown who was wandering down by the shore one day when he heard musical laughter coming from behind the rocks that formed a barrier to the next bay.

His curiosity aroused, he climbed in over the rocks and was surprised to espy a group of beautiful young women singing and laughing and dancing on the secluded sand. They seemed to him, in the fading light, to be naked.

Naturally, he wanted to see more and crept a little closer, still hidden by the rocks and now he was sure they were naked and could see a pile of furs which appeared to be their clothes.

Taking full advantage of the situation the impetuous young fisherman rushed out from his hiding place and grabbed the first fur he could as the girls screamed and all grabbed their own and jumped into the water. Whence they were gone.

All but the one girl whose garment he held in his hand. The beautiful young woman came to him and looked pleadingly into his eyes, begging in a strange tongue for the return of her skin. For that is what it was and he knew she was a Selkie woman and that he could now take her as his own wife. Every fisherman knew that was how it was with the Selkies.

He carefully folded the fur and secured it with binding twine, then turned and walked slowly home from the beach with the poor, beautiful, entrapped maiden following obediently several paces behind him and he took her into his croft and they lived as man and wife for many years and she was obedient and loyal and bore him children, a daughter and a son. They each carried the Selkie mark of having webbed toes and fingers but they were not true Selkies.

One day, when the boy was five and the daughter seven years old and their father was out fishing, the two were playing in the cowshed. The boy clambered up to the rafters to escape his sister and in his rush dislodged a hessian sack that had been stuffed between the wood and the thatch. It fell to the ground and burst open revealing the seal fur so long ago hidden by their father. Mystified, the daughter picked it up and examined it remarking to her brother that their mother could use the fur to make them each a coat for the winter.

The Tale of the Selkie Wife – Dasha Vezickova

The game forgotten they took the fur skin in to the kitchen where their mother was preparing food and when she turned to greet them she let out a yelp of surprise and dropped the ladle into the pot on the fire. She rushed over and grabbed the fur and held it with a fierce jealousy that almost scared her children. Eventually remembering they were there, the Selkie wife thanked them effusively for finding her lost pelt and giving it to her.

Later that day when word came that the fishing trip was done and her husband was on his way the Selkie wife gathered her children to her and told them to pass on a message to their father that she had gone to her sisters to show them her pelt had been returned and for them not to worry.

The boy, confused, because he was unaware that that his mother had any sisters, asked his own sister what she had meant as they watched their mother take a familiar path down to the beach, to the place where she used to go and sit alone. His sister could only reply that she did not know but thought they might never see her again.

But their mother did watch over them from afar from a safe spot in the water for glad as she was to be out from under the fisherman’s power she did love her children and grieved at being parted from them.

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