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The Legends of the Selkies

Being a man of the sea myself I have always been fascinated with all myths and folklore of the sea and its shores. Whether is be Sea Nymphs, Mermaids, Water Horses, Ghost Ships and more. Today I want to talk about the mystical and alluring Selkies. These mysterious beings of the sea are wrapped up in the folklore specifically on the Orkney Islands of Scotland and the Faroe Islands. I put together for this my favorite resources that go quite in-depth of the Selkies. I hope you enjoy this topic as much as I do.

Amorous, affectionate and affable, Selkies are the hidden gems of sea mythology. Gentle souls who prefer dancing in the moonlight over luring sailors to their death, Selkies are often overlooked by mythological enthusiasts for the more enthralling forms of mermaids or sirens. Yet Selkies play a prominent role in the mythology of Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland. Their myths are romantic tragedies, a common theme for land/sea romances, however it is the Selkies who suffer rather than their human lovers and spouses. While the tales of Selkies always begin with a warm and peaceful “once upon a time”, there are no true happy ending for the tales of Selkies—someone always gets his/her heart broken.

The mythology of selkies is similar to that of the Japanese swan maidens, though historically it appears that the tales of the swan maidens predate the western tradition. Selkies can be either men or women, but are seals while in the water. What differentiates them from mermaids (aside from the choice of animal) is that they undergo a full body transformation upon coming to shore: they do not merely transform seal tails into human legs, but rather completely shapeshift from the sea animals into a human. This is accomplished by shedding their seal-skin when they come to land. Selkies are predominately mythological creatures from Irish, Scottish (particularly in Orkney and the Shetland Islands) and Faroese folklore, however there is a similar tradition in Iceland as well.

Their name descends from the Scottish selich, and there does not appear to be a Gaelic term for these creatures. This is likely indicative of their prominence in early modern Scottish culture. It is believed that the Selkies arose in legends when early Scottish settlers and shipwrecked Spaniards married dark-haired, fur-wearing Finnish and Saami native women… Continue reading here.

Kópakonan: A statue of the Seal Woman was raised in Mikladagur on the island of Kalsoy on 1 August, 2014. The statue is 2.6 metres long, weighs 450 kilograms, and is made of bronze and stainless steel.
Picture: Frítíðargrunnurin.

The origin of the selkie-folk

The seal-folk of Scotland and Ireland

The Secret History Hidden in the Selkie Story

The legend of Kópakonan

The Seal People – Selkies

Click Image for Selkie: Norse Mermaids

4 thoughts on “The Legends of the Selkies

  1. I first heard of these creatures some 3 years ago, and love the stories.

    1. I first heard of them in a documentary many years ago and was immediately fascinated.

  2. Absolutely intriguing and beautiful

    1. Thank you! i really enjoyed putting this one together.

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