It’s autumn, the weather is cold and, in my opinion, it’s time for fairy tales! 

I’m sure my bonnie, that you already know that our lovely Scotland is full of myths, legends and magical creatures! I bet you also know about Nessie, or the Scottish fairies…

Well, today I will present you the Scottish version of mermaids…Selkies! 

The word Selkie comes from the scottish word Selch which means “seal”! Our gentle Selkies are mythical creatures who can transform themselves from seals to humans. So they aren’t exactly mermaids. Rumor has it that Selkies are sweet and kind instead of fatal and seductive like mermaids or sirens. 

A Silkie tale would perhaps have a happy beginning, but let me tell you this, lassie, it wouldn’t end well. These pure gentle souls always have a “but”—a sad element to their stories…even in the well known fairy tales! There would always be a pinch of melancholy in their lives. I can kind of relate to that, but that’s not our point 😉

Do Selkies have a gender? Well, there are male and female Silkies. In the water they are male or female seals but outside of water, they are men or women.

What Is Their Difference From Mermaids?

Except for the fact that they are clearly different animals when being under water, there is also a difference in their transformation. Mermaids have their fish tales both inside and outside the water. They can’t fully transform to fish or humans. 

On the contrary, Silkies have their seal form while in the water and their fully human form outside the water! How do they do it? By shedding their seal skin when they are at land.

Why Leaving Water in the First Place?

Because we can’t forget about love! The Silkies would either fall in love with a human, or a human would fall for them. And I will explain what was going in both those cases…

Case Number One: A Selkie would fall for a human. In that case she would throw away her seal skin and go live with the love of her life. Attention: A Silkie can’t live on the shore forever. Once she throws her seal skin, she has seven years to stay at land. After that she would either die or return to her home. The Ocean. Remember when I said there is a pinch of sadness in their stories? 

Case Number Two: A Human would fall for a Selkie. After all, Selkies were lovable, sweet and kind. 

How badly would a man want a Selkie? How far would he go to hurt her? Badly and passionately enough to steal her seal skin! In that case, the Selkies couldn’t return to their home, the ocean.

When a man had the Selkie’s seal skin, he owned her. He could marry her, have children with her, stay with her. Of course I’m talking about the Selkie’s human form. Because when the Selkie was finally able to find her stolen seal skin, she would wear it and go back to the ocean. Even if she was deeply in love with her human husband, she would never be able to stay away from water forever. Even if that meant she would abandon her husband and children…

What is more, after this “theft” of seal skin, the Selkie wouldn’t be able to transform into a human ever again.

See the sad ending again? 

But the remarkable thing is that Selkies had a deep love for life. They were fully aware of the consequences of their actions, yet love is love! They were willing to sacrifice everything they had in order to fully experience love, even if this meant that one day they would lose it all. If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.

The Scottish Version of “Little Mermaid”

We’re talking about Scotland so, of course, there is a creepy fairy tale about mermaids. I could dare say many versions of this fairy tale, but I will present you the creepiest. Don’t we all want a good mystery after all?

Here are the two best versions of the story:  

Version 1: The Femme Fatale

A man was fishing at the shore, when he saw a beautiful creature transforming from seal to woman. The man was enchanted by her natural beauty! He took her and her seal skin to his house. He made her his wife and hid her skin so that she could never go back to the ocean. 

The years passed, and they had many children. One day one of their children found a seal-skin, while playing in the warehouse. The child went to show it to his mother…And that was it!

The Selkie hugged her children and said goodbye to them. She went to the shore and started her transformation. Her human husband came close to her as fast as he could when he heard the news. But it was too late. The transformation had already been completed. 

Plot Twist

The Selkie, before she left the human world for good, said to him: “Farewell! And may all good attend you. I loved you very well when I resided upon earth, but I have always loved my first husband more.”

Her love for the sea and her sea-husband had prevailed.

Version 2: The Most Caring Wife In The Whole World

A Selkie fell in love with a man…so she left  her seal skin and went to marry him. During a terrible storm, her husband was trapped in his boat, struggling not to drown…the Selkie loved him so much that she took her seal form again and rescued him!

How touching is that? She knew she would never be able to be human again and live with her love, but she chose that in order to save his life!

There are no words here, my bonnie…Only tissues!

The Myth

Now, it’s time to say goodbye to you, lassie! Before I leave, I would like to let you know that this wonderful legend of the Selkies first appeared when early Scottish settlers and shipwrecked Spaniards married dark-haired, fur-wearing Finnish and Saami native women. 

Thank God they did! Now we have many wonderful, sweet and nostalgic fairy tales to keep us company during the cold days of winter!

Hope you loved this article, because I loved writing it! I would be thrilled to see your comments below, or receive your emails in my inbox folder! Thank you for being here with me!

 

Written by Lydia Kendall

 

78 COMMENTS

  1. Very Interesting…full of joy, love and sadness just like life. You seek the joy of love and hopefully it is forever but sometimes it just disappears!

  2. Very interesting but hard to believe and disturbing to believe they had only seven years and either way she was going to lose everything!

  3. I love it. I read a story awhile ago and in it the man was the selkie. He only came to land at night to protect the women that lived in the cottage. Of course in that versen he could change back and forth. Then there was a show where a dance house guy collected selkie females he had their skins hid in a safe. They found help in getting their skins back and went home. But never read a romance novel in which the selkie could only change once for 7 years. Hope you decide to write one….

  4. Hi Lydia,
    I loved these fairy tales. Reminds me of when I was a child & heard tales such as these. In these times in which we live it is good to retreat to fairy tales. Thank you so much for this article & as with all your books, it was very well written. Keep the great books coming!

    Janice

  5. Hi Lydia, I loved your explanation of the Selkies.
    It is the very same as my granny told me as a child. We were warned as children not to play near the river as we may fall in and drown or a selkie may swim up from the sea and capture us and take us away.
    Needless to say we never played or went swimming in the river.
    Keep writing, regards Mary

  6. Where I live winter has arrived it’s snowing today and cold and your right it’s nice to grab a warm, romantic book and settle in. It’s also nice to read about mystical mermaids or selfies and just let your mind wander and explore the possibilities. I throughly enjoy your stories and these little informational letters we receive every now and than. Until next time, Take care.

  7. Thank-you for this delightful article on Selkies, I have loved Scottish fairy tales since I was a child. I am a reader from a child. My favourite tale is Tam Lin.

  8. I t was so very interesting.I love the selkies,their gentleness and kindness.
    But sad,really heatbreaking,but Ilove them.Thank you for the article.

    Jennie

  9. Thank you I enjoyed reading your article about the selkies. I’ve always loved fairy tales and being Scotch-Irish what could be better than a Scottish Mermaid!

  10. I don’t think I have heard of sefties I’m heard that mermaids o not pretty at all,like they are supposed to be, so I don’t know anything about them.

  11. How enchanting are these simply beautiful selkies!! I loved the two stories, especially the second one; the utter sadness to this story is quite profound.

  12. Once again thank you for a wonderful article. It is a freezing cold day here and your article brought a ray of warm sunshine. Have a great day.
    R,
    Sandra

  13. Thank you so much. I love this story it brings another side of the fairy tale to light. These beautiful stories have always made me smile.

  14. I have read about the seller legends before, but never the 7 yr. limited time. It will make for a Heart wrenching tale for sure! I would love to read it. I read books to getaway from this world, and experience all the emotions of the characters,laugh,cry,get angry, dislike or hate as you will.I lose myself in books. Like foreword to one about the selkies.

  15. Thanks for the info, I always wondered what they were, read them in a lot of Scottish novels, knew they came from the sea, but nothing else. I enjoy your books so much. Keep up the GREAT writing, I will keep on reading. Have a Great Day.

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