Classic Tales ·
Into the Woods ·
seal-folk of Scotland and Ireland, variously called
selchies, selkies, silkies, or roanes,
have a habit of swimming out of the mists of Faery and
landing on the shores of popular culture.
Those of a certain age will remember
haunting versions of the ballad The Great Silkie of
Sule Skerrie by Joan Baez and Judy Collins in the 1960s, and younger readers will know
John Sayles's film The Secret of Roan Inish or
the novel that inspired it, Rosalie K. Fry's
Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry.
I am a man upon the land
I am a selkie on the sea
The legend of the selchie is found along the shores
of Britain and Eire; there are selchie stories
from Cornwall, Ireland, and most particularly the
northern islands off Scotland: the Orkneys, Shetlands,
Unlike other merfolk, selchies can shed their seal-skins
on the land and pass for humans, usually
with tragic consequences.
Home for Selkies has links to mythological,
historical, and folk tales of selchies.
the Heritage of the Orkney Islands by Sigurd
Towrie, is a lovely site dedicated to the folklore,
fairy-tales, history, and traditions of Orcadia.
The Selkie-Folk at
Spared to the Sea, a selchie story by W. Towrie
The Great Selchie
Perhaps the best-known
selchie story concerns an earthly woman whose mysterious
lover is a selchie; this is the story told in the ballad
The Great Selkie of Sule Skerrie (Child #113).
Great Selkie o' Sule Skerry at
has lyrics and notes on the island of Sule Skerry.
two versions of the ballad at Folk Music of England, Scotland,
Ireland, Wales and America edited by Lesley Nelson.
The Great Silkie
at the Folk Music Index.
Another selchie story tells of a fisherman who took a selchie to
wife and hid her seal-skin, so that she could not return
to her home in the sea; this is the tale told by the grandmother
in The Secret of Roan Inish ("Roan Inish" is Irish for
Selkie, a version of the tale from the Hebrides,
retold by Mara Freeman. New URL.
The Seal-Woman's Croon (An Cadal Trom)
from "Songs of the Hebrides".
Notes on the Illustrations ·
6 March 2004