Selkies are magical water creatures found in Scottish, Irish and Scandenavian folklore. They live in the sea in the form of seals, but shed their skins to come on land, where they appear as humans.
Selkies are said to be very attractive in their human form. Many stories speak of male selkies seeking out dissatisfied fisherman’s wives to seduce. It is also said that if a man steals a female selkie’s sealskin, she will be forced to marry him.
I did a lot of research on Selkies and Seal-wives while working on <a href=“http://www.cjmoseley.co.uk/books/the-first-seal/”>The First Seal</a>. One of the Characters believes she is a Seal-wife, or Selkie, another of the Characters is a Professor of English with an interest in Folklore. So I went pretty deep into the research mode (far deeper than a Pot Boiler Thriller really needed) because the Character’s demanded it.
There’s some good evidence that the Selkie legend was created by Arctic Europeans meeting kayak using Arctic peoples (Inuit, Aleuts, etc). The Inuit fishers and hunters lived a nomadic life, following fish, seals and whales around the arctic circle on extended hunting trips. For weeks, they could live at sea, entire families travelling together, especially when moving between camps.
Within Inuit culture, the division of labour is largely based on gender, but both genders are taught the skills of the other. Men learn to start fires, cook, skin and preserve prey animals, and learn to sew so they can mend and fix their clothes. Women are taught how to hunt and fish, not just so they can feed themselves if they lose a husband, but also so they can teach their sons their own father’s techniques, if need be.
The Inuit built their kayaks by stretching seal and walrus-skins over a whalebone (and driftwood) frame, sealed with whale blubber. To the people that saw them these extraordinary covered boats didn’t look like boats, they replaced the legs of these half seal people.
So what we have is lonely fisherman meeting other fishermen’s wives. There may have been seduction, but for the Selkie women (who may have been travelling in a larger family boat, or a kayak if she was learning to hunt), if a Scottish fisherman stole her boat, she was stuck with him on his island. Traditionally, the Inuit had a much more pragmatic approach to marriage and sexuality than Europeans (particularly Christian Europeans). They had a number of tribal traditions that would reduce the chances of inbreeding, and point to more open, less jealous relationships.
Of course, if she found her kayak, she was out of there…
Reblogged from CJMoseley.tumblr.com. I do not claim to be the copyright holder, or to insure links are maintained…