Selkie Myths

These are touchstone stories. Offered in short form to orient you to the variations of mythic shapeshifters, seals, women, mermaid, naiads and the like as known in many parts of the world. More aspects of the myths and references will be shared here and there…as we travel to meet our own Selkie Stories in art and life.

There is a famous legend in Scottish folklore that revolves around a selkie wife and her human lover.

According to the legend of the Selkies, a man finds a female naked selkie on the seashore, so he steals her sealskin and compels her to become his wife. Throughout her captivity, the wife longs to return to her true home in the sea and always gazes longingly at the ocean.

Although she may appear to settle into her human life and may even have children with her human husband, as soon as she can find her selkie skin, she will immediately flee and return to the sea.

The story varies from place to place, as some say that she discovers the whereabouts of her skin, and some others say that one of her children comes upon it by accident. Some also say that she had already been married to a selkie husband. Whatever the case, as soon as she gets the sealskin she returns to the ocean.

In some versions of the story of the Selkies, the selkie revisits her human family on land once every year, but in most versions of the tale, she is never seen again by them.

One version of the legend of the Selkies states that although the selkie wife was never seen again in human form, her children would sometimes witness a large seal approaching them and greeting them wistfully.