The time has come, the Walrus said.
It’s time to dive deep into one of my favorite sub-genres of mer-story. It’s time to re-cap twenty-three years of very scholarly research into this most fin-tastic feature of Celtic/Arctic/Greek mythology.
It’s time to talk about magic seals.
What are selkies (or silkies, or selchies, or Selch)? Where did they come from? How powerful are they? What happens when selkies and humans mate? This post will attempt to answer such questions according to the (mostly) Juv/YA books I’ve read in the past two decades. Some of these books agree on certain basic details. Others diverge along their own currents.
I really don’t know why I’m so fascinated by this particular branch of finfolk lore. My first eleven years were spent obsessing over more Disney-style mer-beings — pencil-thin women with long, pastel-colored fish tails and dainty seashell tops. And then, one day, I was sitting at the catalog computer in my local library, looking for books about seals. Maybe I’d seen a cute image of a harp seal pup on TV? Maybe I heard some interesting fact at school? In any case, hidden among all the nature books, I saw the entry for Sylvia Peck’s Seal Child.
The title alone told me this was going to be a story about magic, and/or a Wild Child story like Ocean Girl or Karen Hesse’s The Music of Dolphins. And when I saw that the seal girl’s name was just one letter off from my second-favorite Ocean Girl character, I was hooked. So hooked that, after reading Sylvia Peck’s Afterword about her folklore influences, I vowed to spend the rest of my life reading every selkie story ever.
A Reassuring Note (or, an anti-warning):
Despite what I suggested in previous posts, I have tried my best to avoid spoilers for the books I discuss (the old folktales are a different matter). Slap me some fins and sail on to page 2!
P.S. In case you’re curious, these are the books I discuss. Click the links for my original reviews.
- Daughter of the Sea, by Berlie Doherty
- The Folk Keeper, by Franny Billingsley
- Greyling, by Jane Yolen
- Home From the Sea, by Mercedes Lackey
- The Ingo books, by Helen Dunmore
- Lumberjanes, Vol. 6: Sink or Swim (issues 21-24), by Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh
- The October Daye series, by Seanan McGuire
- The People of the Sea, by David Thomson
- Seal Child, by Sylvia Peck
- Selkie Girl, by Laurie Brooks
- Seven Tears at High Tide, by C. B. Lee
- Tides, by Betsy Cornwell
- The Turning, by Emily Whitman
“Pastel Grunge” GIF from giphy.