Finfolk Friday: Rebellious Mermaiding

SPOILERS for The Girl From The Sea, by Molly Knox Ostertag.

Close-up of the book cover, showing Keltie reaching up to touch Morgan's hand.

So, in this world, there’s only one selkie per generation. Keltie is the only member of her seal family who can turn human, and she can only do so for a few days every seven years. A human kiss lets her walk on land, but once she puts her sealskin back on, she belongs to the ocean for another seven years.

So of course it’s super heartbreaking when she has to jump into the water to save Morgan’s friend Serena, who fell off her family’s yacht because of Keltie’s own mistake.

See, she was kind of using Morgan to get to Serena to make her family change their harbor tour routes so they wouldn’t disturb a seal rookery…and even though Morgan (after the classic “It wasn’t ALL a lie!” scene) assured Keltie that she could talk Serena into helping them, Keltie got impatient and tried to run the yacht into a bunch of rocks.

Don’t worry, she hit Undo at the last moment and the conveniently careless captain banned her from future tours, but whoops! Serena was sitting on the back railing, brooding because it’s her birthday (by the way!) and her parents are using her as a pawn to advertise their tour company, and now her best friend is making up stories about mermaids to manipulate her into some environmentalist scheme…

So, long story short, Keltie has to sacrifice her romance with Morgan to save Serena because apparently the other seals can’t do it for her.

Photo of a seal's face, with a blank expression and the words Seal of Disapproval.

There’s no explanation for this other than Keltie feeling personally responsible. I mean, fair enough, but the other seals are right there. It seems like Keltie just jumps to another impulsive conclusion and doesn’t take a second to think it through. Which could make this a classic Tragic Flaw ending (like a Shakespearean tragedy, but without all the death), but it’s not presented that way. It’s presented as the only way to save Serena.

How sweet would it have been if Keltie had talked the other seals into saving the very person who had been an indirect threat to them? They trust Keltie implicitly, so it wouldn’t have taken much convincing, would it? They were Already. In. The water.

It’s not even like Keltie needs her human abilities to save Serena; she does what any seal could’ve done and uses her mouth to grab Serena’s arm, and then pulls her back to the boat.

I guess the one consolation is that this oversight doesn’t occur to either Morgan or Keltie afterwards, at least not on the page. ‘Cuz srsly, I’d have been way too pissed to have that last bittersweet kiss if I knew I’d just thrown away seven years with my soulmate for no reason.

And the ending is hopeful — Morgan meets another (former) selkie who assures her the romance isn’t dead, as evidenced by his own happy relationship with a human. I’m guessing he’s Keltie’s predecessor — the previous One Selkie In a Generation — and is living his best life now as Morgan’s mild-mannered neighbor. Who knows? Maybe Keltie will figure out a way to break the laws of the sea and be more permanently human before the next selkie is born. If Orlando Bloom can escape his Davy Jones contract, so can she.

GIF image of Orlando Bloom as Will Turner at the end of Pirates 3: At World's End, sailing toward Elizabeth's island, long hair billowing in the breeze and face dramatically serious.

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Credits:

Seal of Disapproval meme from makeameme.org.

Pirates of the Caribbean GIF from gfycat.

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