Friday, February 20, 2009

Selkies or Mermaids

TGIF! We survived the week. Now, I just have to survive the weekend with guests in my home for a fourth weekend in a row. I hate to sound ungrateful, but sheesh, I need a break from the family drama!

I’ve had sick kids this week and they’ve gotten me sick. I have done very little writing which makes me cranky as hell. Now Thursday night rolls around and I’m still sitting here wondering what do I write about for my blog today? So, I broke out my handy dandy book, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews, and the first magical creature I turned to was Selkie. The second one was Mermaid. Kind of weird since they both involve magical sea creatures, so I decided this was fate prodding me in the Selkie/Mermaid direction.

So, tell me, which sounds more romantic? Selkie or Mermaid? Which would you prefer to find on a rock in the middle of the sea? Which would you feel safer with or want to be romantically inclined with?

According to Wikipedia (, a Selkie is a seal like creature with the ability to shed its seal shape and take human form when it comes to land. They are typically depicted in romantic stories where the human isn’t aware that their lover is a Selkie, but when they wake their lover is gone. There is also the legend of a human hiding the Selkie’s skin so that the Selkie cannot return to the sea and turn back into seal form. To further complicate things, Selkies can have contact with one person for only a short period of time before it becomes necessary for them to return to the sea. After that, they cannot have human contact for seven years. With one exception, a human may betray them by stealing their Selkie skin and hiding or burning it (this just seems exceptionally cruel to me), thereby forcing the Selkie to remain here on earth since they cannot return to the sea without their skin.

Call me crazy, but I immediately thought of the Charmed episode, A Witch’s Tail, where the Mermaid was given one month by the sea hag, an evil witch, to find true love. Of course, the sea hag had ulterior motives. Don’t they always! LOL If the Mermaid couldn’t get her lover to admit his true love for her within one month, then she would have to give the sea hag her immortality. Maybe that’s a little farfetched in the comparison between Selkies and the Charmed episode, but both have a short period of time unless: 1) the Selkie’s skin is hidden from them; or 2) the Mermaid is able to find true love and her lover admits it. My opinion, the Selkie version isn’t all that romantic. Sounds a little too much like kidnapping to me.

Selkies also brought to mind the 1984 movie, Splash, with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid in this movie, but she’s also able to shed her tail for various periods of time while on land. And in Splash, the Mermaid and human fell in love, so it had its romantic theme. Kind of like a Selkie, right? ;-) Okay, maybe another long stretch, but my brain saw the similarity with the way she was able to take human form on land. Seeing this movie as an impressionable kid, I loved the romantic mermaid aspect of it.

I didn’t forget Ariel and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid, just chose not to discuss it since it was so similar to the Charmed version in The Witch’s Tail.

Okay, none of these movies/shows have anything do with Selkies really, but rather Mermaids, right? Or, maybe…well, let’s see what The Element Encylopedia of Magical Creatures, by John & Caitlin Matthews, has to say about Mermaids. In folklore, Mermaids have a dark side and were kind of scary actually, nothing at all like the above romantic elements. Mermaids were responsible for luring young men to their death. The appearance of a Mermaid presaged storms and disasters, not only bringing about misfortunes, but also provoking them. Legend has them enthusiastically seeking human lives by either drowning or consuming men. Yowza! Talk about a black widows death ala Mermaid style. Suddenly, instead of having the beautiful Ariel image in my head, I'm picturing a sea hag type monster with piranha teeth. It was said, Mermaids were born without a soul and the only way they could obtain a soul was by marrying a human.

These aspects of Mermaid folklore had very little deviations from The Celts, Irish, Scotts, British, Dutch, and Asian regions. In fact, the character of a Mermaid differs very little between the nations of the world, signifying that belief in these odd creatures has been around for an extremely long time and that they are all similar and frightening. And to tie in Mermaids with Selkies, one of the many regional names of a Mermaid is Selkie. Neat, huh? I thought so anyway. =)

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

3 deadly screams:

Carrie from Wisconsin said...

Hi Gracen,

Great blog topic. Now, if you're going to choose one topic to write a story about, pick the one that's written about the least, Selkies.

However, before you do, you must watch The Secret of Roan Inish because the major storyline involves the Selkie legend, but I never heard of the legend before so I had a hard time picking up on what the creature was called because the Irish accent was quite heavy. The little girl in there is so cute and the seals you see in the movie are just gorgeous and look so cute and cuddly, even in the water!

I like a good merpeople story, but, so far, all the stories are the same - the mermaid wants to live on land. To me, unless you get really creative, say, have the story take place in merpeople land, they can be awfully limiting as a creature type.

I'm not sure if you're familiar with this soap or not, but Passions, a soap that started out somewhat interesting but then got really, really stupid with the fact that they kept adding a new paranormal or supernatural twist to the mix. I was flipping channels and caught a glimpse and decided to see what new debacle they added and found out it was a mermaid.

Now, if you want to be open your world up, get creative and do something that might be a cross between the two or even make up your own legend. That's what I'd do, because you can have so much more fun when you make the rules!

Molly Daniels said...

I loved both episodes of that Charmed plot:)

I learned about Selkies when Cindy Spencer Pape's book Stone and Sea (Ellora's Cave) came out last year. Haven't read it yet; I'll be buying it soon; but got together with her via chat loop and asked her what the hell was a selkie!

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Gracen, the ending piece about mermaids luring men to their deaths reminded me of Sirens as well, which was a recent creature on Supernatural, remember? Except that Sirens were bird-like women who were on islands and sang to lure the men and cause shipwrecks. I also looked and noticed that in several of the Roman languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc) that the word for mermaid is a derivitive of Siren (Spanish: Sirena, French: Sirène, Italian: Sirena). Makes me feel like blogging! All of this wealth of information. Bwahaha...

Great blog! I really enjoyed it.