Selkie - Legends and Myths

Selkies or The Seal People are creatures from Scottish, Irish, and Faroese mythology and folklore tales. It is said that Selkies are cursed creatures and that they are seals when they are in the water, but when they are on the land, they shed their skin and become human. The Seal People legends are very similar to swan maiden stories. These legends are today usually told in Scottish islands Orkney and Shetland. It is understandable why these stories originate in Scotland which is surrounded by the sea, lived by the sea and connected to it.

The word selike originates from Scots language word selich. On the other hand, there is no specific term for selkie in the Gaelic language.

There are a lot of theories about the origin of those stories and legends about selikes. One of the theory is that there was a Spanish ship wrecked, and bodies of sailors have washed ashore with their black hair resembled seals. Another theory is that selkies are in fact Finish and Saami people who have kayaks made of seal skin and wear fur. Also, there is a story of some people who said that selkies are fallen, angels. Christian theory is that selkies represent souls of people who are stuck in purgatory.


Selkies that are male are famous because of their handsomeness. They use that handsomeness to seduce mortal women. Male selkies hide their seal skin while searching for the woman, single or married. If a woman is attracted by selkie male and wants to see him again, she needs to put seven of her tears into the sea when the tides are high. After that, the male selkie would come and take her as a lover. If there were a woman who went missing at the sea, usually people would say that she went to the home of selkie man.

There are also selkie women, and they are also handsome and desirable. In many stories, men find selkie female’s skin by theft or deceit and after that creature has no choice but to marry that man. End of such stories is usually that, after a lot of time, children of men and selike woman find hidden skin and return it to their mother. Children then, sometimes go to the sea with the mother.

Usually, all the stories about selkies are romantic tragedies. In some stories, the human doesn’t even know that his wife is a selkie or vice versa. Also, these stories could be a way to describe women that don't fit into the society or a way to describe and explain something unexplainable to them back then like children that are sometimes born with webbed fingers, faces that look like a seal or fishy smelled skin.

Selkies, stories about them and references to them takes places in a lot of novels, songs, and films. Some of them are John Allison's webcomic Bad Machinery, The Folk Keeper, a novel by Franny Billingsley, A. E. van Vogt's novel The Silkie and much much more.

Seal People