What are Selkies?

Recently I was reading Dragonshadow and The Wicked King at the same time, and, coincidentally, both books mentioned Selkies.  In one book Selkies played a fairly important role, while in the other they were only mentioned briefly.  I knew Selkies were water creatures but I had assumed that they were like the Mermaids from Harry Potter (ugly and creepy looking, but still mermaids) Turns out I wasn’t even close.

So what are Selkies? Here is what Wikipedia says:

Selkies (also spelled silkiessylkiesselchies) or Selkie folk (Scotsselkie fowk) meaning “Seal Folk[a] are mythological beings capable of therianthropy, changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin.

Basically Selkies are Human/Seal shapeshifters who have a unique way of shifting.  They literally shed their seal skin when they become Humans.  Then when they want to become seals again they put back on their seal skin.

If the seal skin is stolen then they are stuck in their human form, and cannot return to the sea until it is recovered.  A lot of Selkie folklore are stories of human men stealing the seal skin of female Selkies and forcing them to become their wives.  As far as I can tell, the Selkie woman are not unhappy as wives, but they always pine for the sea and return to it the moment they get their skin back.

In the book where Selkies played a prominent role, the seal skin shrunk to just a cap when it was removed making it easier to manage.  Then, when the Selkie put it back on, it grew into a cape and then encircled their body turning them back into a seal.  I don’t think that fits in with the traditional mythology, but I liked that imagery a lot!

I read the Wikipedia and Ancient Origin articles on Selkies, so all of my information comes from those two articles and the two books I mentioned earlier.  I would highly recommend reading the Ancient Origin article! (And the books but neither one will help you understand anything about Selkies)

Here are some really great pictures I found!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

On a freaky side note.  Not only was it coincidental that both books I was reading happened to mention Selkies, but three days later, J.W. Martin @ Storeys of Stories wrote a post about crazy coincidences between books you are reading.  So that is two huge coincidences surrounding all of this! Its mind blowing!

giphy (41).gif

(Yes I stole your gif … deal with it 😉 )

What are some crazy coincidences that occurred between books you were reading?  Did you know what Selkies were before this?  What is your favorite mythical creature? Lets talk!


27 thoughts on “What are Selkies?

  1. Selkies are interesting, I’ve read a few books with them. One of the Gale Women books by Tanya Huff has a selkie side character and there are selkies in one of J. Kathleen Cheney’s series too (most of the characters are sea creatures of some sort).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I love selkies! I knew about them before this, partly because of some research I did into Irish mythology a while back. (I knew about them before that, but learned more when I did my research.) They’re used in several of the fantasy series I’ve read, though of course I can’t think of which books now, LOL. Still, I love the idea of them.

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  3. They tend to show up in a lot of Celtic myths but its easy to think they’re mermaids. Thanks for this the differences are always interesting. I still haven’t read Dragonshadow but selkies will likely move it back up the list!

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    1. Wikipedia actually said there was a lot of myths where they are types of mermaids, or something like that, so its not just me! They were super fun to read about and I don’t know a lot about celtic myths but I like reading about them 🙂


  4. Not only was it coincidental that both books I was reading happened to mention Selkies, but three days later, J.W. Martin @ Storeys of Stories wrote a post about crazy coincidences between books ….. hahahaha. But yeah, just a few days before his post I was thinking about something similar.
    The first time I read about selkies was actually in a Nora Roberts book. I always thought that the seal was an odd choice for shifting. But i do like the concept.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were thinking something similar about coincidences in general? Or did you have a particular coincidence you noticed? Seals are kind of odd, but I love the way they shift, its like no other shifting method I have heard of before!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The coincidences in general. And like Joe, I almost always forget them after. Lol. But I know I’ve had a few.

        Yeah, the shrinking cap/ ‘zipping’ in and out of the skin… interesting though.

        Liked by 1 person

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