Son of Selkie


April 29, 2016 by petrujviljoen

A young man, at the very end

of the rock slicing into the sea

standing, as if fixed, as if part

of the motion of the invitation

of the surf.


There’s no comfort here.

None at all.

Not then.


Eyes red from raking the

surface of the brine so deep

a strident wind tearing at

his hair; his shirt a-blowing

– a ship at sail.


at home – the encounter:

father frothing – you! You!

the usual turn of the head

was stayed; eyes focused,

levelled at the grey old man


The early night – rain-lashed

and bestormed – now quiet.

A stir on the surface of the

brine so deep, one, two,

then eleven, lumbered up.


Eleven of them danced

graceful as a seal

in its element.


The young man, at the very end

of the rock reaching into the sea

stood. Transfixed. Staring at the

clump of hair caught there.


By Users Richard Harvey, Guinnog on en.wikipedia – Taken and donated by user:Guinnog, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Background to the Sealskin/Soulskin woman can be found here.

Linked to Dverse, Open Link Night, hosted by Victoria S Slotto.

30 thoughts on “Son of Selkie

  1. Suzanne says:

    This is so romantic and passionate. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Bryan Ens says:

    The photo and poem go together perfectly!

  3. whimsygizmo says:

    As a lover of mermaids, but only a dabbler of selkies, I loved reading this, and its explanation. Thank you!

  4. mtw says:

    i remember reading about this particular story – you do a beautiful job of retelling it in poem form, from the perspective of the young man. lovely piece.

  5. There is a kind of energy that emerges when one is touched by the muse. I believed your subject has been taken by that magic… and that’s lovely.

  6. Mary says:

    I really like your poetic take on the story! Very effectively told. And thanks for the explanation as well.

  7. Patti says:

    First time through, I felt sadness. But after I read your comment, telling the story behind your words (thank you for that), I reread it. I still felt a sadness, but I also thought there was some hope in it as well.

  8. Waltermarks says:

    So she was kind of like a mermaid, sounds fascinating!

  9. Oh I do like the myth of selkies.. not quite the same as mermaids but so much similar… the impossible attraction … love your take here.

  10. Bodhirose says:

    I’ve heard of those Selkie from Irish mythology I believe. Your last line that mentions the clump of hair left me wondering if a death had occurred…

    • No, thankfully not. I wrote hoping people would know the story to it. The seal woman, once on land had her skin stolen by the boy in the poem’s father. The boy gave it back to her once he inadvertently found it and she went back to sea (her own element). Thus him staring over the water in case he might see her. After him for once standing up to his father, i.e. not shy or ashamed that he was the cause of the seal woman leaving, she came to visit their island again. It’s a wide spread folktale. A favourite of mine: the ‘moral’ is to leave a dry (spiritual or creative) place and go back to who one really is. The boy’s ‘coming of age’ being his own man, brought her. It’s her seal hair he saw.

    • I added a link to explain the back story. Should’ve done it in the first place.

      • Bodhirose says:

        Now I can see what you are saying in your poem more clearly. I wasn’t familiar with the folk tale so couldn’t really “connect the dots” so to speak. It’s a wonderful story and I can appreciate why it’s a popular one.

  11. Barry Dawson says:

    “at home – the encounter:

    father frothing – you! You!

    the usual turn of the head

    was stayed; eyes focused,

    levelled at the grey old man”

    These are all powerful images. I feel the melancholy, as well as the stiffened resolve. Excellent poem.

  12. These images stir up such a sad emotional response. I’m not familiar with the story that drove it, but the feelings seep through.

  13. Nan Mykel says:

    Wow–deep! I’m curious.

    • It’s a folklore Nan. The first version I read was from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Estes Pikola. Wikipedia has a nice article about it if you’d like to read up.

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