Thursday, 29 September 2016

So what is a Selkie?

Selkie is the dialect word for seal in the Orkney Islands, where the Selkie Folk are still a local  myth. Indeed, the song which haunts our upcoming production of ‘The Selkie Wife’ at The Apollo is itself from the Orkneys – more about that in another blog.

The basic folklore, of Celtic origin, and possibly connected to the Scandinavian myth of the Finfolk, is of creatures able to shift their form from seals into humans and back again, through the casting off and putting on of their seal skin. In some variations they can only transform at certain times, and many tales have humans concealing their mates’ seal skins to hold them to their human form.

There are many tales of Selkies, most suggesting that in human form, these creatures are alluring and mesmerising: they can mate with humans and their children can themselves become selkies. Tales abound of Selkies finding their skins after years on land and deserting their human partners, often taking their children with them.

Selkies are variously believed to be a water-borne form of fairyfolk;  humans who for some misdemeanour were condemned to spend their life as seals, and souls of humans who had drowned. Kelley Jo Burke has taken a variation of the last explanation as a basis for her beautiful and thought-provoking play.

‘The Selkie Wife’ will be staged at The Apollo Theatre on 21st, 22nd and 25th-29th October at 7.30pm.
For tickets and further information please visit:

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