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  1. The Selkie

From the album The Twilight Realm

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Stories about the selkie (a seal who can shed its skin and live on land as a human) are usually associated with Scotland. I know of no selkie stories originating in Ireland. Most of these tales center around the marriage of a selkie to a mortal. Typically, the selkie is a woman who falls in love and marries a mortal man. The man generally takes the seal skin of his wife and hides it so that she cannot return to the sea. As time passes and children are born to the couple, invariably one of the children finds the seal skin and the mother, despite her best efforts, cannot resist the lure of the sea. The coupling generally results in a sad situation for all involved. This song, rather unusually, involves a male selkie, but it is not the selkie who speaks during this song; rather, it is sung by the mortal woman who is pregnant with his child. She laments the day that she will have to return her child to the sea. Again, trying to balance a set of contradictions – lure of the sea, the conflict between the sea and the children – she comes to no neat or systematic resolution.

Lyrics

An earthly nourish sits and sings
And ay she sings by lily wean
Little ‘ken I my bairn’s father
Far less the land that he stops in

Chorus
I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I’m far and far from land
My dwelling (home) is in Sule Skerrie

It shall come to pass on a summer’s day
As the sun shines hot on every stone
That I shall take my little young son
And teach him for to swim the foam

Chorus
I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I’m far and far from land
My dwelling (home) is in Sule Skerrie

“It was not well,” said the maiden fair
“T’was not well, indeed,” said she
That the great Silkie of Sule Skerrie
Should have come and bought a bairn to me

Chorus
I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I’m far and far from land
My dwelling (home) is in Sule Skerrie