We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Selkie?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A selkie is a mythical creature who lives primarily as a seal, but can assume human form by removing its seal skin. Many stories and ballads about the creatures can be found in Ireland and Scotland, and the myth seems to have originated in the Orkney Islands. Selkies are closely affiliated with seafaring communities, where many people see and interact with seals on a regular basis. They crop now and again in popular culture, in everything from songs to fiction books which incorporate selkies into their plots.

Depending on the region, selkies are also called silkies or selchies. The word is a diminutive form of the Scots word for seal, selk or selch, which is derived from seolh, the Old English term for a seal. According to many of the ballads about the creatures, selkies may periodically emerge from the water to interact with humans, but they do not form lasting relationships, returning to the sea after a brief period. To prevent a selkie from escaping, the seal skin can be concealed or destroyed.

Many of the stories about selkies are romantic tales, either about fishermen who become captivated by the beauty of female selkies, or wives who are frustrated with their absent husbands and their encounters with male selkies. In many of these tales, the skin of the selkie is hidden, and the selkie may settle with his or her spouse for years, producing children and living among the rest of the village. Selkie spouses are said to be rather sad and sometimes lonely, however, as they pine for the sea.

Should a captured selkie find its skin, the creature will return to the sea, which is its natural home. According to myth, once a selkie has returned to the sea, seven years will pass before he or she is seen again. Like other half human, half animal creatures in mythology, selkies seem to struggle with their dual identities, and it is interesting to note that, given the opportunity, they will return to their animal forms.

The origins of the selkie myth are unclear. Some people have suggested that the selkies may have been inspired by real people such as explorers who wore heavy furs and stopped at the Orkney Islands. Other mythologists believe that selkies really did spring from legend. Many of the beliefs around the animals suggest that they are the reincarnations of people lost at sea, or that they are humans trapped in the form of seals.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon74940 — On Apr 04, 2010

I had to look this up. There is a song by Between The Buried and Me called "Selkies: An Endless Obsession" So I had to find out what it was. Well now i know.

By anon17623 — On Sep 03, 2008

I'm using this article for school and it's really cool i'm 10 1/2 years old and this really helps a lot so thnx whoever wrote this.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.