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Submitted on
February 6, 2011
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The Selkie Wife by RJDaae The Selkie Wife by RJDaae
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a seal? As deep as the ocean, and twice as dark, they seem to glow with sadness and ancient secrets, so different from the vacant, dead eyes of the fish they share the waters with. Eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, and anyone who believed animals to be soulless, on meeting a seal's gaze, would realize theyd been mistaken. Some say that their depth bespeaks something beyond a simple animal-with-a-soul.

There used to be families who claimed to know the secret of the seals--
selchs, as they were known in those days. If you ever have the great luck to chance upon a very old parish birth record of one of these clans, you might know why they asserted such knowledge. These records will appear normal at first, until you reach the details of the babe's mother. Sometimes the details are left blank; sometimes the letters are unsteady and misshapen, as though the one who filled it out was unsure of the truth of what they wrote; on a very few, there is the simple notation, 'frae the faem'.

And 'from the foam' they were.

Selkies. Seal-people. No one was quite certain how often the creatures were allowed to shed their seal skins and come ashore, but when they did visit the land they were in constant peril of abduction. If a man saw one of the beautiful, dark-eyed women, and followed her stealthily, he might discover where she had secreted away her skin. If he was able to capture it, and hide it from her, she would be bound to him as his wife. And an excellent wife a selkie made: lovely, hard-working, and devoted to her husband and children. An observer could almost have said she was happy, as long as they took care to avoid looking into her eyes. A selkie wife's face might be bright and agreeable, but her eyes would still burn with the unfathomable sadness of a seal's.

One wonders why the men of these families were so proud to boast of their heritage, given the sad existence of the selkies themselves, but men have never been the most considerate of creatures where others are concerned. Mercifully, a selkie woman was seldom held captive for long. Her false contentedness would slowly lull her husband into a state of complacency, until the inevitable day he would cease checking that the skin was well-hidden. She would find it then, perhaps while searching for it under the guise of cleaning the boathouse. Her husband would be left with only their children as consolation, for neither love nor money could keep a selkie, upon recovering her sealskin, from her true home.

The tales of selkies have slowly ebbed away, been dismissed as myths and the ramblings of drunken fishermen, much as have stories of mermaids. Some say, though, that selkies still live on the far-flung coasts of this country, having finally become wise to the thieving ways of men, and choosing to stay hidden. Next time you're walking along the shore, and you see a seal, try, in the moment before it flees into the water, to meet its eyes.

Perhaps you'll see something there.

I painted this for an art show that Im going to be in! :dummy:

Selkies are part of the folklore of Scotland (and sometimes Ireland), and are believed to have originated in the Orkney Islands. Im kind of puzzled why so many people who paint/draw them depict them as mermaids with seal tails instead of fish ones, though. :O_o:

Please look at the detail picture. You cant see the selkies very well in the full view:

Acrylic on Bristol board, 14 x 17 inches
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Critique by FireMarioWii Feb 9, 2011, 4:56:09 PM
An unseen beauty suffering in the distance, crying for the wisp of the sea. This piece truly captures the magic of the selkie's tears with subtle beauty. Your usage of smooth colors with a mist like feel really adds to the melancholic nature of this drawing. The paints are smooth and surrounded by fine touches to really make the lighting stand out.
Instead of having a direct source of light present in the drawing, you leave the light source out of the screen and grant everything this very shiny and aquatic like nature. That is a very majestic thing in this piece.
Your drawing of the poor selkie really adds to this as well. It clouds her in mystery, sadness, and doubt and allows us to truly feel for her. It is a magnificent piece that shows no real errors for its style and fantastic nature of painting. For that I give my perfect score.
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SassyTriniKARS Featured By Owner May 12, 2013
DolphinSilverwolf Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013
"I don't know what was worse...having my skin stolen, or five minutes later, my would-be husband trying it on and managing to get it to activate!"
ilovemostanime Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2012
*la* thats awesome, i wounder why your the only person i can find with anything to do with selkies :3
RJDaae Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I don't know. :( It's probably because they're not as well-known as mermaids.
ilovemostanime Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012
hmmmm.... we need to fix that soon lol
LadyofGaerdon Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Professional Writer
Lovely! And I love that you included that story in your artist comments - very powerful indeed.
RJDaae Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you! ^_^
Fiyhi Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Beautiful and sad. I grew up with stories about selkies. My mother's great grandmother washed up on irish shores one day. Some nice people found her and brought her in, but there wasn't a boat crash or any other people. We still don't know where she came from. :)
I love the details in the hair. And you can almost see the temperature in the painting.
Have you ever seen a movie called The Secret of Roan Inish?

RJDaae Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you! :)
That's fascinating about your great-great-grandmother! Do you know if she ever said anything about where she came from?
And yes, I've seen that movie. :aww: I watched it back around the time I did this painting. I think Selkies are very interesting, but not terribly many people seem to have heard of them. :(
Fiyhi Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2011  Student Digital Artist
No, I don't think she did. Kinda mysterious. I know she was "black Irish". (not actually black, just in case you didn't already know) :D
It's really sad how many people have no idea what a selkie is. I have a variation of selkies in a book I'm writing and when I tell people, they're like, "What's that?" I've mostly given up trying to tell them about the seal skin, so I usually just say "Like a mermaid, but with a seal", and it's really annoying. ):
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