The Sea Calls: A Selkie’s Existence in the Liminal

Frances Avery (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Traditionally, the selkies (or seal people) of Scottish-Irish lore exist between spaces: the land and the sea, human and animal, childbearing and childless. Their existence at sea is voluntary but their existence on land is forced. Once the selkie has left behind its sealskin and both the literal and metaphorical sealskin has been stolen, the selkie becomes subject to human will. The lenses of body, reclamation, violation, and abuse prove that the reason why selkies have faded from popularity is because the lessons are too mature for a young audience. A feminist and queer reading and interpretation of this traditional tale not only demonstrates the sexual and domestic subjugation that marginalized characters in folklore endure, but it explores the non-belonging that occurs when existing in the liminal.

Part of 31-02 Women in/and the Folklore of Ireland and the U.K., Wednesday, October 20, 9:30 am–11:00 am