Selkies are mythical creatures found in Scottish, Irish, and Faroese folklore. These beings are seals in the water but can shed their skins to take on a human form on land. The selkie myth is particularly prevalent in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, as well as along the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Selkies are known for their dual nature as both seals and humans. In their seal form, they are typically described as large, dark-eyed seals. However, when they come ashore, they can shed their sealskin to reveal a human form.

Artistic depiction of a Selkie

Physical characteristics

Seal Form: In their seal form, selkies are typically described as large, dark-eyed seals. The specific type of seal may vary in different tales, but common associations include harbor seals or gray seals.

Human Form: In their human form, selkies are described as exceptionally attractive individuals. They may possess an otherworldly beauty, which adds to their allure.
Selkies may be depicted with long, flowing hair, luminous eyes, and an ethereal presence. Their human form is often associated with a sense of grace and charm.
Despite their human appearance, selkies may retain some connection to the sea, such as having webbed fingers or a faint smell of saltwater.


The word “selkie” itself is believed to be derived from the Old Norse word “selr,” meaning seal. The selkie myth has strong associations with the sea, coastal regions, and the islands of Scotland and Ireland.

The tales of selkies have been documented in various forms, including folktales, songs, and poetry. These stories often explore themes of love, loss, and the mystical connection between the human and natural worlds. Many selkie myths involve a human encountering a selkie, often through the discovery of the selkie’s sealskin, leading to a complex and often bittersweet relationship.

Selkie emerging from the sea, caught between two worlds

powers and abilities

Shape-Shifting: The primary ability of selkies is their power to shift between a seal form and a human form.

Sealskin Magic: The sealskin is a crucial element in selkie mythology. When a selkie is in human form, the possession of their sealskin is vital. If a human finds and possesses a selkie’s sealskin, they may have control over the selkie, as the creature is bound to the land until the skin is returned.

Musical Talent: Some selkie tales attribute musical prowess to these beings. They may be skilled musicians, using their voices or enchanted instruments to create beautiful and mesmerizing music.

Emotional Influence: Selkies are sometimes believed to have an influence over human emotions. Their presence may evoke strong feelings of love, longing, or melancholy.

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