The children of the selkie-folk
"An evil spirit your beauty
haunts me still.
Wherewith, alas! I have been long possessed."
the selkie-men's insatiable appetite for mortal women, children said to the result of a union between
mortal and selkie were common in Orcadian folk-tales. The story of the Goodman
o' Wastness and his seven selkie children is a typical example
of this genre.
However, the phenomenon
was not simply restricted to fireside yarns and, until fairly
recently, some Orcadian families still claimed descent from the
One allegedly true story, documented
by the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter Traill Dennison, centres around
one family from the North Isles of Orkney whose children were all born with "selkiepaws" — webbed feet and fingers.
At each birth, the midwife desperately clipped away
these webs, but to no avail. The web always grew back:
". . . and many a clipping Ursilla clipped, to
keep the fins from growing again; and the fins, not being able
to grow in their natural way, grew into a horny crust on the
palms of the hands and soles of the feet. And this horny substance
can be seen in many of Ursilla's descendants to this day."
Dennison witnessed this condition. In his notes regarding the subject he states categorically:
"whatever may be thought of this
tale, its last sentence is quite true."
To read Walter Traill Dennison's
full account of this story, click here.