“So Selkies are mythological creatures in Irish and Scottish folklore. They are seals who can shape-shift into women with dark hair and big, light-colored eyes. They explain why there are dark haired Irish people because they seem to have come out of thin air. The tradition says that the seals change into women and the only way they can change back is to put their seal skin on. They are derived from drowned Irish people. So, for every Irish person that drowns, there is a Selkie. The legend is that the seals remember that they used to be human so they long to return to their original form, transforming into a beautiful dark-haired woman. Then, human men fall in love with them and take their seal skin, which makes them forget they were a seal and fall in love with the men. After marriage, the man will hide the seal skin because if the woman ever sees it, she will remember her origins and develop a burning desire to return to the sea, her original home. Once she is a seal again, she longs to be a human again, rendering the Selkie a tortured soul, caught between two identities. This legend explains how dark-haired Irish children came to be, since there seems to be no introduction of dark hair into the Irish culture and it just came out of nowhere.”




My informant’s mother told her this story ever since her younger sister was born because although my informant has red hair, her mother, younger sister, and one of her younger brothers all have dark hair. To explain this, her mother told her and her siblings the story of the Selkies. It was a good bedtime story to explain how dark-haired Irish people seemed to have come out of thin air, as most of them have light red or brown hair. It is also a cautionary tale to encourage children to stay safe and not accidentally drown, because then, as legend has it, they will live a tortured life as a Selkie.