a sea lion. or was it?
2004-03-12, 7:08 p.m.
I read a news story today about a 19-year-old fisherman (fisherboy?) in Alaska who was working on his grandfather's docked boat when a sea lion leapt on board, grabbed the boy and pulled him into the water. When I read the headline, I mused "I'm rooting for the sea lion, myself," presuming the boy did something to instigate the attack. But by all accounts, he didn't. He apparently sports a small scrape (not even a bite mark) and he was held underwater for a moment, but is unharmed.
Then I read a quote from his father, who was on the bridge at the time of the "grab":
"The only thing I was thinking is, that sea lion was taking off with my boy, and I'll never see him again." [sic]
I thought right away of the Legend of The Selkie. Selkies are mythical (or are they?) creatures from the northernmost islands near Scotland and Ireland. I'm unclear what they are, spirits perhaps, but they can take the form of humans or seals. Male selkies are said to cause storms as revenge for seal-hunting. But the legend of the female selkies is the one that's, well, enchanting. Female selkies can shed their skin and take human form. They're very strangely beautiful, didn't you know? The darkest darkest eyes... If a man is able to capture the skin of the female while it's shed, she becomes his perfect, but always sad-and-longing-for-the-sea bride. She can apparently also mate with her human husband, creating beautiful but sea-obsessed children. Oh, the other villagers? Don't care for her so much. If and when the selkie finds her skin, wherever he has hidden it, she returns to the sea, and her slavemaster, I mean husband, always meets a bad end, pining for her till he dies.
So I immediately thought, when I read the story about the sea lion in Alaska, "Well, maybe it's the boy's mummy or girlfriend coming back to say hello..."
From Rosalie Fry's The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry (which was adapted into the film The Secret of Roan Inish):
Everyone saw [young Ian McConville] row out in his boat alone with the lobster creels, and everyone saw him come home again with the strange girl in the stern. And strange she was by all accounts, with great dark eyes and wild black hair blowing about her face... But when they asked Ian where he had found her, he merely replied that she came from the Ron Mor Skerry. Now that, of course, was nonsense, for the Ron Mor Skerry is only a rock off the end of Ron Mor Island... Well, of course there was much shaking of heads when Ian married the dark-eyed stranger. She was quite unlike the island women and some of her ways were so strange... [but] the islanders had to admit that she made Ian an excellent wife, while their children were the bonniest on the island.
** Note to self: use the word "bonny" more.