Faerie Folk: Selkies



The Selkie Legend

I am a man upon the land.

I am a silkie on the sea.

                                                –The Great Silkie (Childe Ballad #113

                                                                        Sung by Joan Baez on YouTube

            The Selkie myth arose hundreds of years ago in the northern isles of Europe.  Stories about selkies (also spelled silkies, sylkies, selchies), or Seal Folk, originated in the folktales of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Ireland and the Faroe Islands.

            Selkies can be male or female.  They are shapeshifters who can change from seal to human form by shedding their sealskin.  This ability of human beings to transform into other animals is called therianthropy.  The most famous therianthrope, or shapeshifter, is the werewolf.  Unlike the werewolf, selkies are said to be gentle souls, and attractive in appearance.

            In the selkie legends, the male selkies transform into handsome men who come ashore to seek out and romance lonely women.  Like Simead Nair in Ripples of Magic, the selkie is often bound by rules restricting how often he may turn human.  Male selkies belong to the vast variety of faerie folk, and have the magical ability to charm women using their faerie glamour.

            The most well known tale about the female selkie is the version I used in Awakening Magic. In the traditional story, the female selkie comes ashore and transforms into a human to bask in the sun or dance on the beach.  A fisherman or seaman steals her sealskin.  By possessing her sealskin, he traps the selkie in her human form and forces her to bow to his will.  She remains a prisoner until she can retrieve the hidden sealskin and escape back to the sea.

            The children of a selkie and a human union may have webbed fingers, like Demara in Ripples of Magic. It is said that selkie children are drawn to the sea, and that they will never drown.  True fact: The people in the MacCodrum clan of the Outer Hebrides Islands have webbing, called syndactyly, between their fingers.  They claim to be descendants of a selkie/human match.






Demara is the protagonist in Ripples of Magic, Book IV of the Karakesh Chronicles. She is the child of a union between a selkie man and a human woman. She feels like an outcast, not fitting in to either world, yet she longs to be a selkie like her father, and live with him in the sea.

excerpt from Chapter 2, Ripples of Magic:

            By age twelve I was all too aware of the oddity of our family arrangement.  On market days in the village, the children I met sometimes spoke about their fathers. I kept silent.  Many fathers were miners who worked the day or night shift. There were farmers and craftsmen, bakers and tradesmen.  Some fathers were drunkards, and a few were absent entirely.  But none, none at all, were selkies who came out of the sea for three-day visits at the full moon.

            Freyla was my best source of comfort and information.

            “What am I supposed to do with these?” I asked her more than once, showing her my hands and feet.  I spread out my fingers and toes to reveal the thin webbing of skin between them.  “The village kids call me ‘Ducky.’” I wiped away a couple of loose tears.            

“Those are your faerie badges of honor,” Freyla said. 

All five books of the Karkesh Chronicles are available on Amazon and from Handersen Publishing

How the Karakesh Chronicles Began


The Green Man, from Growing Magic, Book V


It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about my fantasy-adventure series.

Tangled in Magic, the first book of the Karakesh Chronicles, began as a handmade gift for my twin godchildren, then 12 years old.  It was titled The Three Seductions.  I printed out two copies, folded and sewed the pages, and glued fancy paper to the book board covers.

I even drew some illustrations.

The main characters are the twins Agatha and Malcolm, who live in the dangerous, magical kingdom of Karakesh.  Agatha, age fifteen, embarks on a quest to find Malcolm, who is held prisoner by an evil warlock.

During the next five years, I wrote stories for magazines.  One of my short stories was published in Stinkwaves.  The editors of Stinkwaves, Nicole and Tevin Hansen, sent out a call for submissions to their authors.  I offered the first chapters of The Three Seductions.  They wrote back: Send the whole book.

Handersen Publishing is a small independent press that carries the work of the editors as well as a widespread group of authors.  As a team, the Hansens are both accessible and talented. 

We ended up merging two short novels together: Agatha’s search for Malcolm, and their harrowing journey back to Hawk Hill to repossess their home from the greedy warlock, Santer.  In order to keep track of their wanderings across Karakesh, I made a map.

Tangled in Magic appeared in print in 2017, with illustrations by Alison Gagne Hansen.

Carl III by Alison Gagne Hansen

But I couldn’t stop writing about the kingdom of Karakesh.  I had so many questions: Who was the little girl Agatha found staked out to die in the forest?  What happened to her?  The answers came in Book II, Guided by Magic (2018).  In that book, two sisters are kidnapped and put to work in the dwarves’ mines.  Such practices surely caused trouble in Karakesh.  My wonderings about Karakesh’s royal government merged with a selkie legend to inspire Book III, Awakening Magic (2019).  What if a girl is half selkie and half human?  Does she belong on land or in the sea? Demara faced that problem in Book IV, Ripples of Magic (2019).

The final published book of the Karakesh Chronicles follows Bimi Lightfoot, the adopted brother of Demara from Book IV.  Bimi Lightfoot’s faerie mother gave him away when he was a baby.  But who is his father?  Someday, Bimi promises himself, he’ll seek out both his parents.

That day comes sooner than Bimi expects, when his faerie cousin, Liri Flare, sweeps him into the sky on a mission to steal a horse.  Once away from his adoptive family, Bimi sets out to find his mother and learn the truth about his father.  He gets help from some of the magical folk of Karakesh, but other encounters are downright life-threatening. 

What started out as a present for two children in the family expanded into the realization of a lifelong dream: to have my stories (and illustrations) published.  It’s been a great gift.

Find the Karakesh Chronicles on Amazon at


or from www.handersenpublishing.com