Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Selkie Waterfall

There's been many tales told about the selkie and a few movies made. They are beautiful woman that may sometimes be glimpsed bathing in the lochs near the sea or in rivers or beside waterfalls. But when they are finished they slip back into their seal skins and return to the sea. A man, if he dares, may steal their seal skin and thus be assured that they will stay by him always. But their heart will always be elsewhere and though they will be loyal and obedient wives, still they will search for their sealskin and hope to one day flee back to their home.

Dave kept us entertained with his movie idea about three brothers [Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt & Dave] who fall in love with three selkie women [I can't remember who his pick of actresses were]. The first two brothers try to control their women. The first brother has a child with his true love. One day his son is exploring in the attic when he finds a strange cloth which he shows to his mother. She takes it from his outstretched hand and flees through the village down to the sea and is never seen again. Poor Johnny is devestated; a broken man. He ends up practically living at the pub trying to drown his sorrows in whiskey. Brad and Dave offer sypmathy but are relieved that their marriages are still going as they are uterly besotted with their selkie brides. Brad watches Johnny deteriorate and thinks that he never wants to turn into such a wasted man. So one afternoon he sneaks into the cellar and removes the selkie skin from the chest where he has hidden it. He walks out to the moors and builds a fire from tghe dry heather. He tosses the skin on it and is satisfied that his wife will never leave him. Yet he waks home to an empty house. There is no dinner ready on the table and no sound of his wife's singing. Puzzled, Brad walks out to the garden and sinks to his knees. His keening cry alerts the village and Dave runs next door to discover that Brad's wife is nothing more than a smouldering body lying dead near the vegie patch.

Brad mourns in deep despair. He spends his days getting completely obliviated with Johnny down at the pub. Now Dave is the only one of the brothers who still has a semblance of their early carefree happiness. He watches his wife each night as she moves around their house and thinks about what great joy she brings him and how he couldn't bear it if she was no longer in his life. One morning he walks down the stairs with a sinking heart. He places a sealskin on their table and looks his wife in the eye. 'Darling', he says, 'you are my true love. You are the only woman that I have ever wanted and I would die without you.' Then, shouldering his misery, he walks out of the house and goes about his day's work.

It is with a heavy heart that he walks slowly home that night and when he cannot find her anywhere he sinks down beside the fire and begins to weep. The next morning he almost walks down to the pub to join his brothers but in the morning's early light he notices a strange object on the mantle of the door that he had missed in the darkness of the night before. It is a single spray of seaweed.

Dave walks down to the pub. He has a single drink with his unkempt brothers and tells them that he is off to chase his heart's desire. Then he travels back to the waterfall where first he caught his selkie bride and from there down to the sea. For several days he travels and waits and shivers in the cold night air, wrapped up in his Highland plaid. Then, one day as the sun was setting and the shadows were creeping towards him on the beach, he heard the sound of his true love singing. Out of the water she came to him and while she stretched one hand out to him, the other had something wrapped around it. At his feet she kneeled and looked him in the eye, her eyes were warm and brown and in their depths he saw that she loved him too. Her hands placed a seal skin on his knees and she kissed him gently before turning back to the sea. Dave watched his wife walk back to her kin as his fingers ran patterns over the skin on his lap. Before he had even truly thought about it, he found that he was on his feet and running to catch-up so that he could take her hand in his.

Any who watched that beach that night and arrived as the sun sent its last golden rays to kiss the shore would have seen the waves breaking on the sand and stones, have heard the seagulls crying as they wheeled overhead and would have seen two seals swimming out through the breakers towards the setting sun.


This was the story we listened to as we bumped down country roads in the bus (or thereabouts). Dave is a fantastoc story teller and would do stuff like grab his water bottle to splash on his face when he was doing the tears and was hamming it up for all he was worth. Evenutally we pull off the road and he tells us that he's taking us to see the Selkie waterfall.

Now we're parked at the top of this cliff near the ocean and there's no sign of this waterfall. Basically at the base of the cliff is a little beach and a river that digs a cleft into the land. There's a hidden little inlet and the walls are still steep as a maypole. What we ended up doing was climbing down this little sheep track and then hugging the cliff face to try and edge forward and around to get a good view of the waterfall. The important thing to note here was that it was blowing an absolute gale and you had to actively fight the wind. A few of the boys, like our Dutchman, were daring enough to stand up to get their photo and ended up looking like they were trying to surf. The rest of us sprawled flat on our bellies to get near the edge and try to lift our cameras to the right angle. It felt insane at the time but also damn cool!


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