Selkies & Feminicide

packshaud

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#1
Selkies are a kind of shapeshifter that are seals, and become human-like when removing their skins. They can be bound to a person if this skin is hidden.

A typical story is of a man that finds a female selkie on a beach, and hides her skin to capture her as his wife. Eventually, the selkie finds her skin and goes back to the sea, to never be seen again, leaving her "husband" and children behind.

Like I said, children often result from this union. These may have webbed hands, a medical condition known as syndactyly.

With this small introduction, now the point I want to make. There is a strong opinion nowadays that changeling stories became popular as justifications for infanticide of children with birth defects. I am thinking of selkies as something like that, but for wives with defective children--or not. "She was a selkie and ran away back to the sea, and now she is sleeping with the fishes."
 

brownmane

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#2
Sorry, I'm confused about your post. Are you talking about shapeshifters or changelings and infanticide or femicide (which is title of your post). As far as I understand, selkies are shapeshifters
 

PeteByrdie

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#3
You mean, saying the reason your wife has gone missing is because she's a selkie, and she's gone back to her people, and isn't under my new patio.

Interesting. It's a common trope in fairytales. Otherworldly woman is forced to marry man somehow, then he does the thing he was told not to do which releases her to return to her people. Potentially, it may have been used to explain the sudden disappearance of a spouse, I suppose.
 

brownmane

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#4
You mean, saying the reason your wife has gone missing is because she's a selkie, and she's gone back to her people, and isn't under my new patio.

Interesting. It's a common trope in fairytales. Otherworldly woman is forced to marry man somehow, then he does the thing he was told not to do which releases her to return to her people. Potentially, it may have been used to explain the sudden disappearance of a spouse, I suppose.
Thanks PeteB. Now that I've read your post and reread the OP, I understand what the question was. I got confused about the changeling reference.
 

packshaud

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#6
Sorry, I'm confused about your post. Are you talking about shapeshifters or changelings and infanticide or femicide (which is title of your post). As far as I understand, selkies are shapeshifters
It seems there is a consensus, nowadays, that changeling cases were fueled by diseases and birth defects in children. Several violent procedures were applied to the child, in an attempt to expel the fake one, and to bring the original back. These measures, if applied to real children, would kill them.

In an environment where everyone needs to work so that all can eat, one that could not work was a drain in the resources of the family. A long and good article on this can be found here:
https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/changeling.html

An infamous changeling case occurred in 1895, the Bridget Cleary murder (but she was an adult, and her husband killed her):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_Cleary

Medically, the condition where a person thinks another, close one was replaced by an identical substitute is known as Capgras delusion. Looking for "Capgras murder" without quotation marks, in your favorite search engine, should yield information on recent cases (but these are no longer justified with fairy actions--their cousins, the aliens from UFO reports, might be mentioned). Information on the condition can be found at Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capgras_delusion

So, it occurred to me that, like PeteByrdie said, "She was a selkie!" could be used as an excuse for the disappearance of a spouse--but generally, selkies were women.
 

Frideswide

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#7
There is a strong possibility (that means I like it ;) ) that many changling cases = autism. A very comon presentation is that everything appears "normal", typically until the wean is 2-3 years old. At which point it appears that skills are lost and (pre)language can disappear too.
 

packshaud

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#8
There is a strong possibility (that means I like it ;) ) that many changling cases = autism. A very comon presentation is that everything appears "normal", typically until the wean is 2-3 years old. At which point it appears that skills are lost and (pre)language can disappear too.
This is discussed in detail in the book "The Good People" edited by Peter Narváez. If not in one day (Google blocks long accesses at once, but frees the blocked sections later; some pages of books are never available, but it is not the case for this chapter), you can read this, The Invisible Made Visible: The Fairy Changeling as a Folk Articulation of Failure to Thrive in Infants and Children by Joyce Underwood Munro:
https://books.google.com/books?id=DLmoKKkxAX0C&pg=PA251
 

packshaud

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#9
You mean, saying the reason your wife has gone missing is because she's a selkie, and she's gone back to her people, and isn't under my new patio.

Interesting. It's a common trope in fairytales. Otherworldly woman is forced to marry man somehow, then he does the thing he was told not to do which releases her to return to her people. Potentially, it may have been used to explain the sudden disappearance of a spouse, I suppose.
There is also, of course, the broader theme of forbidden relationship, that go "poof" when they become public.

Selkies have always stroke me as odd, because of their physicality. I think I'm not using this word properly, but I hope you get what I mean. Normally fairies leave no trace of their encounters, but selkies live years on land, and there is also the hidden skin. If it is a symbol for something, I don't know what it is.

On second thoughts, mermaids are also somewhat like this. Several people often see them; there are also stories of captures.

But the thought of fishermen informants telling tall tales providing reports to wild-eyed folklorists is always in a corner of my mind...
 

Frideswide

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#10
This is discussed in detail in the book "The Good People" edited by Peter Narváez. If not in one day (Google blocks long accesses at once, but frees the blocked sections later; some pages of books are never available, but it is not the case for this chapter), you can read this, The Invisible Made Visible: The Fairy Changeling as a Folk Articulation of Failure to Thrive in Infants and Children by Joyce Underwood Munro:
https://books.google.com/books?id=DLmoKKkxAX0C&pg=PA251

now on the wishlist :) thank you @packshaud
 

PeteByrdie

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#11
Selkies have always stroke me as odd, because of their physicality. I think I'm not using this word properly, but I hope you get what I mean. Normally fairies leave no trace of their encounters, but selkies live years on land, and there is also the hidden skin. If it is a symbol for something, I don't know what it is.
The skin thing seems common among shapeshifting creatures. Also, I think in older times, the difference between physical and non-corporeal was less pronounced. Elves were physical beings, essentially, and even ghosts could be physical and interact as normal people.
 

Kondoru

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#13
I always thought it was some woman got tired of living on the outer islands and got married to a rich guy who lives in a house that hasnt even got a sea view!...

Then got guilty over leaving her people.

Folktales are often made sense of if you flip them.

Like Gypsies stole my child

Becomes I gave my illegitimate baby to travelers.

Which makes more sense.
 

maximus otter

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#14
...a rather lovely performance by...Julie Fowlis of..."Oran an Roin" (a song meant to have come from hearing the singing of a real Selkie woman)

Òran an Ròin

Hò i hò i hì o hò i
Hò i hò i hì o hì
Hò i hò i hì o hò i,
cha robh mi m’ aonar a-raoir.


’S mairg san tìr seo, ’s mairg san tìr,
’g ithe dhaoine ’n riochd a bhìdh.
Nach fhaic sibh ceannard an t-sluaigh,
goil air teine gu cruaidh cruinn.


’S mise nighean Aoidh mhic Eòghainn,
gum b’ eòlach mi mu na sgeirean.
Gur mairg a dhèanadh mo bhualadh,
bean uasal mi o thìr eile.


Thig an smeòrach, thig an druid,
thig gach eun a dh’ionnsaigh nid.
Thig am bradan thar a’ chuain,
gu Latha Luain cha ghluaisear mis’.



The Seal’s Song

Hò i hò i hì o hò i
Hò i hì o hò i ì
Hò i hò i hì o hò i
I was not alone last night.


Pity to be in this place
where people are eaten as food
See the chief of the people
Boiling hard on a fire.


I am the daughter of Aoidh son of Ewen
I was knowledgeable about the reefs
Pity the person who would hit me
I am a noble woman from another land.



The thrush comes, the starling comes
Every bird returns to its nest
The salmon comes from the sea
Until Doom’s Day I will not be moved.


maximus otter
 

packshaud

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#16
now on the wishlist :) thank you @packshaud
The Garland original 1991 edition is available in hardback, but it would be advisable to get the newer 1997 version by the University Press of Kentucky; it was released in paperback only, but the introduction and the index were updated.

Edit: otherwise, all the other pages are the same in both versions; if really necessary, you can read the updated version on the Amazon preview:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0813109396
 

James_H

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#18

pandacracker

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#19
It seems to me that if female selkies can be used to explain away disappearances of women, then male selkies can be used to explain away pregnancies brought about by infidelity.
 
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