By Marcus Lemasters
I’ve always loved the Scottish mermaid stories of Selkies. This is my version of the folktale.
Lachlan Hayes was a wrecker. Although young, strong and handsome man, Lachlan was also an unscrupulous man who used his lantern to draw sailing ships to the submerged rocks just offshore. He lived by salvaging whatever he could draw upon the rocky shoals.
Late of a night, Lachlan moved about the rocks with a lantern to light the paths before his feet. At a distance he heard, singing and merriment. As he stole along the edge of a small sandy cove, he spied several nude young men and women moving in dance and song around a campfire. He spotted their clothes cast to the side out of the way. As he watched in amazement, he soon realized that what he thought were clothes were in fact seal skins.
In a trice, he knew them to be selkies and to have one would make him rich and famous. With the advancing of the moonlit shadows, Lachlan slipped in and lifted one of the seal skins, expecting it to be quite heavy, but he was greatly surprised to find that it was a soft and as light as a down feather. He crept back into the darkest shadows and began to wait.
As the sun began to rise, dancers ran to their skins, slipped them on and just as quickly slipped into the sea. Soon, Lachlan began to hear the weeping and woeful sobbing of a young maiden. The sounds about broke his heart and his first thought was to throw out the seal skin and run away. Yet, as he stood, he gazed upon the form and face of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.
Lachlan Hayes was a wrecker. He quickly hid the seal skin and walked out upon the beach and grasped the girl by the shoulders. Oh, she was so beautiful. Lachlan was instantly in love. At first the girl was terrified, she pleaded, she begged, and then, she realized the words she spoke, the man could not understand. She was trapped. She could not slip back into the sea. A human had tricked her, had captured her. And now she was his. She submitted to the will of the sea and to the will of the man.
The beautiful woman lived many years with Lachlan. She never spoke a word, but she treated him with kindness, not love, but with respect, obedience, and faith. Lachlan called her Fanella, which meant “fair of shoulder,” for every part of her was beautiful. She bore him several children, who in turn were just as strong and handsome as Lachlan or as beautiful as herself.
Every waking moment Fanella was not at work or attending Lachlan, she spent walking the lonely shores, quietly weeping. Many was the time that Lachlan would find Fanella seated upon a lone rock, surrounded by seals. Even though one often stopped at the edge of the water and look back with a longing sorrowful eye, upon his approach, all would flee for surge of the surf.
Lachlan aged, and the children grew up and began families of their own. The local villagers talked about how Fanella was so beautiful and no matter the days that passed, she never seemed to change. One foggy evening as they sat near the peat fire, Lachlan complained of the chills and Fanella went to find a cover to give him comfort.
As Fanella pulled a box from beneath the bed, a small bundle fell from behind the headboard. Out of curiosity, she opened it to find the softest silver seal skin she had ever seen. A soft gasp and a soft sigh of release were followed by the soft tread of bare feet. Lachlan sat waiting by the fire, expecting to feel the touch of a soft beautiful hand, but his back only felt only the chill of cold steel as it slipped between his ribs. For humans are not the only wreckers, you see.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2020 issue.