Book Title: The Little Selkie
Book Author: K.M. Shea
Page Count: 232
Publishing Date: April 1st, 2015
Publisher: Take Out the Trash
Date Read: January 4th, 2018
Synopsis: Dylan—a selkie—makes a terrible mistake when she brashly chases an evil sea witch onto land. Captured and stripped of her pelt—leaving her unable to return to the sea in her sea lion body—Dylan’s only chance of survival is to serve as the sea witch’s tool. Instead of allowing the sea witch to use her selkie ability to control water, Dylan asks a wandering enchantress to seal her voice, rendering her unable to use her selkie magic. Stranded—with no allies and no way to contact her family—Dylan fears she will never successfully steal her pelt back.
Luckily, Dylan is not alone. She is befriended by Prince Callan, a kind, human prince whose country is being pulverized by the sea witch. Combining the strength of humans and the intelligence of the selkies, the pair unites to save their people.
But when the storm is over will Dylan choose to stay with Callan, or return to the sea and leave him behind…forever?
The Original Faerie Tale:
Book Title: The Little Mermaid
Book Author:Hans Christian Anderson
Page Count: 80
Publishing Date: February 2nd, 2014 (orig. pub. Date 1837)
Publisher: Hythloday Press (orig. pub. by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen)
Synopsis: After saving a prince from drowning, a mermaid princess embraces a life of extreme self-sacrifice to win his love and gain an immortal soul. Over a century after its first publication, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” persists as one of the world’s most enduring works of fantasy for children.
This edition combines the world-famous translation of H.B. Paull with two sets of classic illustrations, the engravings of Vilhelm Pedersen from the original Danish edition and Helen’s Stratton’s illustrations from the first English edition of “The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen.” Both sets provide a beautiful and dramatic visual compliment to this haunting and inexpressibly moving tale of love.
Also included are notes with pronunciations and definitions of some words that may be unfamiliar to grade school readers.
Read the original tale here.
K.M Shea’s Recap of the Original Faerie Tale:
The original story is about an unnamed mermaid who is the youngest of the six daughters of the King of the Seas. The little mermaid has a garden and a marble statue of a young man that she is seriously smitten with. That’s not important to the story, but I feel that it accurately reflects this chicka’s problems. Anyway! The mermaid’s family has a tradition that she and her sisters cannot go above the ocean’s surface until their fifteenth birthday, after-which they can go up whenever they want.
So on the little mermaid’s birthday she finally pops above the water and sees a big ship, which is packed with people celebrating a prince’s sixteenth birthday. She sees him, and falls in love. A storm sets in and destroys the ship. The little mermaid saves the prince—who is unconscious—and hauls him onto a beach the following morning.
“This image is of the Little mermaid swimming away as the “Holy Maiden” discovers the prince. I have no idea how she is holy.”
The Little Mermaid then makes like a creeper, and spends a lot of time watching the prince at his seaside palace for an undisclosed amount of time before she goes to her grandmother and expresses a desire to be human. The pair get into a deep conversation, because mermaids don’t have souls but they are nearly immortal. Even so, the little mermaid says she wishes she could be a human for one day and die with a soul. The grandmother tells her they are stuck, and she needs to suck it up.
The little mermaid sighs with longing over the prince, of whom she “wishes to place the happiness of [her] life.” So she gathers up her courage and goes to see the sea witch. The witch—while not being truly evil—lives in a pretty gruesome neighborhood filled with sea snakes and skeletons that try to grasp and strangle people. The sea witch offers to give her the body of a human, but every step she takes will make it feel like she’s walking on jagged glass, and the witch in return will get her voice—which happens to be the most beautiful in the whole sea. Also, she won’t gain a human soul—securing salvation—unless the prince falls in love with her, and if he marries another she’ll die.
The little mermaid complains—because she was planning to seduce the prince with her voice—but eventually they strike the bargain. The little mermaid loses her voice but gains a human body. She wakes up on a beach where the prince finds her and takes her to his palace. There the mermaid shows off her beautiful dancing, in spite of the great pain she feels, and successfully enchants everyone, including the prince who calls her “his little founding” and allows her to sleep on a velvet cushion outside his door–because that’s not demeaning.
The prince and the little mermaid become jolly companions who spend all their time together, and the prince tells the little mermaid that he refuses to marry because he fell in love with a girl who saved his life, and he describes her as a holy maiden of a temple. The little mermaid realizes he is not referring to her, but rejoices that she is the one living with him.
The prince’s parents inform him that he will marry the daughter of a neighboring king. The prince goes to this neighboring country to give his refusal when—plot twist!—the king’s daughter is the holy maiden of the temple, and the prince is thrilled to marry her. (This jerk also informs the little mermaid that she will be happy for him because her devotion to him is so great. What a charmer.)
The day of the prince’s wedding arrives, and the little mermaid’s sisters come to her with their hair chopped, and explain that they made a deal with the sea witch—their hair in exchange for a dagger. If the little mermaid kills the prince, she’ll turn back into a mermaid. The little mermaid refuses, and when the sun rises she dissolves into foam. But wait! She hears beautiful songs and sees beautiful creatures! The little mermaid learns that she has been turned into a daughter of air, which means she can do good deeds and procure a soul for herself. Additionally, the length of time for which she is required to do good deeds can be shortened or lengthened by witnessing the behavior of children.
The Little Selkie is magically enchanting. It sparkles with humor, intrigue, and fantasy. This one will wash over your heart like a shimmering ocean tide.
I adored this retelling! I loved the mythology of the selkies being added to the original tale of The Little Mermaid. I loved the feeling of the story and the humor and beauty!
Once again, Shea has impressed me with the beauty of her faerie tale skills. I felt like this one pulled at my heart a little more since I have a fond love of the beach and the ocean (though I don’t go in the water because there are sharks…). I felt Dylan’s longing for the sea while she was on land in her human form.
The imagery and descriptiveness of the story was spellbinding! The whole thing played out in my mind as if I was watching a movie. The world was described so beautifully without being over done. I could see the characters in my mind, and just felt my heart floating in a sea of happiness while I read!
Dylan was such a fun character. She had hints of Ariel mixed in with a very humorous personality. She was brazen, beautiful, and driven. And, I loved how kind and brave she was! She had an immense hunger for love, life, the ocean, and food (haha, yes food!). She was quirky and witty, and was a fair match to keep the prince on his toes!
Prince Callan was one of my favorite princes from Shea’s stories. He was bold, kind, and inquisitive. He cared deeply for his family, and had a great judge of character. I loved how he stuck up for Dylan, and how he enjoyed dancing.
And, oh my gosh, Cagney and Dooley were my favorites! They were such an odd, hilarious couple. Dooley was flamboyant and flattering! Cagney was a great friend and voice of reason.
The story of The Little Selkie was intriguing and fantastical. It held the beauty of the original tale, and the Disney version, and glimmered with its own originality and magic. I loved the ebb and flow of the plot with the exciting twists. It was lyrical and captivating like a siren’s song.
Thank you to the author for sending me this free e-copy in exchange for my honest review, and as part of my Faerie Tale Friday posts.
K.M Shea on Selkies, Seals, & Sea Life:
Keeping up with our Little Selkie theme, today we’re going to chat about selkies. Selkies (also called silkies and selchies) are part of Scottish and Irish folklore. They come in male and female varieties and are said to live in the ocean as seals, and shed their skins to come on land in human bodies. Males are traditionally handsome, and stories about them often involve women who are dissatisfied with their life and/or marriage. Female selkies, however, are usually the victims. Most folklore about female selkies are about men who steal the female selkie’s pelt, which puts her under his power. Usually the man will make the female selkie marry him because they are said to make excellent wives. Sometimes they’ll have kids and a family, but if the selkie ever finds her seal skin she will take it and return to the sea–no matter how much she loves her human kids. To add further mental anguish/anxiety on the abandoned family, a selkie can only come into contact with humans every seven years–which puts a big cramp on visiting.
When I started my research for The Little Selkie, I looked over a few old poems and texts that are about selkies (“The Seal-Woman’s Croon,” “The Selkie that didn’t forget,” “The Selkie,” “The Selkie Song,” and more) and I was struck by two things. First of all, no one specifically mentioned how capturing a selkies skin put them in your power. (Think about it. If I were a selkie and a guy grabbed my skin/pelt, I would have thumbed my nose at him and ran off. Instead the selkies stay with their captors.) Secondly, quite a few historic texts mentioned that in addition to being great swimmers, selkies had beautiful singing voices.
The singing thing was great news for me–the Little Mermaid was supposed to have the most beautiful voice out of all the mermaids in the kingdom–but I needed to hatch a plan to keep Dylan on land, which is how I came up with the idea that Jarlath could threaten to rip her pelt to shreds. I took out the seven years of no human contact part–I never found an explanation for it, I think it was added to make the sad selkie stories even sadder–and I added the singing/water magic bit to give Dylan–and her people–an offense-based power. As my selkies were guardians of the sea, I wanted Dylan to be able to face down the sea witch. With the big fuss the original Little Mermaid kicked up over taking the mermaid’s voice, I decided her power needed to be voice activated, thus tying together the two main points of the original fairy tale–the sealed voice and the mermaid on land.
There was just one problem. As I was researching Harbor Seals–also called “common seals,” they live many places but most importantly they can be found on Ireland’s shores–I learned that they are smart and quick-minded, but they don’t move very quickly. While they are considered curious they aren’t nearly as playful as other sea mammals…like the sea lion. Dylan needed to be brash and impulsive for the plot of The Little Selkie to work. If she had the same personality as Gemma from Rumpelstiltskin, she would have realized that getting word to her family about her predicament before getting her voice sealed was the wisest path. Seals are fun, but in no way are they impulsive. Sea lions, on the other hand, are always getting into mischief–they even move like pranksters. The California Sea Lion (which is what Dylan is based on) can reach a top speed of roughly 25 mph, and their cruising speed is 11 mph. Seals, on the other hand, have a top speed of 12 mph, and often cruise at much slower speeds. The sea lion is also much more flexible as it can bend in half, and it moves much more deftly on land because of its hind flippers–which it can rotate–where as seals wiggle like caterpillars.
The sea lion was clearly the better choice for Dylan–which worked out great because it allowed me to strengthen her character. Because she has been different from her kinsmen all her life, Dylan is entirely unafraid of being unique. This gave her an edge as she lived in the Summer Palace. The majority of people would be apprehensive about being tossed into an entirely different culture and race after experiencing tragedy. Not Dylan.
Speaking of Dylan’s personality, many of you Champions have mentioned that you love how much Dylan adores food. I designed that aspect of her personality after learning that seals and sea lions can eat about five to six percent of their body weight in a day. As both of these creatures weigh well over 200 pounds, we are talking about some serious food consumption.
As you can tell, I did a lot of reading on ocean and marine life in preparation for this book, and I wove pieces of my research into the story. In example, otters really do have fuzzy baby fur, sea lions can bark under water, and sand sharks hide themselves on the ocean floor to catch prey. The one way I did fudge my facts, though, was that I decided to combine the different ocean zones. Normally you wouldn’t find a California Sea Lion in the same water as a Harbor seal. I considered trying to keep things scientific, but in the end I decided to take creative liberties. Dylan lives in a fictional world, and I would much rather put effort into making the story better instead of keeping the location facts perfect.
I could not resist sharing this song. The singer’s voice is beautiful (though it is a little hard to understand her, lol), the song lyrics embody the mythology of selkies, and the chorus alone matches the story, and Dylan, perfectly (despite the fact that it is about a male selkie).
Today I chose a mermaid by Miss Fluff. I think she embodies the spirit of Dylan.
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