The Wounded Selkie
Like many stories of the seal-people, this one is about a fisherman. A dour fisherman, who lived alone and did not greatly care for anything. He was particularly un-fond of seals. The way he saw it, seals were the competition. They eat fish, the same fish he spent his days trying to catch The way he would fish was this; he had a number of bouys moored a long the coast, and he would row from bouy to bouy, pulling up the net tied under it, checking the catch, then putting the net back into the sea. When he got to the end of the line of bouys he would go back to the beginning and start again.
Some days the catch was good, and he would eat (and drink) well; some days, not so good - but that was the fishing. One time he began to notice that the catch was dwindling away from one net - day by day it grew smaller, until all that he was pulling up was a few shells, the odd fish bone and a lot of sea-weed. He had a good look at the net, and noticed that there were several big tears in it, and that the ends of the twine showed signs of something gnawing it. 'It's those bloody seals, I'll be bound', he said to himself. The seals were stealing his fish. Well, he decided he wasn't having this, and that the time had come to do something about it. So, the next morning, rather than checking the nets one by one, he just dropped anchor in sight of that one buoy, loosened his knife it it's sheath and settled down to watch. The morning wore into afternoon, and the rocking of his boat on the gentle swell had almost lulled him to sleep, when he heard a splash and a gurgle. The buoy was swaying rapidly from side to side, then it disappeared beneath the waves altogether.
Taking a deep breath, he stood up and dived over the side of the boat, naked knife in hand...and saw a big seal worrying at the net. He swam down to the seal, and plunged his knife into it, pulling it through the seal's flesh with all his might. Blood billowed out of the wound, making a red fog in the water, and , even wounded, the seal proved stronger than the man. It wriggled and twisted, and wrenched the knife handle out of his hand, then disappeared in the now murky water.
Spluttering and gasping, the fisherman hauled himself back into his boat. 'Well', he thought, 'I might not have killed it, but that's one seal that'll trouble me no more. Problem solved'. But the next day, all of his nets were empty...and the next, and the next. By the end of the week, he was running out of money, and hungry as well, and could hardly be bothered to put out to sea anymore. So, when a stranger came up to him in the harbour and said, 'I hear you're a man as can lay their hands on some seal skins', the fisherman was only too ready to help. 'I certainly can,' he said, ' I don't owe them nothing. I'll be wanting a good price, mind'
'Well,' said the stranger, 'as to price, I can't speak to that, you'll have to come with me and meet my master'. This the fisherman was glad to do, and the pair of them walked out of the harbour, and along the coast path. As they reached the top of the cliffs, the stranger stopped, made a funnel of his hands around his mouth, and sang
'Hey an dah
Hey an dah
Hey an dah
Ho dah dah
Hyun dan dah
Hyun dan dah
Hyun dan dah
Ho dah dah'
.even before the stranger had finished the call, the sea below the cliffs was boiling with more sleek, black seals than the fisherman had ever seen in his life. The stranger grasped him tightly by the shoulders, and jumped clean off the cliff, pulling the fisherman with him. The instant the stranegr touched the water, he changed into a big, powerful bull seal, and the fingers on the fishermans shoudler became teeth. Try as he might, and he tried mightily hard, the fisherman Could not break that grip, and his chest beagn to ache with the effort of holding his breath, as he was dragged deeper and deeper. Now his chest brued as though it was on fire, and a blackness nibbled at the edges of his vision. Then, he knew, he was beaten, and with a gasp he opened his mouth, and the sea filled his lungs.
But that is not the end of the story. After some time, the fisherman awoke. His chest ached, and his head too. He felt around him, and felt damp rock. As he grew used to the dim light, he saw the stranger standing over him. The seal man helped the fisherman to his feet, then said, “'There is someone I would like you to meet,” and led him towards the back of the cave. There, on a rough bed of kelp, lay a young man. His chest was cut open in a wound that ran from shoulder to hip.
'This is my son,' said the seal man, 'and, if he is not healed soon, he will die. Oh, and I believe that this is yours' and he reached down beside the bed, and pulled from beneath the kelp the fisherman’s knife. The fisherman was now deeply afraid, and begining to feel ashamed. 'Have you brought me here for vengeance ?', he asked the seal-man. 'What can I do to you, other than kill you ?', replied the selkie 'And if I did that, would that help my son ? No, I have brought you here to help, if you will. Only the hand that casued the wound can heal the wound' The fisherman looked at the youth, at his pale flesh and the cruel gash across his chest. He thought of how he had resented and hated the seals. But still he said 'What must I do ?' 'Simply touch his hurt' said the seal-man.
And so, the fisherman bent forward and touched a trembling hand to the start of the wound, on the youth's shoulder. The flesh was deadly cold, and, as he drew his hand slowly along the gash, the fisherman felt an icy, burning pain crawl across his own chest. But, as his hand passed allong, the wound closed, as easily as you would close a jacket, and the flesh grew warm and the colour seeped back into it.
By the time he was halfway along the wound, the fisherman could hardly breathe for the pain in his own chest, and, as he reached the hip, and the wound was finally closed, he fell to his knees, gasping and panting. It seemed as though hsi own life had flowed out of his hand and into the young seal-man. He fell forward, and slept, exhausted. When he awoke, he was lying on the shore, at the foot of the cliffs. A little brusied and battered, but alive. He told those who asked that he had slipped, and fallen over the cliffs. Some believed him , some did not. But he never told another soul that, when he awoke, lying next to him on the shingle was a neat pile of his nets. Not only mended, but better than ever - and they always gave him a good catch. And on top of the nets was a creel. Inside were two of the biggest lobsters he had ever seen
From that day on, he was one fishreman that never hurt hair or hide of seal, and, if he was a few fish short from one net or another from time to time, he woudl shrug, and smile, and say 'Why not ? They have to live as well'