Selkies are a mythical people who can change from human form to seal form with the aid of a detachable skin. These skins are individual and only can be used by the person who owns them. If a selkie loses her skin, she is forced to remain in human form until she finds the skin again. The skins, however, are known to be enchanted and will find their way back to their owner no matter how long it takes. Selkies are found along the coasts of Scotland, Ireland, Britain, and in some parts of Norway and Iceland. When in seal form, the Selkies look like an ordinary seal, but when in human form the Selkies are usually dark skinned, with dark hair and beautiful dark eyes. Human Selkies are quite shy and sing beautifully. Some say a Selkie in human form will be surrounded by a faint glow, which only increases their attractiveness.
The orgin of Selkies isn't exactly clear. Some peoples believe that angels who fell to the earth became faeries if they landed on solid ground, and selkies if they fell in the sea. Others believe that Selkies are the souls of people drowned at sea who were being given a second chance at life as a shapeshifter.
Selkies often fall in love with humans and vice versa, but the relationship seldom ends happily. The pull of the sea is so strong that the selkie usually returns, leaving a heartbroken mortal behind, and sometimes the children of the pairing are left as well. A human male is able to force a selkie woman to stay with him as his wife if he can steal away her sealskin and hide it. Only by locating her skin can she return to the sea, and if she does indeed find it she always leaves the man, sometimes taking her children to the sea with her. If the husband was good to his wife, she will protect and assist him from the sea, filling his pots with crab, warning him of storms, and ensuring good fishing for him. If a male selkie leaves his mortal wife for the sea, he will return to claim his children after 7 years, paying the mother for caring for the child and leaving her childless.
The children born of a union between a selkie and a human are known as "Sliocha nan Ron" meaning "children of the seals". They are known as the Roan, and some are capable of turning into a seal if they possess their seal skin. The child is born with this skin and often with webbed feet or hands and rough patches of skin on their head and body. Parents of Roan children usually take the skin and hide it from the child, giving it back when the child is old enough to understand their gift. Even today, entire families are thought to be the distant descendants of Selkies. One of these families is the clan Macfie of Scotland. The name Macfie is derived from an older version of the name "Macduffie" which is derived from the gaelic term "MacDubhSithe" meaning "son of the dark fairy of elf". The legend claims that the first Macfie took a selkie as a bride.
Selkies are part of the modern world as well. Both Joan Baez and Judy Collins made recordings of an old folk song about a Selkie called The Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie. A copy of the music (midi) and the words can be found at http://www.contemplator.com/folk2/silkie.html. An excellent movie by John Sayle called The Secret of Roan Inish was released in 1994. The movie was based on a book by Rosalie K. Fry called Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry.