Monday, 31 October 2016

'Gloria and the Selchie'

'You can look at a stranger's face anywhere you may be and behind the face is a story...'

So begins a tale of the Emerald Isle, and a variation on an old theme in Michael Eisele's collection The Girl with the Peacock Harp. Mary Murphy is an Irish country girl with big ambitions, who reinvents herself as Gloria, a blonde bombshell. She doesn't manage to bag herself the kind of handsome husband with good prospects, though, until she happens to take a stroll along the beach at Dundalk. There she sees four of the seal-folk changing their skins. Gloria knows enough to grab the skin of a handsome male 'selchie', and this puts him in thrall to her.

Needless to say, this forced relationship does not end well, though at first Frank - as the marine chap is dubbed - seems to bring Gloria luck as well as lovable children. It's a neat twist on the more traditional treatment, when a man steals the skin of a female selchie/selkie to make her his beautiful bride. Behind the folk tale lies, perhaps, the doubts we all feel about the inequalities of love, bound up with equally deep qualms about the relationship between ourselves and the natural world.

Another review tomorrow, assuming I can find my skin again.

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