A Patchwork Fantasy Tale about friendship and childhood.
The summer is a good season for forging friendships, especially where selkies are concerned.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. If you want to read as well as listen you can find a transcript and mp3 download on patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. You found one of my Patchwork Fantasy Tales! This one is all about friendship and childhood…
The Selkie’s Friendship
There once was a boy that lived on a small island in the north, but not too far north to be an unpleasant place to live. It was indeed a very pleasant place and the boy’s parents were grateful for their home every day, for every day when their boy ran out to explore the world they said:
“Let us count our blessings. Our little boy can run quite free, for there isn’t a place or person on this island that we do not know.”
So this little boy enjoyed extraordinary freedom. Even by the seashore he could play alone, for his parents knew he could swim very well and he was a clever child.
One day when he was running around the beach with no parents in sight and not a care in the world, he saw another little boy, running stark naked in the sea wind and the sunshine.
“Oi!” he called out, but as soon as the other boy saw him he bolted, grabbed something off the sand and sprinted into the water. By the time he hit the waves he was no longer a little boy, but a little seal. But by then the boy had reached him and instead of being scared he laughed:
“That’s a good trick! I know no one who can do that!”
The little seal turned round and lifted its head. It shook loose its seal skin and showed a human face again.
“Hello!” grinned the boy. “I live over there in the dunes.”
“Hello!” the other grinned back. “I live over there in the sea.”
“How come you can look like a seal and look like me, whenever you please?” asked the boy.
“Because I’m a selkie,” was the answer. ”I can take off my pelt if I wish and look human.”
“I wish I could turn into a seal,” the boy said jealously. “But I bet you can’t run as fast as I can!”
“I bet you can’t swim as fast as I can!” the selkie retorted.
“Well, I’ll race you in the sea if you race me on land!”
So they raced each other and the selkie swam faster, but the boy ran faster and neither of them minded.
Then the selkie let the boy ride on his back in the waves and afterwards the boy taught the selkie how to build sandcastles on the beach.
They had great fun and they laughed so hard that they startled the seagulls.
Summer is a particularly good season to form friendships and the selkie and the boy decided that since they had never had such good fun on their own as they had had together, they should be friends forever.
So the boy went home to his parents with laughter still ringing in his ears and the feeling of friendship swelling his chest.
“Did you have fun?” asked his father.
“Such fun!” answered the boy.
His mother smiled and said to her husband:
“Is it not marvelous he can amuse himself for hours on end.”
And marvelous it was, because the boy kept amusing himself for hours on end, every day, the whole summer long.
Autumn crept up on summer and took her place, so that the skies were often dark and the sea was mostly unruly. So the father worried about his son playing in the waves.
“Don’t worry!” laughed his wife. “Our son can swim like no other. And he knows better than to venture out too far.”
So the boy was allowed to go swimming anyway. His friend was already waiting for him and they dove and jumped and swam together in the stormy waves. One little boy and one little seal, yelling at the waves and the splashing at the sea foam with all their might. So much fun they had that they hardly noticed how the current secretly lured them away from the shore.
The autumn sun shone and the waves sloshed and in the wide open sea the currents chased each other. The two boys weren’t the only ones playing tag, the currents were too. Suddenly the boy felt as if something tried to drag him down into the dark depths. He gulped and kicked against the currents and suddenly he felt how tired he was. The autumn sea was not as friendly as the summer sea, it was wild and cold. The boy still kicked furiously, he did not see his friend anywhere.
“Hold on!” the boy heard a shout coming though the dark water. He felt an arm round his waist and the water seemed lighter already.
The selkie dragged his friend to the surface and swam back to shore with him. They both lay in the sand silently for a while, thinking about what almost happened. But they were young and soon their thoughts turned away from danger and towards the amazing luck they had had.
“I kicked so tremendously!” said the boy.
“And I swam so fast!” said the selkie.
Both boys decided that it was a great adventure and that because it was such a great adventure, neither of them would ever tell anyone about it. Certainly not their parents.
So they didn’t and they were both allowed to go out and play whenever the weather wasn’t foul.
One time they were playing when suddenly the selkie stood stock still.
“Someone has found my pelt!” he gasped.
“How do you know?” the boy asked.
“I know,” wailed the selkie. “I can feel it!”
So they ran back to the place where they had met up and the seal skin had indeed vanished.
The selkie almost started to cry, but the boy had seen a girl walking a little way away.
“You stay here,” he said. “Perhaps she has your pelt.”
So he ran as fast as he could till he caught up with the girl. She was older than him, but she wasn’t a grownup, so he bravely spoke up. “Hello,” he said.
The girl looked round. “Hello,” she answered. “Look at this beautiful cape I found!” She showed him the selkie pelt and stroked it carefully up and down.
“That’s not a cape,” the boy said. “That’s a seal skin.”
“Oh,” said the girl and her face fell. “Does that mean it is a fur coat? My fathers say only cruel people wear fur coats.”
“That’s right,” the boy said. “You had better put it back in the sea, that’s where it came from.”
“But it’s so soft,” the girl said disappointedly. “And so shiny!”
This was true enough, but then the boy thought of something very clever.
“I know something far shinier than this!” he said eagerly. “Pearls! Wouldn’t you rather have some pearls?”
The girl looked at him with round eyes. “Real, actual pearls?”
“As real as anything!” the boy cried. “If you give me that pelt so I can put it back into the sea, I will get you some pearls.”
The girl hesitated. “You promise?” she asked.
“Alright!” the girl beamed and she handed over the pelt.
“Wait here,” said the boy. “I’ll be right back!” And he ran off triumphantly.
The selkie shouted with joy when he saw the boy coming. He snatched up his pelt and hugged and nuzzled it.
“Now listen,” said the boy. “I had to trade for your pelt. Do you think you can dive for some pearls to give to that girl?”
“Of course I can!” said the selkie and he joyously put on his pelt and splashed into the sea.
It wasn’t long before he came up, and spat some pearls at the boy. The boy laughed and yelled and gathered the pearls quickly. Then he ran back to the girl, who was sitting in the sand, waiting for him.
“Here you go!” the boy called out proudly and he gave the girl the pearls.
“Oh how beautiful!” she gasped. “Thank you!” And she skipped away laughing.
The boy ran back to the selkie and they were very pleased with themselves indeed. For they thought that they had been extraordinarily clever and when they said goodbye and both went home, they were still beaming with pride.
When the autumn days became colder and colder, the selkie began to talk of winter and of the streams that warmed the sea that all the selkies would stay close to when the cold came. The boy was sorry his friend had to leave, but he knew his parents would think it too cold for him to play on the beach anyway. So they said goodbye when winter came and promised to meet again in the spring.
The winter seemed very long to the boy. He was not allowed to go to the beach alone, now that storms and icy winds came so often. His mother kept the fire going and told him almost every day:
“If we were furry animals we’d have dug ourselves a warm burrow and would be hibernating now. But we can’t so we must be wise enough to at least stay out of the cold.”
The boy understood this, but he was very envious of his selkie friend who could always swim in the sea without getting cold and who did not have to hibernate or stay inside.
So when the sun finally came back and the sea was no longer so dark grey, the boy immediately announced that he wanted to go to the sea.
“It’s spring now!” he said. “So it is time to swim!”
“It is time for the spring house cleaning,” smiled his father.
The boy considered this. “Then I shall go clean myself I the sea,” he said. “And when I am very clean myself, I can help with cleaning the house.”
“Seems to me you’d get dirty all over again whilst doing the cleaning,” his mother said with twinkling eyes.
“Then I shall go clean myself again!” beamed the boy.
His parents laughed and gave him a friendly push out of the door. “Be off with you then! Go wash yourself!”
The boy ran jubilant down to the beach, hoping his friend would have done the same.
When he arrived he did not see his friend. However, he did see a man that was leaning against the sea wind and glaring at the sea. The boy stopped and watched him suspiciously. Suddenly he saw the small, dark head of his friend in the waves. The selkie had his human face on and looked scared. The boy knew that if his friend was human, his pelt must be hidden somewhere on the beach. Carefully he crept closer and he heard the man hiss:
“I can wait, selkie spawn, you cannot stay human forever. Sooner or later you will lead me to your pelt and then I will have you!”
The boy’s face became red with anger.
“Everybody knows a selkie will do everything to get its pelt back,” the man grinned.
Now the selkie had seen the boy and he looked at him with big scared eyes. The boy raised his finger to his lips. He had a plan.
Silently he slipped out of his clothes and buried them in the sand near the path he had taken to the beach. Then he ran into the water and ducked beneath the waves. He swam towards his friend and the selkie, who understood what he was up to, disappeared under water as well.
The man yelled: “Don’t bother deceiving me, you’ll never leave your pelt!”
At that moment the boy raised his head above the water and laughed at the man. The man turned towards him and shook his fist.
The boy ducked out of sight again and this time the selkie came up himself, in a completely different place.
The man spun round and shouted. The selkie laughed.
Once again the selkie ducked and this time the boy came up. With their hair wet and flat against their head they looked very much the same and they came up by turns so quickly and in such different places, they nearly drove the man crazy. They made him run and turn and they shouted and jeered at him, making him think all the while he was dealing with just one instead of two.
The boy managed to lure the man far enough for the selkie to sneak onto the beach to get his pelt and jump back into the water. Then they really led the man a merry dance. One moment he saw a boy, the next moment a seal. He bawled with anger and he could not understand what had happened. But the next moment there was the boy again. The man did not know what to think, but he was too angry to try and figure it out.
He chased the boy when he saw the boy and he chased the seal when he saw the seal and he chased them far along the coast line until he could not take another step. Blind with anger he stood where he was and cursed.
The selkie and the boy laughed and laughed until they were lightheaded. They left the hateful man standing on the shore and soon left him far behind.
Now, with the fight won and the tears of laughter dried, the boy looked around him again. He did not recognize the shoreline and suddenly he saw how high the sun was in the sky.
“It must be almost lunchtime!” the boy cried out worriedly. “And I have no idea where we are!”
The selkie looked around him, but he did not know either.
“Wait here,” he said. “Under water I know every little place.” And he dived under water and looked around carefully.
Soon enough the selkie came up and nodded happily. He led the boy back to the shore near his home and there they said goodbye for the day.
They were sure that man would never dare to trouble them again and they felt like nothing in the world could touch them. Perhaps they were right, for the unlikely friends kept meeting as often as they possibly could and no harm ever came to them. As they grew up together, their friendship was the only thing about them that did not change a bit.
And almost every day, on the land and in the sea, a parent sighed contentedly and said:
“How fortunate we are to live in such a place where our boy can do as he likes, and never runs into any trouble at all.”
Laura: And with that last word, stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. You can follow this podcast on podcatchers like Spotify, iTunes, or Stitcher, but for an mp3 download, transcripts, themed tags and summaries, you can check out patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com, where you can also contact me and find out about my other projects. Like my book Coffee and Faerie Cakes and my webcomic The Fisherman’s Favour. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com which is full of folklore and urban fantasy. Or you can follow me on Kofi at Laura Simons or AO3 at laurasimonsdaughter.
There’s another tale to tell some other day, but until then…
Mind your selkies, guard your name, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.