Storytellers, Selkies and Tales from the Sea


Blog post by Laura Hudson Mackay

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World Storytelling Day took place recently, so what better time to tell a story or two and find out a little more about why Confluence contributors Mehdi El Ghaly and Anne Errington became storytellers...

                                                               Mehdi El Ghaly

Mehdi tells us, “At the age of three I was told a story that changed my life, that story was about me. From that moment I was hooked on stories and the art of storytelling. Wherever there was a storyteller in the square in Marrakech you’d find me there and I as grew the passion for storytelling grew in me. So, I said to myself, “Why not become a storyteller?” I wanted to share the art that changed my own life and made me who I am today.”

“For me being a storyteller has three elements; to share, to connect and to inspire. When I share a story everyone connects through its message and eventually we inspire one another and just like that, another story is made”.

                                                             Anne Errington

Anne says, “I remember being told and read stories, some true and some may have been true.... The time came when I began to tell stories to children and then saw that the adults liked them as well! I remembered some of the stories from my childhood but some were images, sometimes some words. I went hunting for them and found myself surrounded by people and places that held me in ‘enchantment’. So I became a teller of tales.”

In all cultures, telling stories to children can shape who they become. Even if the stories being told are the same, the way they are told will be different in each culture.

One of the main themes throughout Confluence is Water. Water divinities of many sorts appear in the mythologies of both Celtic and Arabian cultures. The mysticism of Water plays a very important role in many myths and legends. From mythological Gods and water beings, to stories of continents lost below the surface of the sea.

In Celtic mythology, Selkies (or Ron, in Ireland) were sea lions that could shed their skin and take human form. When a female selkie shed her skin and a human captured it she was forced to become his wife. If she were to ever find her skin again she would return to the sea leaving her husband to pine and die.

Here are two stories: a traditional folk tale from Scotland and a modern day tale from Morocco, but both speak of loves lost to the sea.

Her Story, Her Way by Mehdi El Gahly

                                         Image: Her Story, Her Way  (Mehdi El Ghaly)

I like the blue of the sea, it reminds me of him

I loved once and I lost my rhythm, I don’t know how

He was the one for me and I was the one for him, I thought!

But the blue view of the sea reminds me of him because he was always blue, mysterious and deep

I never knew what he was thinking. He was unpredictable, I wasn’t, but that’s what I loved about him

He made me feel alive and I made him forget about being blue

We didn’t have much but we had our hearts to offer and our souls to breathe through

With each wave our lives changed for the better and the worst, I kept asking myself about that.

I was a piece of art, music was my lover, but after him, it left me. I lost my song, my story, and my purpose for living. While he was around me, I didn’t know that but once he was gone, I did.

Why? How? Who knows? Am I kidding myself?

No one does.

So I went to the sea, where he died, as I was desperate to ask it…

“Why did you take him and leave me with nothing but sorrow?”

“I didn’t, said the sea, “it was his time to go and your time to shine again.”

I felt my soul at that moment return to my body, my heart started beating again, air was in my lungs and my song was just beginning. That is when I knew that my love for him saved me because I felt it with every beat.

I felt him around me.

Our souls were one, our song was one, but my story was his.

A Folk Tale – Told by Anne Errington

The Daughter of King Ron

Donald of MacDonald, the Lord of The Isles, was a young man but it was time for him to find a wife. He was thinking upon this when he was sailing his boat around the isles, not thinking about where he was. 

“Man, watch what you are doing or you will be caught on the rocks!”
 Sure enough Donald was dangerously close to Ailean Mor, the Great Rock, he searched for the voice and up on the cliff was a woman with long brown hair blowing in the fair wind. “Stay where you are and I will be up.” 
Three times Donald sailed his boat around the island, on the third he found a small bay and he bought his boat ashore. He climbed up to the top of the rocky isle and there stood the woman with the long brown hair and large brown eyes.  â€œWho are you?”
“I am the daughter of Ron Mor and this is my home.”
 Donald did not know whether to believe her but he knew one thing. “ Will you marry me?”
“ That I cannot say till my father comes home”. “When will that be?”
 “Could be today, could be tomorrow, could be a week away.”
 “I will be back in a week.”

Donald went back to his boat and sailed away. A week passed before he returned to the island. Three times Donald sailed around the island on the third he found the bay and bought his boat ashore. He climbed up to the top of the rocky isle and there stood the woman with the long brown hair and the big brown eyes. “Will you marry me?” “That I cannot say till my father comes home, and there he comes.” Donald looked out across the blue sea and he could see a large brown seal leaping across the waves, his back shining in the sun. Soon he lost sight of him.  A deep voice behind him said “Man, what are you doing on Eilean Mor? Turning, Donald looked up and though Donald was tall the king of the Ron was taller. 
“I wish to marry your daughter”, 
“Come back in three months time, and if you are of the same mind you may be wedded.”
 The months passed and again Donald sailed his boat three times around the island before he found the bay, and bought his boat ashore.
 “I wish to marry your daughter.”
 The king of the seal people, the Ron, looked at his daughter who nodded. “You may marry her but if one cross word passes between you, Fionna will return to me and the sea. As she left so she will return.”

Donald MacDonald married Fionna of the Ron and the first year passed merrily, often they were seen together out on Donald’s boat or on the mainland. The time came when Fionna had a child and she stayed home to look after him.

At first Donald excepted this but then he became jealous and wanted Fionna with him, she said wait a little longer I will be with you soon, but the day came when Donald shouted at Fionna and he walked out of the house.

Donald only got so far when the words of Ron Mor came to him. He ran back up to the house, the child was still in the cot but of his wife there was no sign.

Donald ran down to the beach, by the lapping waves was a pile of clothes and as he looked out to sea he saw a brown seal leaping through the waves. As her father said she had gone as she had come.

As the years passed Donald was often seen looking out to sea. His face haunted by memories. The day came when their son was old enough and his father said “I give you everything except my boat” and with that he walked down to the shore where his boat waited and sailed away.

 A few days later his boat was found by some fishermen near Ailean Mor. They said that instead of one tall man standing on the shore they saw two and by them a woman whose long brown hair was blowing in the wind. As they watched, the figures disappeared and three seals were seen swimming out to sea.