A magical book about an ancient legend-that the seal was once human, and can sometimes resume human form—and about the Celtic fishing families who still tell it, sing it, believe it.
Raised among Scottish fishermen and storytellers, David Thomson was obsessed from childhood by the Celtic seal legend, the body of tales and songs about the “selchie,” or gray Atlantic seal. In the early 1950’s he took a journey to seek the legend out, in the Hebrides, on the east coast of Scotland, on the west coast of Ireland—places where magic co-exists with reality and pre-Christian traditions and beliefs somehow endure.
He gives us here the fruits of his search as he found it, and tells us something of the men, women, and children from whom he heard the stories. He also tells of his own encounters with seals, and the dreamlike hold that these have had on him. The result is, in the words of his friend Seamus Heaney, a poetic achievement-a work of “intuitive understanding, perfect grace, and perfect pitch.”