The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
Version 1
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad originated in the Orkney Islands. A "silkie" is a supernatural being who lives in the sea. They wear sealskins to travel through the ocean, and take them off when they are on land.

This ballad is Child Ballad #113.

In another version of the song the silkie is vulnerable if they loose their sealskins - so the young maiden hides the sealskin and the silkie is killed.

The silkie are also called "Finns" and "Selkies".

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

The silkie be a creature strange
He rises from the sea to change
Into a man, a weird one he,
When home it is in Skule Skerrie.

When he be man, he takes a wife,
When he be beast, he takes her life.
Ladies, beware of him who be -
A silkie come from Skule Skerrie.

His love they willingly accept,
But after they have loved and slept,
Who is the monster that they see?
'Tis "Silkie" come from Skule Skerrie.

A maiden from the Orkney Isles,
A target for his charm, his smiles,
Eager for love, no fool was she,
She knew the secret of Skule Skerrie.

And so, while Silkie kissed the lass,
She rubbed his neck with Orkney grass,
This had the magic power, you see -
To slay the beast from Skule Skerrie.

Related Links
Lyrics from Golden Encyclopedia of Folk Music
Information From Colonial and Revolution Songbook
See Bibliography for full information.