Shapeshifters’ Skins Part 1
The idea that a shapeshifter requires a special skin in order to change shows up in a lot myths. Some, such as selkies and swan-maidens take their skin off when they turn into humans and must put the skin back on in order to return to their true form (seals and swans, respectively). Others, such as skinwalkers and werewolves (in some lore) are humans who must put a skin on in order to transform into another form.
Selkies and swan-maidens are usually female and are found in Animal-Wife tales. The stories of selkies and swan-maidens are almost identical. An unmarried man finds a group of women either dancing on the beach (selkies) or bathing (swan-maidens). Nearby are a collection of skins or cloaks. He steals one and all the women save one take their skins/cloaks and leave, either swimming away as seals, or flying away as swans. The man forces the lone selkie or swan-maiden to marry him and hides the skin away to keep her from leaving him. One day, their children are playing and find the skin, they bring it to their mother and she immediately leaves her human family to return to the life she’d been forced to leave behind.
There are occasional versions of the selkie story where she decides to stay with her family, but they are few and far between. In other versions she looks after her children when they are fishing, and some just end with her diving beneath the waves.
Part 2 coming tomorrow.