Sunday 4 May 2014

Two Selkie Stories from Scotland

Two Selkie Stories from Scotland retold by Kate Forsyth, illustrated by Fiona McDonald (Christmas Press)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780992283827
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Following the success of Two Trickster Tales from Russia, Christmas Press presents their second book, Two Selkie Stories from Scotland. These two magical fairytales are retold by the gifted storyteller Kate Forsyth, with stunning illustrations by the hugely talented Fiona McDonald.

In The Selkie Bride, Forsyth applies her gift to the tragic tale of a shape-shifting Selkie whose skin was stolen and hidden by the man that fell in love with her, thus keeping her from returning to her home in the sea. Her anguish and heartbreak at being confined to land is later assuaged by her daughter who discovers the skin, and facilitates the Selkie’s escape.  The cost of this choice is the separation of mother and child.

In the Kingdom of the Seals is a mesmerising tale of death and reinvention. A seal hunter is drawn down into the sea after he wounds a bull. He becomes as one of them; views their life and the beauty of their existence. But only he is capable of healing the wound he inflicted. Again, choices must be made. His old life is buried and a new one is born.

These two stories have mythological origins drawn from Scottish folklore. They are something far more magical than fairytales. This is due to Kate Forsyth’s insightful and poetic retelling, combined with the beauty of Fiona McDonald’s equally insightful illustrations. These two creators have links to Scottish ancestry. This connecting thread adds a personal and authentic element to the translation.

The print and pages are delicate as is the content and overall design. This is the second publication by the new Christmas Press, with two more books planned for release before the end of the year. Collectors, be on the alert, as these productions are works of art in every sense.

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