Like his father before him, Sean was a fisherman. He spent his days at work on the sea. The work was easy for Sean. It was in his blood. He was born to be a fisherman. His life was simple. But he was lonely.
The fishing boats returned to the docks each night. The fishermen shored their boats. They sorted through the fish. They folded up the nets. They hurried up to the village. They met their waiting families.
Sean walked home alone in the moonlight along the rocky shore. Smoke rose from cottage chimneys. Families were inside. Sean did not have a wife or a family. His cottage was dark, cold, and empty. He was not happy.
Life on land was too slow and solid for Sean. He liked to row in his boat on the waves. He liked to fish at night.
"The sea has magic and mystery," his father had said.
Sean had heard the legends many times. He had heard stories about mermaids, magical serpents, and sea sprites. They lived in an undersea world. They rarely showed themselves to the people of the land.
"The sea holds many secrets," his father used to say.
Sean's father used to tell him about the selkies. His father said that some seals were regular people under their skins. They could remove their smooth skins like clothes.
Sean's father used to point out the seals on the shore.
"Look at how big and round their eyes are," he used to say. "They look like ours. They are just like us!"
These were the stories that all fishermen told their children. Sean did not believe in legends, though.
As Sean walked one night, he heard noises. He heard high voices and cheerful laughter. He walked toward the sounds. Peeking over the rocks, he saw three young women.
They danced on a flat rock beside the waves and sang with clear voices. They were the most beautiful women Sean had ever seen.
He climbed over the rocks toward them. He stepped on something soft and loose. He picked it up.
The women stopped dancing. They ran across the rocks. Two of them slipped into their skins. They slid off the rock and into the tide.
The third woman ran toward Sean. She saw her soft coat in his hands. She gazed at him with a smile.
"You must choose," she said. "You can return my skin or dress me. If you return my skin, you will never see me again. If you give me clothes, I will be your wife."
Sean held the seal's skin close to him.
"You are a seal?" he asked the beautiful woman.
"I am a seal when I am in the skin," she said. "When I am out of the skin, I am a person. I am like you."
Sean put his coat around the woman to keep her warm.
"I will give you a wonderful life here on land," Sean said. "You will have a house in the village. You will have children. You will have everything you want or need."
Sean looked into her eyes.
"But you must promise to stay here forever," he said. "You must never return to your life in the sea."
"I promise," she said. "Take the skin, and lock it away. I will wear a dress instead."
Sean bent down on one knee.
"Will you marry me?" he asked. "Yes," said the beautiful woman. "I will."
Read about Sean's life with the woman from the sea on the next page.