A young girl disobeys her mother's instructions when looking for shells and it leads to disastrous consequences.
The Fisherman's Daughter
"Mama! Mama! Can I go look for shells now?" Tirene asked, bouncing up and down with her small metal pail banging against her legs.
Her mother smiled as she sewed and said: "Did you finish all your chores?"
"Yes! I did!" Tirene exclaimed. "I cleaned my room, I scrubbed the table and I hid all of Papa's things that he left on the deck so that the Sprites wouldn't play with them and I made scary faces at the water so that the Selkies wouldn't come out!"
Mama laughed. "Good job, now there won't be any Selkies around for miles and miles."
Tirene frowned as a thought occurred to her "Mama?"
"Yes, little one?"
"Why does nobody like Selkies? Did they do something bad?" Tirene's eyes widened and she added in a loud whisper. "Did they forget to do their chores?"
Mama laughed but this time her laugh sounded sad. Tirene dropped her pail and scrambled onto her lap. "Why are you sad, Mama?"
Mama set her sewing down on the table and explained: "The Selkies used to be our friends, little one, but there are some very important people who like Selkie fur to make their coats pretty. It made the Selkies angry and now they don't play with us anymore. Instead, they try to ruin our
boats and scare away the fish."
Tirene frowned, playing with the beads on Mama’s necklace. "So why don't the Selkies go away if they don't like us anymore?"
Mama stroked her hair "They can't. The fishermen have blocked the way out of the Bay. They can't get out."
"Oh..." Tirene said, then looked up at Mama with some apprehension. "Did Papa help them trap the Selkies?"
"That's enough story time for today, Tirene," Mama said and picked up her sewing again. "You can go look for shells."
Tirene jumped up and picked up her pail, beaming. "Okay! I'm going to have all the best shells in the Bay and I'm going to have even more than Harkin does!"
Mama laughed. "Okay, I will see you when you come back."
Tirene ran for the door but she stopped when Mama added. "Don't forget to stay away from the rocks and don't get your dress all wet and dirty again."
"But all the best shells are by the rocks!" Tirene complained, her hand already on the doorknob.
" You can go to the rocks by yourself when you are 12 and not before," Mama said.
Tirene pouted "But I’m 7 now! I’m almost 12! Please can I go, Mama?"
Mama smiled. "I said 12 and not before, stay away from the rocks. Now go find your shells.”
“Yes, Mama,” Tirene gave a dramatic sigh. She ran out of the door and across the beach to the shore. Tirene stopped at the edge of the water and, as always, looked out over the calm clear water for her papa’s ship. It was far out in the Bay where it looked like it was floating on air, Tirene waved. He probably couldn’t see her but she did it anyway.
Then she began to wander along the edge of the seashore with her eyes down to the sand. Her pail bounced against her legs as she walked, looking for shells. Tirene bent down to pick up a flat white shell and then a bumpy orange one farther down and then a pink one with spikes. Tirene put them all in her pail with a happy smile at each clink. She didn’t look up from the shore until it became rocky. Tirene looked up in confusion and realized that she had wandered much farther down the shore than she was supposed to. She was next to the rocks! A small but sheer cliff that dropped down into the water which was clear all the way down to the bed of the Bay. The water was so clear and still here that it looked like there was no water at all. If it hadn’t been for the small plants and fish that grew and swam in it, she might have just walked in thinking it was air. Tirene hesitated for a moment with a glance behind her in the direction of the small fisherman’s cottage where she lived. But it was too far away for her to see it. She would get in trouble for coming this far but her parents never had to know. Besides, she could already see a beautiful curly shell on the rocks. Tirene looked around quickly, checking the shore for any sign of Mama but she wasn’t there. She glanced towards the sea for Papa’s ship. It was nearby and he might see her if he looked hard enough and she wasn’t careful. But he had his red flag up, that meant that he was chasing something, so he probably wouldn’t notice. Tirene made up her mind and scrambled over the rocks to the curly shell and put it in her pail. She looked around for more shells, there were several scattered over and around the rocks. They were all beautiful even if some of them were a bit chipped.
Then Tirene saw it.
The most beautiful shell she had ever seen with big blue and green swirls. It was tangled in some type of plant that grew on the side of the rock face. It was so close. Tirene set down her pail and crouched at the edge of the rocks balancing on the tips of her toes, gingerly holding the edge of the rocks with one hand and reached for it. She gasped as her fingers suddenly entered the freezing water and she almost lost her balance. Tirene pulled her hand away and glanced towards Papa’s boat. It was coming closer. She sucked in a sharp breath. Had Papa seen her? No, the flag was still up. But she could hear shouting and splashing noises, she could even see the creature that they were after. It was big and brown but it moved too fast for her to be able to identify it. Tirene glanced at the shell and then at the ship and back again. There was no way he would notice her if he was being that noisy. She reached for the shell again and missed it, it was farther down then she thought.
Tirene leaned over a little farther and her fingers just brushed the shell when she lost her balance and fell in with a scream. Her scream was cut short as her mouth filled with water. She closed it quickly and tried to climb back up the rocks but the rocks were too smooth and the plants just slipped through her fingers and she couldn’t swim! She began to sink. Tirene flailed in desperation but to no avail. Then something else moved in the water. Tirene would have screamed again but she was under the water now. A beautiful dark brown otter approached her, it's dark eyes watched her as she sank. Tirene tried to swim upwards as the large otter swam around her and grabbed the back of her shirt with its teeth. She flailed at it but it avoided her easily and swam back up to the surface. As they emerged the otter changed, But Tirene couldn’t see it very well because of the water blurring her vision, she coughed up water as someone gently laid her on the rocks.
“Are you all right?” A voice asked.
Tirene rubbed the water from her eyes in surprise to see a man crouched at the edge of the rocks dressed in an otterskin suit. He looked nervous and jumped when Tirene pointed a finger at him as she scrambled back, sputtering. “You’re a Selkie!”.
“This place is not safe for a child.” The Selkie said in a quiet voice “You need to go.”
“What do you mean, not safe? There’s nobody here but us.” Tirene asked, sitting up.
The Selkie glanced back to the water and pointed to Papas boat. “They’re hunting. You have to leave so you don’t get hurt.”
Tirene's face brightened upon seeing the boat but she ducked her head hoping that Papa wouldn’t see her. He would be angry. “That’s my papa’s boat! He’s the best Selkie hunter in the Bay!” She said with a proud smile that vanished upon seeing the Selkie's face. “Oh, but you’re a Selkie.
Is he hunting you?”
The Selkie looked sad but he just said: “Get to safety, human, I won’t be here to save you a second time if you fall in.” Then he fell back into the water, changing into a seal as he did.
Tirene ran to the edge of the rocks just in time to see the otter swim away from the rocks with Papa’s ship close behind him. Tirene picked up her pail and her shells then went her slow way home. She hoped that the Selkie would be able to getaway. She was so worried about the Selkie that she completely forgot about the state of her clothes.
“What happened to you, young lady?” Mama demanded as soon as she shut the door to the cottage.
“I’m sorry mama, I fell in the water by accident.” Tirene murmured, staring at the floor and let her pail drop to the floor.
“You fell in?” Mama exclaimed, she put down the pot that she was getting out and hugged Tirene close, then said sternly. “Tirene. You were supposed to stay on the shore. How could you have fallen in?”
“I’m sorry, Mama, I went to the rocks. I met a Selkie there...” Tirene said, her voice trembled as she tried not to cry. “The Selkie pulled me out of the water... He was being chased by Papa’s boat… Do you think he’ll be okay?”
Mama didn’t seem to know how to answer her “Change into dry clothes, Tirene. We are going to have a talk about going to the rocks when your father comes home.”
After that, Mama was quiet and didn't say anything the entire time she was making dinner. Tirene changed into dry clothes and she was playing with her shells when Papa returned home and almost danced into the room, he was so happy. “Hello, my lovelies! You will never guess what happened today!”
“Micheal.” Mama said sharply “Micheal, we need to talk.”
Papa didn’t seem to hear and shouted “I caught myself a Selkie today! It was a close one too! He almost got away from me but I cornered him after he went to the rocks!”
There was a clatter as Tirene dropped her shells, white-faced.
“What is wrong, sweetheart?” Papa asked, crouching beside her. “It’s okay, the Selkie’s dead now. He won't bother anyone anymore.”
Tirene ran from the room in tears.