A Seal woman, or selkie, is a mythological creature that is found not only in Faroese folklore, but in Irish and Scottish folklore as well. Selkies are people who took their own lives by drowning at sea to live as seals, but shed their skin to become human on land. Similar to a mermaid for the Faroese, and interestingly enough selkies come in both male and female forms.
The tiny village of Mikladalur (we're talking population of less than 40 people) on the island of Kalsoy is home to the legend of the seal woman:
"According to legend, once a year, on the eve of Three Kings, the seal people gather on the shore in Mikladalur. They shed their sealskins, become human again, and dance the night away. Before the sun rises, they slip back into their skins and disappear into the ocean. A young man from Mikladalur, who wanted to see if the legend was true, hid behind a rock on the shore. It was, and among the seal people, he saw an exceptionally beautiful woman. While the seal people were dancing, he snuck out of his hiding place and stole her sealskin to prevent her from going back into the sea.
Before the sun came up, the seal people put on their sealskins, and one by one jumped into the water. At last only the seal woman was left, crying because she could not find her skin. Finally, the man came forward and told her that her only option was to come with him.
They went to his house. The man locked the sealskin in a chest and kept the key tied to his belt at all times. The man and the seal woman lived together as husband and wife, and they had children.
One day when the man was out fishing, he noticed that the key was missing. He shouted out in agony “My wife will leave me today!”. The men rowed back to Mikladalur as fast as possible to prevent the woman from leaving. But when the man came home, he saw his children sitting on the bench. The fire was cold, and all sharp objects were hidden from the children, so that they would not hurt themselves. The chest was open, and the sealskin was missing along with the seal woman.
The years passed but one night before the men in Mikladalur were to go on a seal hunt, the seal woman came to the man in his dreams. She begged him to have mercy on her husband and their two sons. She told him what they looked like and where in the cave they would be found. But the man ignored the dream, and along with the men of Mikladalur, he killed all the seals in the cave.
The man got his share of the killing, and when he came home, he cooked the seal meat for himself and the children. While they were eating, the door was ripped open, and the seal woman entered the room as a terrifying troll. She shouted “Here lies the head of my mate and the hands and feet of my sons. You have had your revenge – and now revenge shall be visited upon the men of Mikladalur. Some will drown at sea, others will fall from the cliffs, and so it shall continue until as many have perished as can link arms around the whole island of Kalsoy”. After cursing the man and the village, the seal woman disappeared, never to be seen again.
A great number of men from Mikladalur have lost their lives by falling from cliffs or drowning at sea. And yet they are still too few to link arms around Kalsoy. And so the seal woman’s curse still stands unfulfilled."
If you walk down the steps to the shore in Mikladalur, you will easily find this statue of a seal woman clutching her sealskin. You'll pass a beautiful stream and tidefall along the way. Experiences and views like this are why I recommend you rent a car if you're going to visit the Faroes. It's much easier to get around and make stops in all the small villages.