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[Victoria Film Festival ’15] Examining the Folklore behind Song of the Sea

15 Jan

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

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11am Feb 9
The Vic Theatre
Victoria, BC

3pm Feb 14
Star Cinema
Sidney, BC

With only a trailer to go by, this animation by the production house Cartoon Saloon, who produced Secret of Kells, will go far. It’s a guaranteed winner for its cultural aesthetic and expansion of a traditional mythic tradition about the Selkie, supernatural creatures found in Irish and Scottish folklore. They can transform from seal to human and vice versa. These beings are well-known to those living in the Orkney Islands, and their proliferation into Celtic popular culture can be found in many a piece of literature or found featured in a play.

On an island located west of Canada, there’s some Scottish tradition to be found. Some audiences may have been introduced to the lore about the Selkie during last year’s Victoria Fringe Festival by Voice Box Theatre Company’s low-budget Cirque du Soleil style performance, “Selkie Tales.” To have a follow-up of sorts as part of this year’s Victoria Film Festival’s Family Day Program is a blessing of the faeries.

To understand what these supernatural sea-faring folk are about means delving into what little documentation there is. In the surviving folklore, there is no agreement as to how often the selkie-folk were able to carry out the transformation. Some tales say it was once a year, usually Midsummer’s Eve, while others state it could be “every ninth night” or “every seventh stream.” (1)

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