The baby seal and the fairy, by Orla Broderick

This is for Fay, and all the other tiny ones who have to go to school or kindergarten

Summer is nearly over. It has been long and busy. The beach is always full with holiday makers. They walk up and down all day and most of the night. They eat and jump then lie down. Some are round and smooth like seals but they are not seals. When the sun is low the seals sing. When the sun is high the seals sleep.
The baby seal has to swim past all the holiday makers. She goes with her mum and cousins to the opposite shore to lie in peace away from them. Her mum tells her that they are selkies, that they were once just like seals but their seal coats were taken from them and so they cannot come back to the sea. They must walk forever on land. They must search for their true skins forever.
The baby seal is called Iona. She is shy of the selkies but she is also very very curious. Not all these selkies are alike. Iona has a memory of a different one. Before the summer, before all these strangers came, Iona met a little blonde girl. The girl was singing to the seals. It was a song of love and thanks. None of these others jumping and splashing can sing such a beautiful song.
Seals love to sing. They have a watery love song like the howl of a water wolf. Iona pokes her nose out into the air. She searches through all the selkies for the little blonde girl but cannot see her. The selkies point at her. They cluck and call but they do not offer beautiful sounds.
The air was sharp with the end of winter when the little girl was here. She stood still and brave and white by the edge of the sea. She raised her voice and hands. The air rang with the sound of her. She looked like a tiny fairy. Her voice was a glorious tingling. Every day for five days she came. She stood for hours talking to the seals, telling them they were beautiful.
All the seals heard the love in the little fairy’s song. Even the snoring ones lifted their heads to hear her more clearly. Iona and her cousins left their sheltered beach and swam the fast sea channel to where the fairy stood. Only Iona swam so close she could smell her. The fairy did not smell like fish. The fairy smelled like flowers. Iona jumped and splashed right in front of the fairy, she waved her flippers and smiled. The fairy smiled back at Iona.
Sometimes Iona lies on her back on the beach and tries to sing the fairy song. But, she cannot quite remember it. No one has heard the white fairy sing all summer. Iona’s mum says the fairy will be learning about the world. She tells Iona that she will return, when she’s bigger and wiser and has new songs to share with the seals.
Iona hums the tune. She pokes her head out of the water whenever she passes the edge of the beach. She waits for the white fairy.

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One Response to The baby seal and the fairy, by Orla Broderick

  1. brings a wee tear to my eye, thinking of my girls and their last days of freedom by the water before school.

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