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  • Writer's pictureMaree

2 Min Book Review: Land of the Seal People by Duncan Williamson

The Good:

-Duncan Williamson was a great storyteller of the

Scott’s travellers and was one himself. In regards to

storytelling he felt that person who told the story to you, will stand behind you as you tell it, the person

who told them, behind them and so forth. This

lineage of storytelling is evident in this book and

many times he refers to the storyteller who passed the

tale in question to him. Many of the people he

received the stories from were family members or

people he met while travelling such as crofters,

fisherman or other travellers. Tales passed down through generations are treasures.

-The stories are told as if they have been directly written from his spoken word: from a recording or live performance. This gives the Scottish folk tales of the Seal People an authentic, raw and homey quality. I can imagine sitting by the fire on a cold, quiet night, sipping hot cider whilst listening to Duncan’s stories. Then, going to bed in a beachside cottage listening to the surf, imagining the silkies in their undersea cavern.

-The tales not only include silkies but other magical creatures such as the wee folk and genies.

-Thirteen of the twenty-four these tales have been published for the first time.

-There are many Scottish words that I looked up. It was very interesting. It was particularly entertaining in one of the stories where the dialogue was written very much in a Scottish accent.

-I felt so at home in the Scottish island’s fishing communities. The stories were unique, but so similar and it gave a sense of community and vibrant history.

- Silkies are eluding and mysterious creatures. These stories portrayed them as just that.

The Bad:

- By about halfway thought I noticed that so many of the stories were about “Jack”. This is not such a bad thing, but variety would have made each story more memorable in it’s own way. This changed by the last third of the book.

-I picked up this book because I am using silkies in my writing and feel like I was hoping for more information about them than there actually was. But, the point of these stories is to invoke wonder. This includes wonder of the things that are left out.


“Living on an island you had only one option and that’s to make a living by the sea. And there are so many strange tales, many tragedies where people live on islands, not only in Scotland or England or Ireland, but all over the world; strange stories about things happening at sea…when someone believes in something deep in their soul, they believe in reality.”

4 Stars

Read: Nov 2019

Published: 1992



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