The Seal Woman
(brazenly based on a marvelous folksong by Gordon Bok)
Kaigen was a poor Irish fisherman. Every morning Kaigen would set out in his tiny dory with sail to seek his catch. And day in and day out, this is how Kaigen’s life went--finding just enough fish for himself and a few of the village cripples.
One day Kaigen met a beautiful young woman and fell deeply in love, and they married. All the villagers said, “She’s a seal woman, you know.” The stories told how a seal would spring from the sea and take human form, but could never touch the waters again lest it be cast back to the sea as a seal forever more. But it was just rumor and Kaigen didn’t care, for she loved him and he loved her, with both hearts pure and true.
And every morning when Kaigen set out for sea she would stand at the water’s edge, and be waiting still at the end of day. As the sun set she would call out over the waves, “Kaigen, Kaigen, bring the dory home. Restless wind and wild sea, return my love to me.” Kaigen would say he could hear her voice ten leagues out to sea. And without fail he would soon be home again.
One autumn the fishing had been very bad. Kaigen and his wife had little to eat. Kaigen was to set out that morning to find a catch, or he and his wife would likely starve come winter. Kaigen’s loving wife stood at the water’s edge as Kaigen readied the dory. She cast a knowing eye at the horizen and saw a flash of doom at the sea’s end. The wife well knew the ways of the sea. “Kaigen,” she pled, “wait till the morrow to find your fish. The sea is mean today.” Kaigen scanned the seaward deep, and promised he would not go far nor long, and sailed away.
Soon the winds blew strong, the waves washed high over Kaigen’s small boat. The sail was no match for the wind and was slashed to hopeless shreds. Kaigen was adrift and wet as the night turned deathly cold, and he huddled against the stinging wind on the dory’s floor. Kaigen cursed the storm, and he wailed at the wind, “You will not keep me from my love!”
On the shore, Kaigen’s wife fretfully paced the sand and cried out over the waves: “Kaigen, Kaigen, Kaigen, bring the dory home. Wind and waves and sea I pray, oh return my love!” But this time Kaigen did not come home.
Into the sea she dove with a fury, and swam to the deep with inhuman speed.
* * *
Kaigen’s small boat was discovered the next morning at sea, with him still huddled on the dory’s floor. And they found a seal nuzzled over Kaigen, which had kept him warm and still alive.
And Kaigen’s wife was never to be seen again.