The Brides of Rollrock Island

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

One thought on “The Brides of Rollrock Island

  1. Marilyn & Holly says:

    The Brides of Rollrock Island, a novel for young adults about the Selkie legends out of the British Isles, had me wondering about audience. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading the book, which I did, but I could see where it could be for adolescents or adults. What I liked best was the idea that life has to balance or correct itself, and that re-balancing may take generations to accomplish. There are many situations in the world where I can especially see that as the case, and I would guess, even within families. The “mainland” thinking about what was occurring on Rollrock Island had me thinking about how sometimes the outside world can be so judgmental, but at the same time offer a perspective that might help reestablish the balance that is needed within the situation. It is measuring that judgment so as not be paralyzed by it, but to utilize it as another way to look at a situation that may be unhealthy for those involved. In many ways, this could be a political metaphor, but that is probably me reading it from my current location and what is occurring in the world. What did you think of the novel, Marilyn?
    WOW, you made me consider aspects of Brides that hadn’t occurred to me. First, I enjoyed what you wrote about audience for the book. I made a connection to a great discussion recently in my book group when we were sharing several different new titles that are being marketed either as young adult books or adult. We decided that marketing such books just as YA or adult was an arbitrary decision on the part of the publisher because we saw them as cross-over books which would appeal to a wide age group of readers. We thought that adult readers might miss out on such books because they are confined to the young adult sections of the library and book stores. (Incidentally, the titles were The Ocean at the End of the World by Neil Gaiman, More Than This by Patrick Ness and novels by Aidan Chambers.) Brides is definitely a cross-over book especially because of the issues you described. It is just a good read for ages from twelve and up. I enjoyed it immensely.
    One of the reasons I found it so enjoyable was that it reminded me of another book I read long ago, but still remember vividly. That would be A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter, another Selkie story that is imbued with magic. Ever after reading Hunter’s book I have been attracted to Selkie stories. Brides enchanted me from the first page. The idea of a creature being able to transform itself from a seal to a human is magical. But, in this case unlike the Hunter book, the seals have no choice about becoming human. The fantastic elements of the story completely absorbed me.
    When I read what you wrote about the book, that it could be a political metaphor, I was intrigued and reread it. Now, I can see what you described. That made me think about how reading is dangerous. It opens doors to new ideas, truths and realities. I am writing this during Banned Book Week. Tonight at a local bookstore, I am part of a panel with Chris Crutcher to discuss censorship. It occurs to me that Brides could be a book that is challenged. After all, that first page that drew me in starts with, “The old witch is there,” It will be interesting to follow what happens – will it appear on ALA’s banned book list? I would enjoy teaching it in a high school English class. It certainly has many elements that will attract teens. What do you think, Holly?
    Hmmm, I think it could be challenged, but not for the witch reference. I imagine the sexuality within the book will create concern among those who challenge books. Thinking about the book again, I found that it made me wonder about the connection between animals and humans, and how that should be respected, which means, then, that you don’t go pulling any living thing away from its true environment for your own purposes. Of course, saying that then makes me wonder about zoos and animal parks and hunting in enclosed spaces. Mostly, though, I thought about how terrible it would be to be removed (somewhat forcefully, even if magically), from your own skin and then to be separated from your true self for years. I felt real empathy for the Selkie women, and thought the author did a great job of making readers feel their alienation and sadness. It would be scary to be so imprisoned , but the balancing of nature within the book also shows how the men changed their ways once they recognized that what they had done to the Selkies was so very damaging. Frankly, I am glad this is just legend. I couldn’t stand it any other way.
    Yet, I resonated completely with the idea of the sons joining their mothers and then attempting to tell what it was like to be a seal. I loved the idea that the way of seeing the world through a seal’s eyes is so totally stress-free. I read this book while in the Galapagos, and while there are no seals in that archipelago, I did think of this book when observing the sea lions, which live life through play, eating, and just being. They had so much fun—with each other and the humans who snorkeled out to play with them. Not sure I want to give up my humanness to be like them, but it did make me wonder! And thus, through that wondering, I could understand the desire of the Selkie women. I completely understand the idea of wanting to be your true self in an environment where you feel most comfortable and for which you pine. Thank goodness for children’s empathy!
    A final theme about this book just occurred to me – how some men use women and their preferences in women are entirely based on the appearance of the woman. In the story the witch is able to tempt the men because of this type of attraction. It is another aspect of this book that will make it a stimulating book to discuss.

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