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Reclining Venus, by Lorenzo Bartolini
The Kópakonan Statue in Faroe Islands, by Hans Pauli Olsen - Scintillating Sculptures
128    Dibyendu Banerjee    12/12/2022

The legend of Kópakonan or the Seal Woman is one of the best-known folktales in the Faroe Islands, a self-governing archipelago, comprising 18 rocky, volcanic islands, located between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark and is connected to the mainland by road tunnels, ferries, causeways and bridges.

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Kópakonan or the Selkies are mythical mermaids, who live in the sea as seals, but can shed their seal hide to become human on land, but could not return to the sea if their seal skin is hidden or stolen. Traditional stories about them are romantic tragedies and most of the stories end in returning the mermaid to the sea, after spending several years as a seal wife to a human, leaving behind her husband and children.

the kpakonan statue

Legend says, once a year, on the Thirteenth night, they come on land, strip off their skins and amuse themselves as human beings, dancing and enjoying themselves. On one such late evening, a young fisherman on the island of Kalsoy accidentally could catch a glimpse of the dancing mermaids on the desolate shore, under the moonlit sky.

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He sneaked up and stole the skin of a pretty seal girl, leaving her with no other option but to accompany him back to his home and become his wife. They married and had children, but the fisherman locked the skin of his Kópakonan wife in a chest, to make sure that his wife did not have access to her mermaid skin.

the kpakonan statue

However, one day, when the man was fishing at sea with his companions, his mermaid wife finds her seal skin hidden in a chest in his home.

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The discovery made her surprised, but she left the family, ensuring the children are cared for until the fisherman's return and leaving behind a message for her human husband not to follow her in vain.

the kpakonan statue

Nevertheless, in the many years that followed, it was noticed by many that a seal would emerge and look eagerly towards the land, as if expecting someone. The locals believed that it was the mother seal, who left her children long ago, but wishing intently to see them at least for once.

the kpakonan statue

A 9 feet (2.74 m) tall bronze statue of a Kópakonan, created by a reputed Faroese sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen was installed in the Mikladalur Harbor on the island of Kalsoy on the 1st day of August 2014, which soon became a darling of the locals. Although in early 2015, a huge 37.74 feet (11.5 m) wave swept over the statue, it could do no damage to the desolate Kópakonan and the statue stood firm, as it was designed to withstand 43 feet (around 13 m) waves.

Reclining Venus, by Lorenzo Bartolini
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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