Miscellaneous Myths: Animal Brides


Anyone who’s dabbled in mythology and folklore is probably aware of the theme of the animal bride. And, yeah, it actually is kind of as weird as it sounds. For those of you who haven’t heard of this, the basic premise is that an animal (often a swan or a seal) will remove its skin, and transform into a beautiful woman, usually to bathe. This skin will be stolen by a passing dude, which basically binds the woman to him. She can’t return to her true form without it, so she marries him. When she finds where he hid the skin, she turns back and books it. There are a few takeaways from this story format: marrying an animal is probably not a good idea, don’t hold your wife hostage, etc. But even beyond the confines of this format, there’s a lot of stories about dudes marrying animals whether or not they realize it at the time. So today let’s talk about some animal bride stories, and all the fabulous ways mythical men have gotten themselves hitched one way or another. This is a Swedish fairy tale that follows the format very closely. Our protagonist is a humble peasant who occasionally goes out hunting for fun. But one day he sees three swans land by a lake, strip off their feathery skins and reveal themselves as three hot ladies. They bathe and cavort and such for a while before re-feathering themselves and flying away. But it’s love at first sight for our protagonist, who’s fallen head-over-heels for the youngest swan maiden, and he goes home pining. His mom notices something’s wrong, and when he tells her he’s too in love with this swan woman to do anything else his mom tells him how he can win her over. And by win her over, I mean functionally kidnap her. So following her instructions, our protagonist hides in a bush near the swans’ favorite lake. And when they land and de-feather themselves, he sneaks out and surreptitiously steals one of their feathery cloaks. After a while the other two fly away, but the third one can’t find her feathers and freaks out. Our hero white knights out of the bushes to see if she’s okay, give her a regular cloak and get her somewhere safe, keeping her feathery cloak nice and hidden the whole time so she doesn’t realize he has it. Soon enough, the two of them get married and live a wonderful happy life together for seven years, until our protagonist decides he should tell his wife the truth. He reveals to her that he stole her feather cloak all those years ago, but the minute she touches it, she transforms back into a swan and books it out the nearest window. Which, honestly, very measured response. A swan can mess you up if it wants to. But she doesn’t need to break his arm or anything, because he dies of grief within a year. Let that be a lesson folks: tricking a girl into marrying you by forcibly isolating her from her friends and loved ones will backfire and is also just a huge dick move. But not everyone learns the lessons of history. In the Faroe Islands, there’s a story of Kópakonan (the seal woman), a well-known folktale in the area. Seals are sometimes believed to be former humans who drowned themselves in the ocean. Once a year, they’re allowed to strip off their seal skins, resume their human forms and have a nice little party on the beach before going back home. Our story begins when a young farmer decides to see for himself if this story is true and he hides away on the beach to observe. He sees a huge number of seals approach the shore, strip off their seal skins, turn into people and get their party on. But he also notices one of the seals, a pretty young lady, drops her skin off near his hiding place. So while nobody’s looking, he slips out and steals it. Come the morning all the other selkies return to the ocean, but the young woman can’t find her skin. The farmer shows himself, revealing that he stole her skin and after he refuses to give it back, she has no choice but to follow him home, because where else is she gonna go? So he keeps her as a wife for several years and they have several children together, which, yes due to the fact that he kidnapped and coerced her into this relationship, IS extremely f*ked up when you think about it. And he also makes sure to keep her seal skin locked away in a chest that he has the only key to so she can’t get away. But one day while out fishing with his buddies, he abruptly realises he forgot the key at home. He rushes back but the seal woman is already gone, returned to the ocean and her seal boyfriend, because yeah, she had a life before some asshole decided to kidnap her. What a surprise. Several years pass and some of the men of the island decide to head into a deep cave to do some seal hunting there. That night, the farmer has a dream about his seal wife. In the dream, she tells him that during their hunt, they shouldn’t kill the large bull seal by the entrance or the two baby seals deeper in the cave, because those are her husband and sons. But the farmer, who we already know is a world-class dick, doesn’t heed her warnings, and they kill all the seals in the cave and the farmer gets the head of the bull seal and the flippers of the baby seals as trophies. Mmm. That’s how you know you’re the good guy – when you’re dismembering baby seals. But that night, as the farmer is cooking his former wife’s loved ones, she appears in the form of a terrifying troll and curses him and everyone else on the island. The curse being that people will randomly fall off cliffs and drown until there are enough dead people to link hands and form a chain around the island. Honestly, I get it. It’s like keying your ex’s car after they murder your whole family. So while this myth, a short and sweet Inuit story, definitely draws from the same inspirational core as the more well-known animal brides, it has the distinction of being very goofy in contrast with the others. So let’s take a look. Our story begins with a hunter who lives alone and just generally does his own thing. But one day he comes back to find that someone has tidied his house and cooked him dinner, like a wife. But he doesn’t have a wife. So he’s like, “okay…???” and carries on as usual. But his house keeps getting mysteriously tidier and his dinner keeps getting made, like he’s being haunted by a very meticulous ghost. So eventually he decides to get to the bottom of this and sets out to hunt before doubling back and sneakily keeping an eye on his house. As he watches, a fox pops up and runs into the house. Figuring it’s probably after his food, he follows it in and finds a beautiful woman hanging a fox skin on a clothesline. He’s like, “What?” and she’s like, “Hi, I’m your wife now. You like what I’ve done with the place?” Our hunter isn’t the type to look a gift fox in the mouth, so he’s pretty chill with this. And he and his new fox wife carry on for a while: him going out to hunt and her working as a housewife. It’s a pretty sweet dynamic. But one day the hunter idly notices that his house smells kind of stinky and when he asks his fox wife about it, she’s like, “HOW DARE YOU INSULT MY NATURAL MUSK!” puts her fox skin back on, and storms out, never to return. City folk like myself might not be aware that foxes, like skunks, have scent glands. I’m guessing the skunk wife marriages end a lot faster. So the moral of the story is, uh… *quickly flips through notes* Don’t marry animals? It’s probably the best takeaway. [Singing] You don’t even know who I am~ You left me a long time ago~ You don’t even know who I am~ So what do you care if I go~ *string snaps* Red: Oh, fu-

100 thoughts on “Miscellaneous Myths: Animal Brides

  1. Hey Red, I have an idea for you! We just learned about the Circassians in my college class today. You should try and do a video/videos of the Nart Saga! There’s some wild myths in there!

  2. Lore note:

    Kill fae creatures loved ones

    Curses the community on the island to kill everyone close to the cliff till the dead peeps can link hands and form a ring around the island

  3. Could you please do the myth of Osin? Or Oisin? Finn Mccool's son… his tragic trip to the otherworld is one of the coolest myths, and is one of the best eachtaries! (Also, i have no idea how to spell gaelic words…)

  4. I once read a Chinese version where this girl is the daughter of a dragon king who lives in a lake. So the girl is married to this really bad prince guy and she’s not happy. But then she meets our young nobleman protagonist and they fall in love. So she asks her super cool dragon king dad to kill her husband so she can marry the protagonist. So the dragon king sends his brother who is also a dragon to kill the girl’s husband. So the brother kills the OG husband and the girl marries our young protagonist. Oh wait, did I mention that the daughter is a human. So yeah…

  5. People are so quick to bash on people who like the same sex, but they almost never say anything to those who like animals/non human creatures

  6. Isn't there a Kitsune thing in Japanese folklore where it's the same premise, fox takes off the skin and whoever takes the fox skin has to marry her, yada yada. She'll resent you the whole time for taking her freedom, but she'll be the PEEEEEEERFECT WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE! Until she gets her skin. If you help her, she'll be grateful, but don't expect her to do any favours for ye. She'll also eat the liver of whoever stole her skin. Isn't that a thing?

  7. Holy Hera😂
    Could you explain Echidna or Typhoon (Greek), the story of how Thor got his hammer and/or the Dreamtime stuff for Australian Aboriginals? Please? Cheers. Peace out.

  8. there's 1 in indonesian folklore with similar format, but with angel(?).
    basically a man found several angel bathing and stole their mystical cloth that allow them to go back to heaven, then he help the angel while hiding he stole it. But the man never told his wife about it. one day his wife found her mystic cloth and go back to heaven

    Sorry i forgot the details of the story

  9. Would you please teach us about Hecate? She’s my favorite Greek Goddess and I’d love to see how you’d draw her and interpret information about her. Thank you!

  10. In my village, we have a story about a magic seal turning gay for a cute boy!

    I think it's one of the only stories of these animal Brides I've ever heard of that kind of worked out well also if you think the Inuit fox story is crazy this one's even more crazy!

    Yayyyy I'm inuit!

  11. My god the selky story when she appears to the dude w the caption “Just think, all this because you chose to torment me” just gives me chills. That line is brutal and powerful and I love it

  12. 4:21 something about the inflection just makes me really like this guy. Like, just doing his thing, and he's a little confused, but… "Okay…?"

  13. The story of the seal human in the Faroe Islands is one he have here in Scotland! It’s the same basic story thought instead of of once w year it’s whenever. Usually every night. We call them selkies and they’re usually up by the islands. It’s used as a way to. Explain Why some humans are born with webbed hands/feet. It’s because they’re half selkie

  14. What about that stupid one where a guy wishes for a wife from the sea king and he just makes a wife from a goose and the goose ends up really depressed cause her sister was still in the pond as a goose?

  15. Goddamn those must be some massive swans and foxes to be able to fit a human body like that

  16. Huh, the Swan Bride is very similar to a folklore in my country(Indonesia). The story is basically the same and the only diffrence is the bride was not a swan.

    It's suprising how far this story can reach.

  17. i dont remember where i heard it from but when i was in grade school, i read somewhere in that in old mythology, some kings wished to marry giant women as a sign of,, glory? i dont remember much but the idea of some arrogant king dude going after a giant woman always amused me and your channel has the kind of vibe that makes me think you could make a great video out of it, if you wanted to! i cant really commission you, so this is really just a thought idea ;u; either way i loved your video!! i remember reading an old Irish folktale about 4 women who were turned into swans rather than turning shemselves into humans too. thats what caught my eye about this video lol

  18. Man this was interesting to watch.
    Especially since this whole time I thought the animal bride thing was about a dude finding the skin of the selkie and getting married to them BECAUSE he returned it. Not keep it to himself or keep the Selkie hostage.

  19. The Irish myth is like a better version of that deal story.

    Sure, the seal leaves as soon as she finds her skin (or cap in some retellings), but at least the husband was nice and the selkie did like her life on land. She just missed her sea life.

  20. I've been listening to Celtic music alot lately and their is a few songs with these stories and a few with dryads as well. Same plot but tree vs animal skin. (Btw if you meet a woman in the Forest who says she can't leave with you and is very attached to a tree or plant, Do Not chop it down! She will be dead in under a day)

  21. In North Carolina they went through the entire legal process to SPECIFICALLY make it illegal to “get busy” with a PORCUPINE

  22. Red, springboarding off the topic of animal polymorphing, could you do a Misc Myths video on Actaeon? He was that hunter Artemis turned into a stag after he saw her bathing.

  23. I know in Finnish myth (I think maybe Saami too. Not so often Estonia) a young lady would have to tie the knot with a bear- then they feast on that said bear, and put the skull high in a tree to return to nature. Bears and Swans are the mains in their cultures. Never heard of marrying a Swan yet though.

  24. I love it when she sings at the end of her videos and they fit so well with what the video is about it really is a nice touch

  25. For a modern take of the last story have a look at the Belgariad, or more specifically to "Belgarath the Sourcerer". There the sourcerer Belgarath who routinely turns into a wolf for faster travel meets a female wolf who joins him and after a while learns to turn into a woman after watching Belgarath turn back from wolf to human. But there they stay together until she dies.

  26. This is the first time I've listened to the very end and gosh if you haven't do it it's hilarious. Spoilers-

    Red's guitar string snaps
    "Oh f**k?!"

  27. The seal one totally deserved it I mean I agree the man tricked you and left you a mess but didn't you leave him . Not saying what he did was right but ya she got what she should have expected . Had she not told him about that there was a small chance that the seals might have survived.

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