The legend of Kópakonan (the Seal Woman)

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The ocean has always given man not only a means of subsistence, but has also been a source of creative inspiration, contributing to the birth of works of art and literature. We also want to touch the world of sea stories and legends written by the waves and wind…

On the Danish island of Kalsoy, also known as the “men’s island,” a unique legend is associated with the seal creature called Kópakonan.

In ancient times on this island, there was a belief that those who experienced a violent death or committed suicide would be transformed into seals. Once a year, these transformed beings could return to a human-like state to celebrate joyfully until sunrise, at which point they would revert to being seals.

Once curious young farmer observed the seals transforming into humans and dancing on the beach. During the dance, the man seized the cloak of one of the young “seal girls,” preventing her from returning to the sea. He compelled her to marry him, and they had children. The farmer always kept the key to the trunk containing the cloak securely fastened to his belt. However, one day, while on a boat trip, he realized he had forgotten the key at home. Hurrying back, he found that the woman had vanished, returning to the seaside. From that moment onward, the farmer never saw her again. Nevertheless, whenever he went fishing, a bright-eyed seal would consistently hover around his boat, ensuring successful catches. Similarly, when his children played on the beach, a seal would appear near the shore, seemingly accompanying them on their journey. Despite her love for her family, the woman belonged to the sea.

The statue of Kópakonan was installed in the Mikladalur Harbor on Kalsoy, one of the Faroe Islands, on August 1st, 2014.  Crafted from stainless steel and bronze, the statue stands at 2.6 meters in height, weighing 450 kilograms. Its imposing and solid structure is designed to withstand waves up to thirteen meters high.

The work is by the Faroese sculptor Hans Pauli Olse

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