Song of the Sea was quite amazing for children and parents alike, wonderfully drawn and animated. Very touching but oddly leaving a bad taste in the ending as it almost seemed cruel how the mother acted.

Mother Selkie (I don't remember her name) at the finally of the movie appears on the edge of the stone giant's shore after mysteriously disappearing in the sea for years. She pays special attention to Saoirse seeming to completely ignore Ben and Conor for what felt like a relative eternity emotionally speaking, until finally giving them proper attention.

I simply didn't get where she was the entire time during the disappearance and why she could not stay. She was not of this world but what did that mean? Why did she start a family then with Conor knowing this? Seems cruel to do such a thing.

Very unsettling in such an otherwise beautiful movie.


I know what you mean. That part didn't sit quite right with me either. I had to think about it for a while.

Being "not of this world": Bronagh is a fairy, and the fairies/Deenashee are explicitly separate from humans, except for Saoirse, who's half human. The Deenashee are diminished and trapped by a world that no longer believes in them. When Saoirse frees them, they look larger and more alive, and they immediately headed for their true home, another world called Tír na nÓg. For some reason, before this point it was all right for fairies to live in the human world and even intermarry with humans. When Saoirse sings her song, that frees them, but it also means that they must leave our world, and that includes Bronagh. Maybe that's why Bronagh never sang that way. She wanted to stay with her family.

Why she started a family with Conor: Her first child was human, so maybe she thought there was a good chance all of her children would be the same way. But her daughter turned out to be a selkie, and for Saoirse's safety Bronagh apparently had to give birth in the water. For whatever reason, after that, she could not come back to the land ever again. In the various versions of the selkie tale, when the selkie makes her inevitable return to the sea, she never returns. In that way, the movie's following the example of the folktale.

So I don't think she was being cruel at all. The whole story is a metaphor centered around a family with a deceased parent. Fairies are connected with ghosts in a lot of folklore. Now, when Bronagh reappears, her eyes are shut. She's asleep while she's interacting with Saoirse. Sleep is often a euphemism for death. It's only after Ben starts calling her that she wakes up. In short, my personal explanation is that she's dead, at least to the human world. However, because she's a Deenashee, she's still alive in a way, although diminished like all the other fairies. Thus, she must move on to Tir na NOg.


I think I finally understood why their mother went into the sea and never returned.

In the folklore a selkie's husbands had to hide the coats of their wife as the call of the sea was so strong if their wives were to find their coats, they would return to the sea never to return. Perhaps Bronagh knew this which was why she did not wear her coat and kept it far away so she would not be tempted, but nearing saoirse's birth (with saoirse being half selkie) they were probably complications putting both mother and unborn child at risk so she had no choice but to put on her coat to give birth in the sea. Once a selkie again, Bronagh was probably unable to resist the call of the sea which was why she did not return, not even for the children. In folklore the call of the sea is so strong that even selkie mothers forsake their families once they get their hands on their coat.


I believe that the mother died in childbirth and that is why she never returned. All of the folklore is a parallel of Ben's life. Macha the witch is Ben's grandmother, Seanachai is the ferryman, Machaleer (the Giant) is Ben's father. Macha tried to ease her son's inconsolable grief in much the same way that Ben's grandmother tries to help her son end his grief by showing him that living in the lighthouse is surrounding himself in the past and its sadness. Ben turns to fantasy as a way to cope with his mother's death, forgive his sister for what he sees as taking his mother away from him, and awake his father from his grief of living in the past. I think this sort of dual-story was intended by the writers, if you look up the Yeats poem that is quoted at the beginning of the film, you will see that it is about a child turning to fantasy because the heartache and trouble of the world is too much for him to bear or to understand:

Stolen Child, by W.B. Yeats

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth wood in the lake
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats
There we've hid our fairy vats
Full of berries
And of Reddest Stolen Cherries.

Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a fairy hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light
By far off the furthest roses
We foot it all the night
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles
Whilst the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in it's sleep

Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above glen car
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams

Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
For the World's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

Away with us he's going
The solemned eyed
He'll bear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest

Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
For the world's more full of weeping
Than you can understand

For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world is more full of weeping
Than you can understand


The film shows Bronagh's hair is turning white, like Saoirse's did when she grew sick unto death. Bronagh was dying. It appears that she had to return to the sea, or died in childbirth, or was turned to stone by Macha's owls. It isn't until Saoirse's song releases the fairies that Bronagh too is freed.

Presumably it was Saoirse's uniqueness, part human and part selkie, that allowed her to untangle the two worlds. (In folklore, hybrids always have to choose.) That may well have been Bronagh's intention for her family all along. She seems to know that she would have to leave, or die, at Saoirse's birth, and so she prepared Ben to take her place.


Selkies, if they know where their coats are, are allowed to stay on land for only seven years, and then they must return to the sea or they will die. I don't know how long she'd been with Conor before Ben was born, but Bronach, the mother, kept saying that her time was up. What's unusual is that she was allowed to come back at the end to see her family.


To add to alexwlchan's answer, the Yeats poem can also be read another way - in Irish folklore, when a child became sick and died, it was said that the Faeries carried off the child and replaced it with dead faerie child. Yeats' poem references this old belief - the child in the poem isn't just being carried off into fantasy, but into death, which is why "the world is more full of weeping than you can understand."

All of this further lends itself to the idea of the fantastical qualities of the movie mimicking real world people and events. By putting the Yeats poem at the beginning of the movie, the creators were referencing that the events of the movie can be read as a metaphor.

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    Just FYI – I didn’t write that answer, @dregan did! I just made a few formatting markups. – alexwlchan Dec 3 '15 at 7:38

Selkies were only allowed to remain on the (human) dry land for 7 years. Bronach had to leave (perhaps it had been 7 years for her) but Saoirse could stay another 7 years. Would she have drowned had her mom birthed her in the sea? Anyway, that is why the story ends with Saoirse's 7th birthday being joyfully celebrated: she is 7 but can remain on the land, a present to her human family from her selkie mom.


From what I understood, after she gave birth Bronagh fell asleep. It was the song that woke her up (as well as everyone that was turned to stone or trapped) but by that time, she had to return to Tir na Nog with the other faries. It wasn't cruelity from Bronagh, but from fate.

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