In: KulturPoetik 2015, Heft 1


Hans J. Wulff


Von Opfern, Spaßmachern, Heulern und Selkies. Robben und Seehunde im Film




The article gives a detailed account of how the family of seals is both an object and a means of cultural interpretation (in Western societies). First, the inhumane practices of seal hunting in Canada and South Africa have become the subject of worldwide protests. Second, seals are interpreted as cute; seals are a kind of pet or toy and are friends of children. Third, seals are part of Celtic mythology, as incarnations of the selkies; a selkie is a hybrid being between animal and woman, a symbolic representation of erotic and sexual affinities and meanings. Fourth, seals are sometimes cultural heroes as well as partners of humans in musical communication. Each of these facets defines specific relations between humans and animals. To understand seals and other animals in a cultural context as »cultural units«, it is necessary to develop a cultural analysis of seals (and animals in general) as well as biological and ethological descriptions and explanations.