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Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel emotions at all.
Sure, the good ones are great; who doesn’t want to feel joy, hope, satisfaction, or delight? But the bad ones terrify me. Grief, fear, regret, loneliness… no, thank you. In the Song of the Sea, Ben begins his life as a happy child with a loving father, Conor, and a gentle mother, Bronach, who loves to teach her son stories and songs. One of her many fantastical tales is about the Owl Witch Macha. Long ago, Macha’s son endured a great tragedy, plunging him into despair. Because Macha couldn’t bear to see the pain in her son, she turned him into stone. However, she didn’t stop there. On Halloween night, she sent out her owls to cleanse faeries and humans of their emotions.
Soon after telling her son this story, Bronach dies while giving birth to Ben’s younger sister, Saoirse.
Years later, Ben has grown bitter and jealous of Saoirse. Negative emotions surround him—from his own jealousy and terror of the sea that surrounds their lighthouse home, to a grieving father, to a cynical granny. I imagine there were many times he wished he could be turned to stone like the faeries in his mother’s story. It is when Granny takes Ben and Saoirse to the city that he learns his sister is a selkie and that she has the ability to play a shell that releases faeries from stone prisons. His mother’s story is true.
After Macha captures Saoirse and Ben, he confronts her. The Owl Witch feels that she needs to rid the world of “nasty emotions” because “nobody needs them,” that they make everyone “feel awful.” So deep are her ideals, she even draws the good and bad emotions out of herself with her enchanted jars. She tempts Ben to rid himself of his emotions too, but he refuses, saying, “It won’t help. It will only make things worse.”
Ben is wise. He declares something here that I sometimes don’t want to admit to myself.
When I’ve encountered bad circumstances, I know I’ve wanted to harden myself like stone, so I don’t have to feel the pain of emotions. I usually go through a period where I let my emotions take control, and then I push them aside and try to ignore them. However, trying to squash them down means they will be even more out of control when they do come to the surface.
In some stages of my life, I would have taken Macha’s offer.
But as Ben said, bottling up emotions and hardening my heart only makes things worse. It’s only a temporary fix. Become stone means I lose my happiness and joy along with my negative emotions. Emotions can be beautiful things and they are a part of my life. My pain can make me stronger, despite how much it hurts. In fact, suffering shapes me more than happiness. The dark moments make the bright moments shine brighter.
I believe Saoirse’s “Song of the Sea,” the song she sings to revive those who have been turned to stone, doesn’t represent happiness or joy, but peace. This peace can free me from the chains that my negative emotions have put on me or that I have put on myself. Happiness isn’t always a cure for sadness, but peace, understanding, and closure are what can be. There is nothing wrong with experiencing negative emotions. It’s partly what makes me human. Dwelling on them too long or attempting to pack them up and ship them off to Neverland without dealing with them is what becomes a problem. This is what Ben comes to discover as he faces his fears, jealousy, and pain to save his sister and free the faeries.
My “Song of the Sea” is ultimately Christ. Many times it is hard to trust in Him. It is hard to listen to that Song and let my negative emotions crumble away, but in the end it’s the only thing that can set me free.