Three Line Tales : She sells seashells

three line tales, week 134: a mysterious water gateway


She picked through boulders jade with seaweed that slipped like oiled hair under her palms. Her skirt was already wet around the hem – by that evening there would be a pale tide of salt to rinse from the wool.

The wind tugged at her bonnet, caught in the basket swinging from her elbow like a sail, pulling her onward. Driftwood rattled like bones as the waves retreated.

All day she turned the rocks, split them with her hammer, rock after empty rock that she returned to the sea. But there were others … spiralled shells and discs of bone, creatures resembling giant woodlice, curled as if hiding from some ancient storm … And the thrill of those made her forget the rest.


Written for Three Line Tales. See here to join in the fun.

The character in the story is based on Mary Anning, the early nineteenth-century paleontologist and fossil hunter who found the first identified ichthyosaur skeleton, plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. Although she contributed a huge amount to the knowledge and study of marine fossils, being a woman she was not able to take part fully in the scientific community that benefited from her work. She did not always receive full credit for her discoveries and struggled financially for much of her life. She died from cancer at the age of 47.

The nursery rhyme, She sells seashells along the sea shore is supposedly about Mary as she did, indeed, sell fossils to tourists visiting her home town of Lyme Regis in Dorset. To read more about Mary, see here.




14 thoughts on “Three Line Tales : She sells seashells

  1. Another reminder (and a beautifully written one at that) that I need to finish ‘The Dragon Seekers’ — which begins with Mary Anning — and get stuck into ‘The Essex Serpent’, which I gather references her.


    1. I nearly bought the Essex Serpent a few weeks ago – bought 11/22/63 by Stephen King instead which. I must say, I thought was great. I’ll look out for The Dragon Seekers – sounds fascinating

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a familiar name and story, but I’m not sure if I’ve read a book based on her life, or if I’ve seen a film based on it. Probably the latter. She was an amazing person.


    1. She certainly was. She must have been obsessed and very determined to continue with her fossil hunting despite the snubs she received from the scientific community. But it’s through women like her, proving her worth despite being female, that attitudes gradually changed. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderfully spun tale, and for me such a joy and helpful piece to read. I’m novel editing and the showing thing is always difficult. I have learned more recently, that illustrating how characters interact through their environment is a great way to do these beyond dialogue, and character interactions. It seems obvious, but until someone else actually said this to me it didn’t click. This was perfect because for me it’s a first class example of this concept that I could relate to. Your story pulled me and I almost felt I was doing what she was doing, searching for fossils. Thank you 🙂


    1. What an absolutely lovely comment! Thank you so much Amanda. I love writing description – too much probably! – love trying to make settings come to life, the smell and feel of things. And that fact that came through to you pleases me very much. I’m reading a book at the moment that none of this, that ‘tells’ rather than ‘shows’, doesn’t flesh out the characters or make the reader feel anything. And though telling definitely has its place, showing makes things come to life. Thank you again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome. I agree it makes a huge different. It’s like in one type of book you can recall the characters (you’ve formed in your mind) and their specific exciting struggles, and the other you only have a foggy memory that they did something exciting 🙂 Have a great week.


      2. As you say, it’s the difference between submerging into that world, forming a connection and just skimming over it. Thanks Amanda, hope you have a great week too

        Liked by 1 person

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