Ben is somewhat self-absorbed and only concerned with his feelings in the early portion of the story, seeing his sister as a pest who steals the beautiful shell his mother gave her. He is so vexed with her, and caught up in his own feelings, that he pushes her into her own birthday cake, ruining Granny’s photo and resulting in him being sent to his room, then tells her a scary story just to upset her (and feels bad about it when she gets scared, and reassures her it’s just a story, not real… but that doesn’t help). Ben angrily blames her misadventures for getting sent to Dublin to live with their grandmother, whose house he hates, so he decides to run away back home to find their dog—and drags his sister along when she refuses to let him go alone. Once he discovers she is a seilkie from the sea, he then sets out to protect her, find her seal coat, and help her free the fairies from being turned to stone, since only her song can restore the balance. His feelings toward her begin to change, as he matures into a more thoughtful, compassionate boy—carrying her through thorny branches and through rainstorms, even jumping into the water in an attempt to save her and recover her coat, though the sea terrifies him. He adapts quickly to his environment, whether that is to get news from a faerie king or to outrun an old witch. He notices all the jars full of emotions and memories in her attic, and convinces Saoirse to blow the shell, breaking them all free and restoring the witch’s feelings to her. Ben is also an artist who likes to illustrate his mother’s stories. He is quite industrious and purposeful when he puts his mind to it, coming up with a map home, asking for directions, taking a bus and paying for their tickets, and seeing to it his sister gets home. He can be blunt at times and even cruel, telling his sister to get lost, and saying if their father turned to stone in his grief, “nobody would love you.”

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Ben has a lot of fears tied to his own survival, but he is also loyal to his family when it counts. He’s scared of the sea, so much so that he won’t go into it at first to bring back his sister, who has wandered off looking for seals. He must work up the courage to dive in after her, when she vanishes into a pool within a cave, and again when he dives into the sea to swim down and find her coat to deliver it back to her. He wants her to be safe, and doesn’t want to lose her, asking their mother in tears to let her stay and admitting to himself that he loves Saoirse—quite a different reaction from his initial feelings toward her. Though cautious and deliberate, Ben does tend to go off on a whim—he sets out for home with only a map and sheer determination to get there, he embraces adventure when he must, and eventually conquers his fears by thinking positively and taking a leap of faith.