Written by: Tomm Moore & Fabrice Ziolkowski
North American Release Date: Oct 2010
This Oscar-nominated multiple award-winning animated film is set in a remote medieval monastery in Ireland. The story is a fictional account of the creation of The Book of Kells – the book that will turn darkness into light. The main character is a small orphan boy named Brendan who is being trained to take the place of his uncle the Abbot when he grows up. Life is normal until a scribe shows up with a legendary book and Brendan’s fascination with it is at odds with his uncle’s wishes for him. Brendan is forbidden to enter the forest outside the monastery wall his architect uncle is building to keep out the barbarian invaders who follow closely on the heals of the scribe. But the old scribe asks Brendan to go into the forest and collect some oak galls for him to use for an ink for the book and Brendan feels it is his duty to bring them back to his new friend.
This is where the Pagan influences enter the scene. The forest is lushly animated with trees, flowers, and wildlife, but it is Aisling who steals the show. Aisling is guardian of the forest. She is the spirit of a long dead little girl who can shapeshift and has supernatural powers. The two most notable scenes in the whole movie for Pagan viewers are Aisling’s use of a magical song to change the scribe’s cats into a spirit animal so it can get into a room she cannot in the video shown below:
The second scene that will give you chills is Brendan’s visit to the mound of the ancient Pagan god Crom Cruach which mimics a dangerous shamanic initiation in a cave. By leaving the safety of the monastery and venturing into the forest, Brendan meets spirits, ancient Pagan gods, standing stones, and the beauty and wonder of primal nature. In many ways this gorgeous film reminded me of Brian Bate’s Way of Wyrd with Brendan’s easy reconciling of Christian and Pagan spiritualities. Although The Secret of Kells is an animated film, it is not a children’s movie. Much of the film is frightening – both the storyline and the imagery – so I would recommend it only to preteens and older. Adult Druids, Pagans, Witches and Celtic reconstructionists will adore this film and easily understand how it won so many awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year. I highly recommend The Secret of Kells. It is truly a gem of a film. If you’re not tempted yet, I highly recommend watching the trailer: