Discovering the Legend Behind the Book of Kells
April 9, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Films, GKIDS, History | Tags: , , , , ,

Throughout my continuing research into the world of children’s films and animation, I am happy to report that I have been finding a boatload of positive publicity surrounding one of my key subjects, “The Secret of Kells.” This is, of course, no surprise considering the film’s very recent Academy Award nomination and the almost fairytale story of how it beat out other industry giants for said nomination. The New York Times, LA Times, and a slew of bloggers have all raved on about the film.

After finally getting my eager hands on a copy of ‘Kells’ in preparation for my upcoming interview with Director, Tomm Moore, I have to say, I don’t disagree with all the hype. ‘Kells’ is something truly amazing to look at. Its intoxicating colors and animation style immediately hook the viewer in, and its cast of memorable characters like Aisling, the enchanting part wolf-girl, pixie and the story’s hero, brave young orphan Brendan make the film an easy emotional investment.

The fairy wolf-girl, Aisling in action

The plot of ‘Kells’ is based around the legend of Ireland’s Book of Kells, an ancient beautifully drawn illuminated manuscript that contains the Four Gospels. The movie follows Brendan and his mentor, master illuminator Brother Aidan, on their quest to finish the book amidst Brendan’s unapproving uncle and forthcoming Viking attacks. Because the book is one of Ireland’s most treasured medieval artifacts, Moore made the extra effort to have the look of ‘Kells’ have a medieval flare.

Legend has it that the book originated in Scotland sometime in the early 8th century, and was moved to the Abbey of Kells in the 9th century following a Viking raid. It was stolen in the 11th century, and recovered again (with some water damage and missing its cover). By the mid-1500’s the Roman Catholic Church took the book under its wing for safekeeping, eventually returning it to Ireland after the English Reformation. Today, the book is permanently on display at Trinity College in Dublin.

Personally, my favorite part of the film had less to do with the legend surrounding the Book of Kells, and more to do with the charming relationship between Brendan and his fairy friend, Aisling. The scene where Aisling guides Brendan through her enchanted forest to help him find special berries to make ink for the book is a highlight.

Brendan and Aisling in the enchanted forest

All images courtesy of GKIDS.

For more before my interview, check out Tomm Moore’s Blog of Kells.


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