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(Greetings, reader! Before I begin this review, I would like to preface it with this movie has religious themes, referencing paganism and mythology. There is also violence, even though it is off screen, and takes place when the Vikings arrive to take over a village.)

The Secret of Kells is a beautiful story that tells viewers the history of how one of Ireland’s most prized books, The Book of Kells, was created. It follows a young boy, named Brendan, who helps an illuminator finish the blessed book, all the while preparing for the Northmen/Vikings to come upon Kells, bringing their darkness with them. Can Brendan help turn the darkness into light? 

After an invasion, Brother Aidan, an illuminator, escapes from the Vikings to Kells’ safety, which is fortifying itself against the impending danger. Aidan brings his cat Pangur Bán and the Book of Iona, a fantastic book written by Saint Columbkille himself. The saint passed down the book to Aidan so he could finish it instead. Brendan, the nephew of Kells’ Abbott, is tasked with helping Aidan finish the book by creating the “Chi-Rho” page, the book’s most glorious page. 

To help Aidan finish the goal, Brendan ventures beyond the walls of Kells to find berries for ink. While he is out, he is saved by a fairy named Aisling. She is an immortal girl who has the ability to turn into a white wolf and speak to animals, cool right? Brendan also needs help finding the Eye of Columbkille, a lens that will help him create the Chi-Rho page. But with the Northmen coming closer and closer to Kells, will the book be done in time? Will Brendan be able to turn the darkness into light? 

I loved this movie. Cartoon Saloon, the company behind this movie, has such a specific animation style that is entertaining to watch. The trees, wolves, deer, clothes, and drawings are rooted in the Celtic art style of knots. The characters have a unique movement and style that you have to admire. 

The characters themselves are all delightful. Aisling is a young fairy but is well beyond her years. Brendan is a kind soul that wants to make things right, even though it may be risky. Aidan is a wise man who has tricks up his sleeve, and Abbot is a man who wants to keep people safe, even though he gets carried away. (Brendan Gleeson, aka “Mad-Eye Moody” from the Harry Potter series, voices the Abbott, which is another bonus for the movie). The film also teaches the lesson of helping others accomplish something more significant, which is a great lesson. I hope you enjoy this movie as well!

Terms used in this blog post: 

  • Abbott: a title given to the head of a monastery. 

  • Celtic: the language of Indo-European family (Irish, Scottish, Gaelic, Welsh, etc).

  • Book of Kells: an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament. It is noted for its intricate and illustrious illustrations. 

  • Chi-Rho: it is said to be the finest example of illustration from the Middle Ages, and is found in the actual Book of Kells, which dates back to the 8th century! 

  • Illuminator: in the movie, it is shown that an illuminator illustrates the cover and pages with ornate illustrations. 

  • Illustrations: drawings found in literature. 

  • Ireland: is an island in Northwestern Europe in the Atlantic Ocean. 

  • Myth: A traditional story that usually explains how something began. 

  • Mythology: a collection of myths that belonged to a group or religion. 

  • Pangur Bán: I found this super cool). The cat in the movie, Pangur Bán is named after a cat that was featured in a 9th century poem, written by its owner, a Irish monk. 

  • Paganism: a religion that incorporates beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions. 

  • Religious: relating to or believing in a religion. 

  • Vikings: seafaring Norse people from Southern Scandinavia. 

One more thing: 

If you are interested in learning more about Irish or Viking history, here are some free library resources you can check out: