The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells (DVD, 2009)

SecretOfKells

Magic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes in a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times.

Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. But a new life of adventure beckons when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from the isle of Iona carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?

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I had heard of this movie a while ago, but only got around to watching it recently.  It takes place at the Abbey of Kells during the 9th century, fortified against the ‘Northmen’ invasions which are sweeping the country.  The curious young Brendan, nephew of the Abbot of Kells, gets caught up in all sorts of ‘mischief’ by exploring outside the fortified walls, frolicking with the faery Aisling, and learning how to produce intricate illustrations in the Book of Iona, recently brought to the Abbey by Brother Aidan after fleeing the Vikings.

The Secret of Kells contains a lot of references to history.  Brendan meets a woodland faery called Aisling (Ash-lin), which is thought to reference the Aislings, or prophetic seeress.  Brendan also battles the evil Crom Cruach, a pre-Christian Irish deity.  Also, Brother Aidan of Iona brought his cat, Pangur Bán, named after an Old Irish poem written by a monk about his cat.

Some critics say that The Secret of Kells glosses over the ‘religious’ aspect of history, noting that the Book of Kells is really a Bible, containing the Gospels.  However the movie avoids mentioning religion specifically, instead focusing on the Celtic mythology and legends prevalent at that time.  Plus the timing of the movie is wrong, in terms of the Book of Iona/Kells being written and the Viking invasions.

I think despite the historical accuracy, The Secret of Kells is a wonderful movie.  The vibrant hand-drawn animation is fabulous, and the whole movie has a 2D effect that makes it appear like the movie is taking place within the Book of Kells as illustrations.  Definitely recommended.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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Standing With Stones

Standing With Stones: A Journey Through Megalithic Britain
(DVD, 2008)

I watched a very interesting movie on the ‘standing stones’ of Britain, the megaliths, henges, stone circles, cairns and other neolithic structures built thousands of years ago across the British Isles.  Everybody knows about Stonehenge and Newgrange, but what about the other ones?  How many different megalithic sites are there?  What are their significance?

Types of Megalithic Sites (wiki)

Standing Stones – (aka megaliths) solitary stones set vertically in the ground
Stone Circle – a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle
Stone Row – (aka stone alignment) a linear arrangement of upright, parallel standing stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes
Dolmen – (aka portal tomb, portal grave, or quoit) a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table).  Usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow.
Cromlech (Welsh) – usually refers to dolmens, however it is widely used in French and Spanish to describe stone circles
Cairn – a man-made pile (or stack) of stones, often erected as landmarks
Barrow – (aka tumulus, burial mound, kurgan) a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves.  A cairn might also be originally a tumulus.
Henge – features a ring bank and internal ditch surrounding a central flat area.  May contain ritual structures such as stone circles, timber circles and coves.
Cist – a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead, perhaps under a cairn or long barrow
Cursus – (Latin for “course”) large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches, thought to be early Roman athletic courses

We journey through the UK and Ireland, staring in Southern England, making our way through Wales, Ireland, Northern England, Scotland, and the remote northern Scottish Isles.  One thing is abundantly clear – nobody really knows why these megalithic structures were built and what their exact purposes were.  Theories abound, however these ancient structures are still shrouded in mystery.

Here is a list of sites discussed in the DVD:

Western England
Ballowall Barrow
Mên-an-Tol
Rocky Valley
Nine Stones (Dartmoor)
Yellowmead

Southern England
Knowlton Henge
Chestnuts Long Barrow (Medway Megaliths)
London Stone
Wiltshire
Stanton Drew The second largest stone circle in Britain
Barrows
Rollright Stones
Stonehenge (Winterbourne Stoke, Barrows, North Kith, Cursus, Normanton Down Barrows, Darlington Walls, Woodhenge, West Kenet, Long Barrow, Silbury Hill)
Avebury – The largest stone circle in Britain
Goldrum
Priddy Nine Barrows
Stoney Littleton
Wayland’s Smithy
Belas Knap
Also: Uffington White Horse, Long Man of Wilmingdon

Wales
Gors Fawr
Ysbyty Cynfyn
Bryn Celi Ddu
Druid’s Circle (Anglesey)
Barclodiad-y-Gawres
Pont-y-Pridd
Rocking Stone
Tinkins Wood
Cerrig Duon / Maen Mawr
Pentre Ifan
Llech-y-Tripedd
Moel-y-Uchaf

Ireland
Castleruddery
Carrowmore
Maeve’s Cairn
Shronebirrane
Poulnabrone
Beaghmore
Browne’s Hill Dolmen
Creevykeel
Labbacallee
Urach
Ardgroom
Newgrange / Knowth / Dowth (Brú na Bóinne)

Northern England
Arbor Low
Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor
Bleasdale Circle
Rudston Monolith, Cursus
Long Meg and her Daughters
Formby Point
The Chasms
Mull Circle
Devil’s Elbow
Cashtal yn Ard
Castlerigg
King Orry’s Grave
Cursus
Langdale Axe Quarry
Druid’s Circle
Sunkenkirk

Scotland
Clava Cairns
Twelve Apostles
Cairnholy
Glenquicken
Cairnbaan
Achnabreck
Kilmartin Glen
Leys of Marlee
The Recumbents

Scottish Isles
Callanish (Calanais)
Maeshowe
Ring of Brodgar, Stenness – The third largest stone circle in Britain.
Grey Cairns of Camster
Skara Brae
Tomb of Eagles

© A Year And A Day (2012)