I have a new favourite movie. The Secret of Kells is an animated movie made by Cartoon Saloon. It's about the books of the times of monks and vikings-- it takes place in Ireland when Vikings attacked settlements and destroyed them in search of gold. In this movie the books were the treasure of the people, turning darkness into light; something to be protected. The "illumination" of the books inspires the animation. 2D exists on the same plane as 3D, and the drawing style is symbolic, not just realistic (a higher art). Intricate movement of the animation brings the essence of the monk's intricate artwork to life. It's awesome. I actually couldn't watch all of it for awhile until my partner and older daughter Savannah were ready to watch it with me. There is a ghost named Ashley, who Brandon (a young boy) meets on a venture into the forest. I will watch this movie many times and study it. This movie is the "book" of my time.
By the way, I just had to do some research, I knew about the old books and how beautiful they were-- I knew the research was based on real books and real history-- but check this out!
This is the real Book of Kells. It was made in Ireland by Celtic monks, and protected by the Abbey of Kells, in about 800 Ad. This type of art, or illumination reached it's greatest elaborateness in the Book of Kells, and Viking raids did stop this sort of art from growing further. There are pages shown in the animation which are from the Book of Kells, only animated further and shown in vivid colour as the illuminations were when the ink was still wet.
In the time of the real Book of Kells, books are seen as religious objects, and the elaborateness of the drawings was seen to reflect the elaborateness of the biblical passages the drawings illustrated (and visually, the beauty of the teachings). The animals morph into shapes, and have religious symbolism. The best information I have found on the Book of Kells so far is a paper called "Manuscripts, Books, and Maps: The Printing Press and a Changing World", found here: http://communication.ucsd.edu/bjones/Books/four.html
The real Book of Kells is the pride of Ireland, a national treasures always on display in a museum-- so obviously is something that inspires hope today.
Themes in the movie
The animated movie The Secret of Kells also showed the very interesting change from pagan beliefs to Christian. Ashley, the forest ghost, was afraid of a dark force called "Cromm Cruaich". (It really helps in researching to know how that is spelled!)
Apparently ancient Irish people worshipped pagan rites, such as human sacrifice. They would sacrifice children to Cromm in order to ask for good favour (such as good crops). He was originally called "Cenn Cruaich", "Head" or "Lord of the Mound". (They would worship him in high places.) The arrival of Christianity stopped this practice (and St. Patrick).
The Religion of the Ancient Britons and Druidism, found at
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cml/cml08.htm quotes an old poem about the pagan practice of human sacrifice called Mag Slecht, or "The Plain of Adoration":
Here used to be
A high idol with many fights,
Which was named the Cromm Cruaich;
It made every tribe to be without peace.
'T was a sad evil!
Brave Gaels used to worship it.
From it they would not without tribute ask
To be satisfied as to their portion of the hard world.
He was their god,
The withered Cromm with many mists,
The people whom he shook over every host,
The everlasting kingdom they shall not have.
To him without glory
They would kill their piteous, wretched offspring
With much wailing and peril,
To pour their blood around Cromm Cruaich.
Milk and corn
They would ask from him speedily
In return for one-third of their healthy issue:
Great was the horror and the scare of him.
To him Noble Gaels would prostrate themselves,
From the worship of him, with many manslaughters,
The plain is called "Mag Slecht".
They did evil,
They beat their palms, they pounded their bodies,
Wailing to the demon who enslaved them,
They shed falling showers of tears.
Around Cromm Cruaich
There the hosts would prostrate themselves;
Though he put them under deadly disgrace,
Their name clings to the noble plain.
In their ranks (stood)
Four times three stone idols;
To bitterly beguile the hosts,
The figure of the Cromm was made of gold.
Since the rule
Of Herimon, the noble man of grace,
There was worshipping of stones
Until the coming of good Patrick of Macha.
A sledge-hammer to the Cromm
He applied from crown to sole,
He destroyed without lack of valour
The feeble idol which was there.
Until Patrick's advent he was the god of every folk that colonized Ireland. To him they used to offer the firstlings of every issue and the chief scions of every clan." The same authority also tells us that these sacrifices were made at "Hallowe’en", which took the place, in the Christian calendar, of the heathen Samhain --"Summer's End"-- when the sun's power waned, and the strength of the gods of darkness, winter, and the underworld grew great."
Another theme in The Secret of Kells and in art everywhere is the classic struggle between art vs. the practical demands of living. Is it silly to sacrifice your time out of the daily activities of life to draw?
What do you think?
Screenshot from The Secret of Kells
Page from the 800 AD illuminated Celtic manuscript, The Book of Kells