‘Secret of Kells,’ one of the all-time-best animated movies ever

My daughter is home sick today, and we got under a blanket, lit a fire, and watched “Secret of Kells.” Wow. Besides Miyazaki, I don’t think I I have ever seen an animated film so beautiful. The colors and the patterns are mesmerizing. Not only is this film drop-dead gorgeous, but it  features one of the coolest female characters to grace animation. If that’s not enough to gush over, that female character, not the protagonist, is the one on the posters and DVD cover. (On Google, there is an alternative cover featuring the protagonist, Brendan, but I’ve never seen that version off the internet.)


“Secret of Kells” came out before my blog, back in 2009 when I still rented DVDs. The guy at the store recommended it to me. Remembering that today and because my daughter  was too sick to argue with any movie choice of mine (i.e. one she’d never heard of) we watched “Kells.” As the film went on, I fell in love with it but also remembered why it slipped off my radar.

The story is about how the famed Book of Kells came to be. The narrative revolves around monks and monasteries. You can’t get a much more exclusively male as far as settings go than that. Today, as a couple years ago, I was impressed with the diversity of the monks. They are all body types, (rectangles and circles); they are old and young; they are varied ethnicities, and they are all male.



Brendan, our hero, is an apprentice monk (I’m sure there is a better term for that.) He is the protagonist of the movie and the narrative follows the traditional quest myth pattern. Brendan goes into the forbidden forest to search for some special berries that will make green ink that an old monk needs for the book. In the forest, Brendan runs into a pack of wolves. He is rescued by the brave fairy, Ainsling when she shouts: “What are you doing in my forest?”

Ainsling has me with that opening line. I love how territorial and confident she is. Her magic and familiarity with the forest is evident throughout her scenes. When Brendan sees the berry tree swarmed with bees, Ainsling assures him: “Don’t worry, I told them not to sting you.”

Not only can Ainlsing talk to and control animals, she can climb the tallest trees. She is totally at home in the forest and a protector of it. She is great looking, with long, white hair, bushy-black eyebrows, and huge green eyes.


Ainsling is wonderful, but she is not in the movie nearly enough. I remembered today that the last time I watched “Kells,” her absence annoyed me. This time, immersed for three years in animation, I know how rare a character like Ainsling is, and how rare it is to see a cross-gender friensship like hers and Brendan’s. I still wish she was in the movie more, but I really love this film.

Reel Girl rates “Secret of Kells” ***HH***

One thought on “‘Secret of Kells,’ one of the all-time-best animated movies ever

  1. Hrm. I haven’t seen the movie, though I remember wanting to when it first came out. I am a bit suspicious of the fantasy though. It strikes me as a little too manic pixie dream girl, woman used in service of a woman’s quest. There are so many examples in fantasy fiction that I can’t even begin to list them. Since you didn’t mention it, I assume there was no romance between the two and simply friendship which I appreciate. But I wonder if that doesn’t also reflect a tendency for magical/fantasy creatures to not just be nonsexualized but asexual. Thoughts?

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