I went to see The Secret of Kells on Friday. Pure magic. Almost made me cry, it was so beautiful. This scene was one of my favorites. The man from whom the cat Pangur-ban steals the key is Brendan's uncle, the Abbott of Kells, who is actually not the bad guy, just frustrated with his nephew's disobedience in leaving the safety of the walls of the abbey at a time when raiding Vikings are about.
It had been a rather long gray week at work (I've finally begun trying to tell my superiors that I think I'm in over my head with my current duties in a way that I don't think can be overcome by some online course, and it's been horribly depressing). Friday afternoon, I checked my email & there was an email from the International Children's Film Festival (I joined their mailing list last year when I was trying to get into one of their screenings of Sita Sings the Blues, I did and it became another instant favorite of mine). It was full of beautiful stills from the movie, which I'd been thinking of seeing since I first heard about it, and there was something extra-special about the Friday night showing - the director was going to be there doing a Q&A after the film. I was on Fandango buying a ticket a minute later - this sounded like just the antidote I needed, something to drive the week's woes out of my head for a while.
It was just what I'd hoped. There are some things that I've seen, or read, or heard, or even sung myself (especially back in the days when I sang with a small but excellent choir, my own voice alone can't weave that kind of spell) that just leave me feeling almost suspended, holding my breath after it's over holding the feeling for one more moment. This was one of those.
Wonderful movie. If you enjoy animation at all, and you get a chance to see it, do go!
I wish I'd been feeling a little less shy during the Q&A - I should've asked what the Irish in the song meant. Lovely, though, isn't it?
I think the thing about the Q&A that left me the most excited was that the same group is now working on an animated version of one of my favorite folk stories, the Irish legend of the Seal Wife. Short version of the legend - you've probably heard it - a man comes upon a group of selkies - seal women - who've shed their sealskins one rare sunny Irish afternoon & are sunning themselves on the rocks on the shore. The man sneaks up & steals one of the skins & that selkie is trapped when the rest resume seal shape. The man takes her home, marries her, they have a couple of kids & she's all settled into being a housewife until one day, she somehow finds the sealskin, which her husband had kept hidden in their home all those years. She goes down to the sea, puts it on & is never seen again.
I love this story partly, of course, because what water lover wouldn't love to be able to become a seal, or a dolphin, or the like?
But I also identify very strongly with the concept of being taken away from one home, making another, but never quite letting go of the loss of the first.
The versions of the story that I've read never seem to go too deeply into emotions - just a simple, straightforward "This happened, then that, then that". But I can never think of that story without embroidering it in my own mind. How did she feel about where she was? Did she forget until she found the skin? When she found it - how hard was the decision to make? When she was back in the sea, did she miss her home on the land? There's an Irish song I know, An Mhaighdean Mhara, that does go into that - the children are singing to their mother, and she to them (hm, if Dad's in there it's a verse I never learned...) - but the versions of the story I've heard tend to leave things interestingly open to interpretation.
I always thought that if I knew how to make animated movies - that's the story I'd want to start with.
Even got to goofing around with some colored pencils one night, trying to draw the moment she goes back - I'm no Bowsprite, but I'm definitely a doodler - and it came out like this -
she's got the sealskin in her arms, but she takes a good long look back at the cottage before she puts it on -
and then even once she's turned back to a seal - something of who she was is still there...
Imagine that drawn about a zillion times better, like, by an actual trained artist, and animated, and that's sort of what my make-believe cartoon movie about the Seal Wife would look like.
And y'know, if Disney decided to do it, I don't think I'd want to see it.