Wolfwalkers (2020)

MINOR SPOILERS FOR A RELATIVELY RECENTLY RELEASED MOVIE

As soon as I heard about Wolfwalkers I got excited. Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon had previously made The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, parts 1 and 2 in an “Irish Folklore Trilogy” with Wolfwalkers being the final part. The previous two movies absolutely knocked it out of the park with their engaging story and unique animation style, both earning Academy Award nominations (The Secret of Kells lost to Up and Song of the Sea lost to Big Hero 6). The only problem? It’s an Apple TV exclusive and I need another streaming subscription as much as I need to be shot in the face. But there was a special event or something the other day, so I finally got to see it! For free! Huzzah!

In 1650, a young British girl named Robyn (Ms. Honor Kneafsey, AKA the princess/sister in the A Christmas Prince trilogy) has moved to Kilkenny, Ireland with her father (Sean Bean) on orders from the Lord Protector. Her dad has been tasked with ridding the neighboring woods of wolves, and Robyn believes she can help in that way that children in animated movies absolutely overestimate their abilities. Sure enough she encounters a pack of wolves led by Mebh (pronounced “Maeve” because Irish is a bastard language for hell-people*), a wolfwalker–when she’s awake she’s a feral little girl, but when she sleeps she becomes a wolf. The two girls instantly bond–The New Mutants ain’t got shit on this lupine-adjacent friendship–but things of course get complicated. Mebh biting Robyn turns the city girl into a wolfwalker as well, Mebh’s mother is missing, Robyn’s dad won’t listen to anything from her that involves wolves, and the Lord Protector really, really wants all these wolves dead.

While watching this I kept hoping that in 1650, there was an actual historical event where the British were forced out of Kilkenny due to a sudden increase in wolf attacks, and, well… I was half right? 1650 is a historic year for the city, but not for anything wolf related. Turns out that was the end of the Seige of Kilkenny, where British forces led by Oliver Cromwell took the city. So when we see in the film that the city is straining under British occupation, turns out that was a fairly recent development. Sure, Cromwell didn’t actually become Lord Protector until 1653, but the point still stands that while not named (at least as far as I remember) he’s absolutely the villain of the story. So there’s your history lesson for the day!


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* I stand by my statement on the Irish language! First off, it’s not supported very well on Duolingo which brings a whole mess of complications. But then you have eclipsis and lenition! Certain words in certain contexts either add a letter to the beginning of the word (eclipsis) or inserts a new letter to the word (lenition), and both effects change the pronunciation. For example the word for girl, cailín (KA-leen), becomes gcailín (GA-leen). Throw in “bh” being a “v” sound and lenition becomes a nightmare, turning the word for woman, bean (BAHN), into bhean (VAHN). 79 crowns on Duolingo and all I can reliably say “The butterfly drinks sugar water.” Bah!

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