British folklore isn’t necessarily talked about much in modern entertainment, at least not as much as other mythological lore; i.e, Norse, Roman, Ancient Greek, etc. It is, however, an absolute goldmine of unique and extremely diverse storytelling material, material which we ourselves draw from in our comic, Daughters Of Albion. In the meantime, though, here’s a handful of movies that beautifully depict various aspects of Britain’s long-standing lore.
We’re starting strong with the big man himself! For centuries, the story of King Arthur has been an essential staple of British folklore. It plays a major role in Britain’s mythology and even interweaves with religion. After Arthur draws the mystical sword of Excalibur from the stone, he takes the British throne under the council of the magician, Merlin. But with the looming threat of his magical sister, Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s reign is unlikely to begin as a peaceful one. Widely considered the best adaptation of King Arthur’s tale, Excalibur is a magical movie that faithfully depicts a quintessential period in British lore.
Tomm More teams up with Scott Stewart to tell the enchanting tale of the Wolkwalkers. A young English girl named Robyn Goodfellowe has moved to the Irish town of Kilkenny, where an influx of wolves has overwhelmed the ecosystem. With the residents of Killkenney constantly on the hunt, Robyn is overwhelmed when she comes face to face with one of the fabled Wolfwalkers. With its charming animation based on 17th-century woodcuts, Wolfwalkers depicts a beautiful blend of English and Irish folklore – a gorgeous piece of art that’s sure to draw you in.
Sergeant Howie, a Christian policeman, arrives on a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a child. Steeped in a strange derivative of Pagan law, the Sergeant looks on with bewilderment as he observes the salacious culture and ritualistic customs. Starring a young Christopher Lee, this folk-horror is known for its off-the-wall depictions of Pagan ceremonies and its unique sense of general uneasiness. Bizarre, creepy and deeply atmospheric, it offers a dramatised but intriguingly twisted take on ancient British folklore – and it’s sure to make your hair stand on end!
Another earlier but equally breathtaking piece from director, Tomm Moore’s, catalogue. A beautiful tale of Irish legend, Song Of The Sea follows the story of a young boy named Ben and his mute sister, Saoirse, who Ben blames for the death of their mother. However, after discovering that his younger sister is a Selkie, Ben must help her on a quest to find her voice and free the otherworldly creatures from the spell of the Celtic Goddess, Macha. Magical, heartfelt and visually stunning, the movie is a real breath of fresh air!
Plucked from the pages of Arthurian Legend, this movie is an intriguing adaptation of Tristam And Iseult – an ancient chivalric romance far predating the arrival of legendary lovers, Romeo and Juliet. When Tristan, a young British warrior, falls head over heels for the daughter of an enemy nobleman, a dangerous world of secrets is opened up before the both of them – a world that gets very complicated very quickly. A story of forbidden fruit and family feuds, it’s easy to see where future love stories drew their inspiration.
Set in England in the fictional town of Hagsgate, The Last Unicorn is a charming, folk-inspired tale based on Peter Beagle’s novel of the same name. When a lone unicorn comes to the fearful suspicion that she is the last of her kind, she leaves her beloved home in search of the rest of her species. From Magicians, Manticores and Merry Men to Demonic apparitions, Witches and Harpies, The Last Unicorn depicts a wide array of classical Anglo folklore.
Speaking of Merry Men, I think we should round this up with the latest film adaptation of one of the UK’s most classic folk heroes – good old Robin of Loxley! While this particular version of Robin Hood’s world-renowned story is far from an accurate adaptation, it nevertheless offers a visually engaging alternative. It provides a new take on the tale of Robin Hood’s tug-of-war with the infamously corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham, with his merry gang of mercenaries in tow.
Do you have a favourite folklore-based film? Let us know yours in the comment section below!