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Western Animation / Wolfwalkers

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Fadò, fadònote , in the Kingdom of Osraighe, there was a tribe with the power to heal.
When Naomh Padraig (Saint Patrick) came to tell the people of the new religion, this tribe stayed apart from the others. They would not give up the old ways.
When the holy man preached, they howled from the forest like wolves to remind the people that there was another, older wisdom in the woods.
Some say Naomh Padraig cursed them; others that he blessed them. But the result was the same — for ever more, they would walk as people by day and roam as wolves by night.
Leaving their human form behind, any harm or good that befell them as wolves, they felt in in their waking form, too. They were a proud breed, living with the wild wolves, keeping the peace between man and the wilderness.
The Origin of the Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers is an Animated Fantasy-Adventure and the fourth film from Cartoon Saloon. It was co-directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and is the third and final film of the studio's Irish Folklore Trilogy, after The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. It was released on September 12, 2020 at the Toronto International Film Festival and was later released to Apple TV+ on December 11, 2020.

In the year 1650, Robyn Goodfellowe lives in the Irish town of Kilkenny with her father Bill, a hunter who has come from England to hunt wolves. Unwilling to be confined to the town like her father wants, the free-spirited Robyn runs across a pack of wolves led by a mysterious, wild young girl named Mebh Óg MacTíre. Robyn soon learns that Mebh is a "Wolfwalker," a being whose spirit leaves their body when they sleep and becomes a wolf.

Unfortunately, the forests are under threat by the fanatical Lord Protector, who is determined to tame the land and is willing to slaughter every wolf to do it. Things get complicated as Robyn's relationship with the Wolfwalkers becomes more personal.

Wolfwalkers provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The people of Kilkenny despise the "Lord Protector" and barely try to conceal it. He's often away to quell uprisings in other parts of the country, and barely keeps the townsfolk in line with intimidation and promises to eradicate the local wolves. Truth in Television, as the real-life Oliver Cromwell was not a well-liked figure in Ireland.
  • Actionized Sequel: Is much more action oriented than both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The graphic novel adaptation adds some more details that weren't in the film. It has a written introduction that explains the origins of the Wolfwalkers, the rise of the Lord Protector and the coming of a hunter and his daughter. It also features an extra scene near the beginning where Moll tells Mebh that she's leaving her behind to find them a new place to live but promises to return.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: When Robyn is playfully pinned by Mebh after being pushed out the den, Robyn asks Mebh if all the other wolves are also Wolfwalkers, which Mebh denies. As she does, she aggressively rubs Robyn's hair with both hands, making it even messier than before.
  • All There in the Manual: Although Sean Og briefly alludes to the story at one point in the movie, the graphic novel adaptation goes into more detail about the origins of the Wolfwalkers, which was also made into a video to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in 2021. When Saint Patrick came to Ireland as a missionary, they were a tribe with healing powers who would not give up the old ways for his new religion, and they would howl like wolves from the forest whenever he preached. In response, Saint Patrick made it so they they would walk as people by day and roam as wolves at night—though no one knows whether this was meant to be a blessing or a curse.
  • All There in the Script: Several characters' names (like Mebh's mother Moll MacTíre) aren't mentioned in the movie itself, though they're still listed in the credits. Bill Goodfellowe is never referred to by his first name in-story.
  • Angry Animalistic Growl:
    • Being a Wild Child who's also a Wolfwalker, Mebh is prone to growling when she's angry or trying to be intimidating. She also tends to have a growl in her voice when she's particularly angry.
    • During the climax of the movie, Bill also lets out a wolf-like growl when he activates his new Wolfwalker abilities after seeing that Robyn is about to be killed.
  • Arc Words: "There's two of us now", which is said by Mebh more than once when she's convinced that Robyn can help her find her missing mother. Towards the end of the film, Robyn says those words back to Mebh, showing that she's committed to helping Mebh save her mother without anything holding her back.
    • "It's for your own good." Said by Bill repeatedly throughout the film to justify keeping Robyn in the town and having her work in the scullery, in an attempt to keep her safe. And then Robyn says it to Mebh when she's literally trapping her in a cage in order to prevent her from going after her mother.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Mebh is pretty defensive when Robyn so much as suggests her mother could ever be captured. But upon apology, Robyn unintentionally asks such a question: "How long has she been gone?" Uncomfortable with the implication that she has been alone all this time, Mebh never answers the question and instead worriedly insists her mother will return soon.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Robyn asks Bill why he keeps doing what the Lord Protector commands even though it's clearly wrong, he soberly explains to Robyn that it's because he's afraid. Since he won't always be around to protect her, he admits that he's afraid Robyn will end up in a cage because of her constant defiance. Her raw response shows Bill just how unhappy she is.
    Robyn: But I already am in a cage!
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Robyn handles her pet falcon, Merlyn, without a falconer's glove, though she had one in early concept art. Merlyn will also occasionally sit on Robyn's shoulder instead of her arm, which is not recommended in real life; hunting birds always need to be held away from the face, since they could instinctively Go for the Eye.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Kilkenny's real walls were a very rough quadrilateral with Kilkenny castle in one corner along a bend in the River Nore. In the film, the town is stylized as a perfect square with the castle centered along the wall facing the river, which is also depicted as straight. This reinforces the image of the town as a flat, unnatural object oppressing everything else in the landscape.
  • Artistic License – History: The story is set in the year 1650 and Oliver Cromwell is already the Lord Protector, a title that he wouldn't obtain until 1653. He didn't die in 1650 in Ireland either; Cromwell instead died in 1658 from an unconfirmed illness (widely speculated to be sepsis).
  • Art Shift:
    • There's an intentional shift between scenes that take place in the town and scenes that take place in the forest. Characters and scenes in the town are drawn in an angular, geometric style based on period woodblock prints, right down to the slightly misaligned color, which symbolizes how rigid and controlled life is for its citizens. On the other hand, Mebh, Moll and the wolves living in the forest are drawn with penciled curves inspired by Celtic art. Their outlines are rougher and sketchier, and they even have visible construction lines in some scenes, giving them a more natural, dynamic feel compared to the townsfolk. Notably, as the story progresses, Robyn's design switches between both art styles as she alternates from spending time in each place.
    • There's also a noticeable shift in art style whenever Robyn's point of view (and later, Bill's) in her wolf form is shown, known by the filmmakers as "Wolf Vision". The style becomes even more loose and sketchy with minimal color, showing how wolves can "see" smells and sounds.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch:
    • While most of the film is in 1.85:1, the aspect ratio changes to widescreen or closes in horizontally during intense or cinematic moments like the climactic battle between Bill and the Lord Protector.
    • The picture goes to Full-Screen during moments of distress with Robyn in the scullery.
  • Audible Sharpness: In the climax, the Lord Protector comes across a stunned wolf and intends to kill it with his sword. As he moves toward it, the scene shifts to the wolf on the ground and his sword makes the complimentary metallic sound simply by bringing the sword into frame even though it is already drawn and being held in mid-air.
  • Aura Vision: In addition to the smells they can see, "Wolf Vision" allows people to physically see the alternate forms of Wolfwalkers. When Robyn is first bitten, she briefly sees human Mebh in place of her wolf form when she blinks.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The soldiers' firearms. On the one hand, they are cool-looking muskets. On the other hand, they are mid-17th Century muskets, which have poor accuracy and take time to reload, two drawbacks that the heroines and wolves use to their advantage several times. Whenever they run, they can easily throw off the soldiers' aim - and by the time the soldiers reload, they have already fled. During the final battle, they purposefully use the cover of the night to make the soldiers waste their shots, then attack them when they reload. Tellingly, the only times something is actually hit by a projectile, it's when Bill or Robyn use their more primitive, but also more accurate, crossbows.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Downplayed with the Lord Protector, but he's often shown keeping his horse on a very tight reign to demonstrate his Control Freak tendencies, whereas Merlyn and the Irish livestock look more relaxed and happy with their handlers. Likewise, the Lord Protector cages and chains what he thinks is a regular giant wolf, really Mebh's mom and subdues it with fire to demonstrate his control over it, and the townsfolk are portrayed as cruel and malicious for enjoying the show. His treatment of his horse in particular is juxtaposed by said steed being shown pulling the Wolfwalkers' wagon at the end, and looking much happier for it.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The four main characters Robyn, Mebh, Bill and Moll are shown to be the most conventionally attractive.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: The Lord Protector seems to earnestly believe he's "protecting" the Irish from the wolves, savagery, and presumably damnation (just as he believes God would want).
  • Be the Ball: During Robyn's first night as a wolf, she crashes into Mebh twice, turning them into a ball bouncing down a slope.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: During his attack on the forest, the Lord Protector is pinned at the edge of a broken bridge by Bill in his wolf form latching on to his breastplate with his teeth. Unable to free himself and seeing the Wolfwalker's den fill with glowing pagan inscriptions, he chooses to die quickly rather than at the jaws of what he believes is a wicked creature. He offers a final prayer that makes it clear he sees himself dying as a martyr and unbuckles his breastplate, which lets him fall to his death in the jagged rocks of the river below.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice during the climax. First Bill in his new wolf form saves an unconscious Robyn from a Coup de Grâce, and later she returns the favor by shooting the Lord Protector's pistol out of his hand when he threatens Bill with it.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Mebh reuniting with her mother Moll after Robyn helps Moll escape from town is framed like this, with the two of them running towards each other and joyfully embracing while their astral forms (Mebh's in her wolf form, and Moll's in her human form) hang overhead and doing likewise. Unfortunately, they don't get to enjoy their reunion for long, since Moll is shot by Bill moments later.
  • Big "NO!":
    • When Moll gets shot by Bill, Robyn responds with this.
    • In the climax, Bill yells this which is mixed with a wolf-like growl as the Lord Protector is about to execute his daughter, activating his Wolfwalker abilities.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: During the film's climax, Robyn shoots the Lord Protector's pistol out of his hand with a crossbow.
  • Blindfolded Trip: After fixing Robyn up, Mebh blindfolds her and escorts her back to the town so she won't come back to her den, even though Robyn points out that she already found the den on her own. Mebh soon leaves her to pursue some "town tasties" and Robyn takes off the blindfold to chase after her instead.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Par for the course of a children's film. While blood does appear in the form of Moll's chest wound and Bill's slash on his face. Even the soldiers are shown to be simply knocked over. Most prominent is a Wolfwalker's bite, which is powerful enough to tear off their victim's sleeve but leaves a semicircle of pink, bloodless carets on their arm underneath.
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: Moll urges Robyn to tell Mebh to leave the woods with the pack instead of trying to rescue her like Robyn and Mebh planned, since the Lord Protector aims to kill all the wolves by burning down the forest. Robyn does so despite how much it pains her to send Mebh away without helping her, and Mebh is heartbroken since Robyn is telling her to leave instead of helping her find her mother like she promised.
  • Broken Aesop: Played with. The environmentalist and social themes of the film are somewhat undermined by the fact that the Wolfwalkers' primary goal is to take the pack and their families deeper into the wilderness, avoiding having to learn to coexist with civilization or reconciling with a society that doesn't accept them. Mebh is only staying behind because she's waiting for her mother to come back, but in doing so befriends and changes the mind of a hunter's daughter.
  • Bullet Time: Wolf Robyn dodges an arrow fired at her by jumping over it in slow motion.
  • Cannon Fodder: Not shown, but threatened. As the Lord Protector's patience with Robyn's father wears thin, he orders Bill to either clear the forest of wolves, or he'll be "sent off to war," with the clear threat being that he'll die in battle as another common foot soldier.
  • Cardboard Prison: Despite the guards and gates, the town walls are easy to circumvent. The two guards stationed at the gate are either easily distracted or asleep and the bars have wide enough gaps for a girl or wolf to squeeze through. Robyn sneaks in and out of town through the gate, while Mebh climbs over the wall without being noticed. Moll, in wolf form, is able to successively leap from awnings to balconies to rooftops in order to reach the top guard wall and hop over with Robyn on her back.
  • Caught in a Snare: Robyn's first encounter with Mebh's wolf form leads to her hanging by the foot in one. They return several times later in the story.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: There is an entryway hidden by vines that are enchanted to only let wolves and Wolfwalkers pass. This opens into a glen that contains a gorgeous waterfall and the wolfwalkers have established their den in a cave behind those falls.
  • Central Theme: Protection vs Loss of Freedom.
    • Bill wants to protect Robyn from the dangers of hunting wolves and the consequences of constantly defying the Lord Protector. However, Robyn points out that his restrictions make her feel she's already in a cage.
    • Moll, in her wolf form, wants to be free but also wants her daughter to be safe and when Robyn can't open her cage in time, she sacrifices her own freedom and commands Robyn to leave her and tell Mebh to lead the wolf pack away from danger.
    • The Lord Protector feels divinely tasked with protecting those under his command from wolves, savagery, and (presumably) damnation, but it's clear that he does not care a bit whether his rule strips them of their freedom.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The film seems light at first, but it also has a dark tone that becomes more evident as it goes on. In the first half, while there is a bit of drama involving Robyn and Bill's relationship, there's also a lot of light-hearted moments between Robyn and Mebh, who frolic by playing the forest, stealing bread (or "town tasties", as Mebh would say), and running as wolves by night. However, in its second half, the tone gets a lot more intense and the stakes a lot higher.
  • Chekhov's Gun: After Bill is bitten by Moll in her wolf form, we know his transformation is forthcoming at some point in the story. It becomes a dramatic twist when he is able to shift into his wolf form driven by the paternal desire to protect his daughter who is about to be killed by the Lord Protector.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early on, Robyn is shown to be an excellent shot with her crossbow when she isn't too nervous to aim properly. Towards the end of the film, she uses Bill's crossbow to shoot the gun out of the Lord Protector's hand before he can use it to kill Bill's human body.
  • Children Are Innocent: Robyn is not as set in the ways of the adults around her and her curiosity and kindness leads her to develop a friendship with Mebh and seek a non-violent solution to a problem her elders only see as solvable with violence.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Bill Goodfellowe is voiced by Sean Bean, the poster child for this trope. His character starts a narrative trajectory toward death when he rebels against the Lord Protector. During the climax, they fight which leaves the Lord Protector pinned but able to see Bill's unconscious form. While struggling to free himself, the Lord Protector reaches his loaded pistol and aims it at Bill's head. In a stunning and welcome subversion, Robyn saves his life by shooting the pistol out of the Lord Protector's hand with her crossbow.
  • Collateral Damage: Robyn targets an approaching wolf with her crossbow but a sheep pushes her so that the arrow gets redirected and hits Merlyn instead.
  • Comfort Food: After it seems Robyn has broken her promise to help her find her mother, Mebh tearfully walks around town eating one of her favorite "town tasties" (bread) while sobbing, clearly trying to eat her sorrow away.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Was adapted into a graphic novel by Sam Sattin. While it's mostly a Film Comic, it also has an original introduction that's illustrated by Tomm Moore.
  • Commonality Connection: Robyn and Mebh start off hostile and distrusting of each other, but quickly bond over being free-spirited little girls who enjoy running, playing, and messing around. They then bond over their shared dislike of town life, love of running free out in the forest, and the fact that they both have only one parent they can count on.
    Mebh: It's just her and me in the whooole world!
    Robyn: ... Like me and Father.
  • Company Cross References:
    • At one point when Mebh is rummaging through Robyn's belongings, she pulls out the Eye of Colm Cille from The Secret of Kells, another Cartoon Saloon film.
    • There are some references made to Song of the Sea as well; Robyn mentions selkies (which Song of the Sea focuses on) in dialogue early on, Ben and Saoirse's shell flute can be seen in the wagon in the epilogue, and a promotional Halloween postcard adds Mebh and Robyn to the bus in a scene from that film.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: After Robyn and Mebh become friends, there's a scene where Mebh talks to her mother Moll's unconscious human body about the new friend she made, but this soon gives way to Mebh wondering why Moll hasn't returned in her wolf form yet. This reveals that for all Mebh's boisterous and confident nature, she's still very worried about her mother's disappearance and desperately wants her to come back.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The members of Kíla, who provide several pieces of music for the soundtrack, appear as the band playing in the town at the beginning.
    • According to the official artbook, various staff members who worked on the film included caricatures of themselves among the townsfolk during certain scenes.
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe, Robyn and her father dance to a jaunty tune in town where the villagers sing refrains of, "Howls the wolf! Flees the wolf! Runs the wolf!" Just after, Robyn overhears some children singing a similar tune but with lyrics closer to, "Kill the wolf! Hunt the wolf! Slay the wolf!" Even Robyn, an aspiring wolf hunter, is perturbed by the maliciousness of lyrics.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Implied. From what little dialogue we get, Robyn's mother was a patient and understanding parent in life. When Bill refuses to even listen to Robyn's idea of letting the wolfwalkers leave peacefully, Robyn sadly remarks her mother would've listened.
  • Declaration of Protection: Bill's overprotective behavior is partly driven by his promise to his deceased wife to keep Robyn safe.
  • Deus Exit Machina: As a fully grown and experienced Wolfwalker, Moll would have been very helpful in dealing with the events of the climax, but sustains a near-fatal wound before it even begins and is forced to sit it out.
  • Disney Villain Death: When Bill has the Lord Protector pinned at the edge of a broken bridge with sharp rocks at the bottom, he chooses to die a martyr rather than whatever fate Bill has planned by unbuckling his breastplate and slipping free, falling to his death.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The Lord Protector tries to burn down the entire forest and hunts the wolves with cannons because his demonstration of superiority over Moll didn't go well.
    • Mebh comes close to this, nearly leading the wolves to attack and eat the whole town to try and rescue her mother and take revenge. It's clearly the actions of a grieving, angry young girl rather than actual malice, and fortunately, the circumstances resolve before things go too far.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Merlyn the merlin.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After spending the majority of the movie living in fear of Lord Protector, Bill snaps when the Lord Protector tries to kill Robyn in her wolf form. Ironically, this becomes literal when Bill shifts into his wolf form to save Robyn and bites into the Lord Protector's armor as they fight.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: This is the only movie in Cartoon Saloon's Irish Folklore Trilogy that doesn't have an overt Bittersweet Ending. Despite the historical changes the story introduced, the creators intended a touch of melancholy at the end since they feel that the displaced wolves will still one day disappear from Ireland entirely. However, the ending is mostly hopeful for the main characters after everything they've been through. The Lord Protector is dead, his forces are routed and the Wolfwalkers still have each other, setting out with the wolf pack to find a new home. It's implied Bill and Moll end up together and Robyn and Mebh are last seen racing together as wolves in the daylight, happy and free to be themselves.
  • Easily Forgiven: Bill is forgiven by Moll even though his arrow nearly kills her. The ending implies they end up as a couple. Downplayed because Bill genuinely feared for Robyn's life and had absolutely no clue that the giant wolf right next to her was actually a human. In addition, Bill saved the wolf pack from the threat of the Lord Protector, so Moll had plenty of reason for clemency.
  • Evil Is Angular: Characters like the Lord Protector and locations like the town are depicted with straight, angular lines, in direct contrast to the circles and curves of the Wolfwalkers and the forest. While most of the townsfolk aren't necessarily "evil", the angular style they're drawn in still reflects how they've conformed to the town's strict lifestyle and their ignorant fear of the wolves.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Excluding the prologue and epilogue, the main story of the film takes place over the course of three days.
  • Eye Cam: When entering "Wolf Vision" and thereby the Wolfwalkers' point of view, the transitions are often framed by a pair of eyelids blinking.
  • Eyedscreen: Happens whenever Bill gets angry. Like, beastly angry.
    • Downplayed as part of a sequence after Bill yells at Robyn when she makes another desperate attempt to convince him not to kill Moll as a wolf after the Lord Protector declares to attack the forest. After Bill yells at her, the letterboxes slowly start to close in, and in the process, we get a shot of Bill's angry eyes looking down at Robyn, meeting her tearful eyes, though his face takes much more of the space than the letterboxes. The letterboxes appear to be painted on to convey emotional intensity, and they continue to close in after this, as Bill prepares to execute Moll. At least, until Robyn comes to a realization, lets her hair down and prevents the execution.
    • It happens during the climax when Bill yells at the Lord Protector not to kill Robyn as a wolf when he raises his sword. The letterboxes closes in when he yells again, swiftly this time, until we just see black, to symbolize Bill's completed transformation into becoming a literal (and in a way, metaphorical) beast.
  • Eyes Are Mental: A Wolfwalker's eyes will always carry over from their human form to their wolf form. This is especially notable in Robyn's case, since unlike Mebh and Moll, she doesn't retain any of her other physical features as a wolf.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Certainly the way the Lord Protector views his end as he makes peace with his God before voluntarily plunging into a ravine rather than endure an uncertain fate in the jaws of a giant, devilish wolf. While he essentially just commits suicide, his final prayer makes it clear that he considers himself dying as a martyr.
  • Faceless Goons: The soldiers' helmets cast the upper half of their faces in shadow, leaving only their mouths visible and their eyes unseen. Only on a few occasions are the shadows lightened and their eyes become visible.
  • Facial Markings: Both Mebh and her mother have three dots underneath their eyes and a brown stripe along the length of their nose that they retain even in wolf form.
  • Foil: Bill and Moll are both good parents who want the best for their children and both submit to the Lord Protector's will in the hope of keeping their child safe, only to realize how fruitless it is and break free to protect their children anyway. However, Moll allows Mebh a great deal of freedom and a degree of responsibility (when she leaves her in charge of the pack while she looks for a new place to live), while Bill imposes strict Puritanical rules on Robyn, and won't give her the responsibility she craves of helping him hunt in the forest.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Robyn's first meeting with the local children has her boldly stand up to their leader Padraig, only to cower when his posse close in on her. This sets up how Robyn will have to learn being unafraid of danger isn't the same thing as facing the danger, whether she's chased by wolves, trying to stand up to Cromwell or her father, or the climatic battle against Cromwell.
    • When following Bill through the woods in the beginning, Robyn comes across a set of paw prints and places her hand on top of one. As Wolfwalker magic and runes make heavy use of human hands and wolf paws superimposed on one another, this clues in to her becoming one too.
    • When Robyn is first threatened by wolves, an arrow flies in from behind her and hits a wolf in the shoulder, with her father not far behind. In the climax, this scene repeats except this time the victim is Moll.
    • Upon fleeing the den after Mebh taunts that the wolves are going to eat her, Robyn jumps through the waterfall and lands in the collecting pool. When she crawls out, she heads to the right to avoid Mebh and the wolves coming down the left side. Robyn is saved by Merlyn, who alerts her that she's now standing on a ledge and had almost fallen onto the spikes below. In the climax, this Chekhov's Gun fires as the Lord Protector meets his end falling off the very same ledge.
    • When Robyn asks if the wolves Mebh lives with are Wolfwalkers as well, Mebh gets a laugh out of the question, bemusedly responding "No! Jeepers, are you mad? How big do you think me family is?" By the end, Mebh's family does indeed grow a bit bigger, collectively made up of herself, Moll, the wolves, Robyn, Bill, and Merlyn.
    • While cleaning up the house in order to better convince her father to help the Wolfwalkers and let the wolves leave the forest without killing them, Robyn acts out how she thinks the conversation will go, right down to her father praising her cleverness and claiming they'll go back to England, where everything will go back to normal. When Bill does return home, there are some parts of the conversation that aren't quite verbatim with what she predicted, including his refusal to promise he won't get angry. This is meant to signal that not only will the conversation not go as Robyn planned (as Bill does get angry that she went to the woods), but also how Robyn's life can't possibly return to the way it was before, now that she's a Wolfwalker.
    • When Robyn transforms into a wolf for the first time, she sees a wolf in her dream, and when she blinks, she sees herself, with straight free-flowing hair wearing her scullery uniform rather than with the usual braids that she wears. Her dream form in the forest signifies the free spirit that's hiding inside her. When she accepts her true nature, she figuratively and literally becomes like her dream self, giving her the courage to stand up to her father and free Moll.
    • During "Running with the Wolves", Robyn becomes too scared to jump with the rest of the wolves over the gully. After gazing sadly at each other, Mebh can only look worried as Robyn turns and runs back... only for Robyn to muster her courage and to jump over to her a few moments later. This foreshadows Robyn promising to help Mebh find her mother, only to renege on her promise when the danger becomes too real. However, Robyn eventually musters her courage to free Mebh's mother as she promised.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Robyn brushes Mebh's hair, it gets caught on her brush and springs away from it to become a mess. Pausing at that moment shows just how messy Mebh's hair is; it's not only full of leaves, but bones and live animals such as a bird and some mice.
    • Any time Wolf Robyn crashes into Wolf Mebh and they form a ball, the look on Mebh's face on each rotation is priceless. One of the best is the bugged-eye look on Mebh just after Wolf Robyn leaps across the gully and smashes into her during the "I'm running with wolves tonight" montage seen here.
  • Ghibli Hills: Director Tomm Moore has admitted to being influenced by Studio Ghibli's works, so this is a given. There's particular emphasis on the contrast between the town of Kilkenny and the forest outside of it, with the forest being a wild, beautiful place that represents freedom while life in the town is strict and rigidly controlled.
  • Giving Them the Strip: The Lord Protector commits suicide by unbuckling his breastplate.
  • Go Through Me: At the climax, Robyn puts herself in front of a crossbow wielded by Bill intended to kill Moll as a wolf.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Mebh makes a few remarks in Irish, usually just repeating herself in English afterwards.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Robyn's first miserable day in the scullery is remarked by heavy rain falling. This not only shows how bad her day was, but also Bill's (finding more traps sprung) and Mebh's (disappointed at Robyn not showing up).
  • Green Aesop: The destruction of the forest is portrayed as devastating to the animals that live there as well as the people who see it as integral to their way of life, while the nature-less city is depicted as cruel and stifling. In addition, the destruction of nature is shown to be a form of colonial violence, driven by a narrow-minded worldview that sees said nature-less civilization as righteous and seeks to impose that on others by force.
  • Happy Rain: When Wolf Robyn and Wolf Mebh frolic around for the first time, it starts raining. Robyn enjoys feeling the raindrops on her new skin.
  • Hard-Work Montage: During both days Robyn has to work as a Scullery Maid, there's a montage of her doing various chores. Unlike most examples, these montages aren't played positively, since the work is shown to be long and monotonous and Robyn is clearly unhappy while doing it.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Mebh has no problem using her Healing Hands to fix minor injuries like bites and scratches. However, in the climax, Mebh struggles to heal the arrow wound in her mother's chest since she's never healed such a serious injury before, which drives much of the tension. Succeeding requires the power of the entire pack and other Wolfwalkers.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bill is left completely distraught when he realizes that he failed to keep Robyn safe and she leaves him to help Mebh. Having no idea if she'll ever return, leaves him unable to resist being put into chains and led by the Lord Protector as he begins his raid on the forest. Bill only snaps out of it when he sees Robyn in mortal danger.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Mebh gets uncomfortably close to becoming this trope near the climax. She gets so torn up with anger and grief over her mother being caged that she vows to get the wolf pack to invade the town and eat the villagers.
  • Historical Fantasy: The story takes place in and around Kilkenny in the year 1650, when Ireland was being actively colonized by England. The fantasy elements all revolve around the Wolfwalkers, with their ability to become wolves and their healing powers.
  • Hope Spot: Robyn reunites Mebh and her mother and earns her forgiveness, mending their friendship, and giving them a chance to take the pack and leave Kilkenny in peace. Everything is falling into place...until Bill shoots Moll's wolf form in the chest with an arrow, putting her life in jeopardy because Mebh can't heal the wound and forces a confrontation with the Lord Protector and his soldiers since they can't leave.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Mebh and Robyn are small enough to ride regular wolves. During the climax, Wolf Robyn offers Mebh a ride on her back and Robyn escapes the town riding on Wolf Moll.
  • Hourglass Plot: When Robyn and Mebh first meet, Robyn is a vulnerable and frightened human girl, while Mebh is the brave Wolfwalker who prefers being a wolf over being human and boldly leads her wolves through the forest. In the climax, the tables are turned. Mebh has to be in her human form in order to heal her wounded mother properly, she's frightened of losing the only family she has left, and she's vulnerable to the Lord Protector's army as they close in on her den. Meanwhile, Robyn has grown into her role as a Wolfwalker and embraced her wolf side, bravely and boldly leading the wolves into battle against said army.
  • Howl of Sorrow: While Mebh usually howls to communicate with the wolf pack or use her healing magic, this trope comes into play when Moll has been shot by Bill and Mebh howls in grief and anguish while making a desperate attempt to heal her.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Lord Protector's soldiers repeatedly fail to hit their targets, even at relatively close range and with massed fire, while Robyn and Bill are far more accurate with their crossbows. Justified in that the soldiers are using muskets which are notoriously inaccurate and the wolves are small, fast-moving targets.
  • Implausible Deniability: When she's first introduced, Robyn fools around her house and does target practice instead of doing her chores. As soon as her father gets home, she grabs a broom and claims to have been doing her chores the entire time. As if to contradict her every point, the camera cuts to their house being an absolute mess and studded with arrows, including one through the front door. Bill plays along and gently reprimands her.
  • Internal Reveal: Robyn tries to tell her father the truth about Wolfwalkers for a good portion of the story, but Bill doesn't take her seriously. At first he thinks they're part of his imaginative daughter's stories, and then he actively shuts her down as her reckless actions threaten to call down the wrath of the Lord Protector. However, after witnessing a gravely injured wolf Moll de-materialize into a spirit that floats away, and then his own daughter falls asleep in his arms to leave her body behind as a wolf, Bill sees the truth of what Robyn has been saying.
  • Intimate Hair Brushing: After Robyn and Mebh steal some food and milk from two woodcutters, Robyn takes a moment to brush the leaves and twigs out of Mebh's hair, which shows how they're opening up and becoming friendlier with each other.
  • Involuntary Shape Shifting: While not exactly a shape-shift, a Wolfwalker's spirit leaves their body and manifests as a physical wolf any time their human body falls unconscious, even when it would be detrimental to their safety to do so. The first night Robyn turns into a wolf left her so panicked she tries to control the change by staying awake for the rest of the night, which leaves her sleep-deprived the next day.
  • Irony: According to the movie's art book, the woods is associated with safety despite being wilderness, while the town is heavily associated with danger in spite of its association with civilization. Even when Robyn's not a wolf, she and her father face threats in the town for so much as failing to follow Cromwell's orders.
  • Ironic Echo: The first time Robyn and Mebh properly meet in the Wolfwalker cave, the latter sends the wolves after a fearful Robyn to chase her down and mess with her. Towards the climax, when Robyn leaves the cave to hold off Cromwell's forces, Mebh sends her wolves after her. This time, she does so solemnly and with the intent the wolves follow her lead as their superior.
  • Jerkass Realization: Downplayed with Robyn. While Robyn isn't a jerkass in personality per se, she makes pretty bad decisions when trying to follow a caged Moll's orders to tell Mebh to flee from Kilkenny. Robyn, paranoid from her responsibilities, does everything in her power to stop Mebh from learning about Moll. Robyn even relies on the local bullies to put Mebh in a cage when she sees Moll, alienating and breaking her further than Mebh already was. Robyn is shown not to be proud of this either. After Mebh prepares to attack Kilkenny and Bill shuts out her tearful pleas not to kill Moll, Robyn, after a bit of deliberation, gathers herself and decides to free Moll so that she can patch things up with Mebh and stop her from attacking.
  • Karmic Transformation: Robyn starts out as a wannabe wolf hunter, only to be turned into a Wolfwalker when she gets bitten by Mebh while hunting. Later on Bill, who himself had been hunting wolves, gets bitten by Moll and, well, you should know how that goes.
  • Kids Are Cruel: There's a gang of children in the town that bully Robyn for being English, and later cage Mebh as part of a game even though they don't even know her.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: While trying to slay all the wolves in the forest, the Lord Protector meets his demise in battle with Bill Goodfellowe, whom he belittled and chained and has now transformed into a giant wolf to protect his daughter.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Brendan Gleeson doesn’t play the father figure role in this film, nor does he have a role in the film at all. It's also the only film in the trilogy to have two female leads rather than a male/female duo like the first two, and Robyn is an Empowered Badass Normal while Brendan and Ben are just Badass Normal.
  • Malicious Compliance: Played for Laughs when Robyn gets caught in a leg rope trap a second time. Annoyed at Mebh's gloating as she hangs upside down, Robyn snaps at her to "Let me down". Mebh cheerfully complies and bites the vine apart, just as Robyn realizes her mistake and falls in a heap on the ground.
  • Meaningful Background Event: On several occasions, to the left of the magic vines protecting the Wolfwalker's den we see a broken-down, weed-encrusted vardo wagon. By the end of the film, the wagon is fixed, fully restored and being put to good use.
  • Meaningful Echo: Throughout the story, Bill tries to keep his daughter safe even though it often means denying her to do what she wishes and often makes her unhappy. He keeps telling her that this is "for your own good". Later, when Robyn pledges to Moll that she will keep Mebh safe, she finds it's more of a burden than she expected and has to trick the town kids into caging Mebh to keep her from threatening the Lord Protector. With her heart breaking, Robyn tells Mebh that it's "for your own good" knowing that Mebh doesn't fully realize how dangerous the situation is.
  • Mirror Reveal: After Robyn becomes a Wolfwalker and leaves her human body as a wolf for the first time, she doesn't fully realize what's happened to her until she sees her reflection in the window next to her bed.
  • Mood Whiplash: After a heartwarming scene where Mebh and Moll are finally reunited and Mebh forgives Robyn since she helped to free Moll, the mood immediately shifts when Bill shoots Moll with his crossbow, mistaking her for a threat to Robyn.
  • Morphic Resonance:
    • Mebh keeps her green eyes and the dots tattooed under her eyes as a wolf, and her fur is only slightly darker than her hair as a human. Mebh's mother Moll, who Mebh strongly resembles, also keeps these traits in her wolf form.
    • Downplayed with Robyn, who has blonde hair as a human, but grey and white fur as a wolf, though she keeps her blue eyes. It's the same case with Bill, who's also blond and blue-eyed; as a wolf he still has blue eyes and the fur on his cheeks resembles his sideburns, but his fur is black and grey instead.
  • Mouth Screen: When Mebh overhears some townspeople talking about the beast the Lord Protector is planning to put on display, the camera focuses on their mouths, full of warts and bad teeth, to emphasize the nastiness of their words.
  • My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Robyn and Padraig have a quarrel about whose dad is the better hunter.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Bill says this nearly word-for-word in the climax while cradling Robyn's unconscious body while the soldiers are hunting her wolf form, regretting not listening to her and failing to keep her safe.
    • Shortly afterwards, Bill is also confronted with the full consequences of shooting Moll, when he realizes he came dangerously close to making Mebh, a little girl, an orphan, and he clearly feels immensely guilty about it.
  • Myth Prologue: The graphic novel adaptation starts this way, telling the story of an Irish tribe who refused to convert to Saint Patrick's new religion and how Saint Patrick responded by making it so that they would become wolves when they slept, resulting in the origins of the Wolfwalkers.
  • New England Puritan: While set in Ireland instead of the New World, the dress, culture, and beliefs of the contemporary Puritan movement are evident, such as religious fundamentalism, rampant xenophobia, and buckled hats.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Bill puts an arrow into a wolf he fears is threatening Robyn. Unfortunately it was Moll, in wolf form, who had just been rescued and was reconnecting with Mebh.
  • Noble Wolf: While the townsfolk and the Lord Protector view them as savage beasts that need to be wiped out, the wolves are actually brave and noble creatures who protect their own.
  • No Escape but Down: At the castle, when Robyn in wolf form is cornered by the Lord Protector, her only way of escape is to jump from a window into a river below.
  • Not Hyperbole: After Mebh finds out that Robyn has become a Wolfwalker despite her attempt to heal Robyn's bite, she worriedly says that her mother's going to kill her (metaphorically speaking). Robyn points out that her own father will kill her (in wolf form) — and Bill definitely attempts to do so beforehand and later on, not realizing that the strange wolf who seemingly broke into his house is his own daughter.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Done mostly out of fear, ignorance, and desperation than malice, but Bill seldomly listens to his daughter's concerns, not even when doing so could be beneficial for both of them or when it's clear she's tearfully begging him.
  • Now That's Using Your Teeth!: When the Lord Protector takes another swing with his sword when Bill as a wolf lunges at him again, Bill successfully stops it with his teeth, breaking it when he closes his jaw.
  • Oh, Crap!: Robyn accidentally gets herself caught up in a snare and Mebh, in her wolf form tries to free her. Robyn thinks Mebh is attacking and keeps struggling so that Mebh accidentally bites Robyn's arm while biting through the snare As she cradles her injured arm, Robyn sees Mebh's wolf form with an "oh crap" look and as the Wolfwalker curse/blessing takes effect, she also sees Mebh's human form with the same look because she realizes she just broke the one major rule her mother give her.
  • Oop North: The film is set in Ireland, but Robyn and Bill are from England and they both have distinctly Northern accents (Sean Bean uses his native Sheffield accent as Bill). This fits with their portrayal as working-class citizens trying to get by under the Lord Protector's strict rule, and their Northern accents also set them apart from the Lord Protector and his Received Pronunciation.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Wolfwalkers are inspired by legends of the Werewolves of Ossory. Rather than transforming, their souls leave their bodies whenever they fall asleep and physically manifest as wolves. While this lets them freely run around as wolves with their human minds intact, their unconscious human bodies are still vulnerable and any wounds they receive as wolves will be reflected on their human bodies.
  • Parents in Distress: Mebh tells Robyn that she's just waiting for her mother to return before they can leave but she's been gone in her wolf form for a while now. When Mebh learns the Lord Protector has caged her mother, she ignores both Moll and Robyn's pleas to flee because she won't leave her mother behind and instead goes to rally the wolfpack to storm the city and rescue her. Mebh leads the pack as far as the great tree just outside the city gates only to discover that Robyn has managed to free Moll herself.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Bill's greatest fear is being separated from his daughter, either by losing her or one of them being taken prisoner. When Robyn reveals she's a Wolfwalker and needs to go help Moll and Mebh, Bill begs her not to. However, Robyn releases her wolf form and leaves her human body in his care.
  • Please Wake Up:
    • Bill begs this to Robyn's unconscious body while he's being dragged along during the Lord Protector's invasion of the forest.
    • As Mebh struggles to heal her mother, she begs her unconscious form to tell her what to do.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Robyn promises to help Mebh find her mother Moll, who's been missing for some time. When Robyn does find Moll imprisoned in the Lord Protector's castle, Moll insists that Mebh leave the forest without her, fearing for her daughter's safety should she stay any longer. Robyn tries to convince Mebh to leave as Moll asks, but Mebh refuses to leave without her mother and feels betrayed when Robyn seems to go back on her promise. It gets even worse when Robyn has the local children restrain Mebh when she tries to get Moll back herself, forcing Mebh to watch as the Lord Protector displays Moll in chains and an angry mob calls for her mother's death. Thankfully, Robyn manages to help Moll escape and this lets Mebh forgive her.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Robyn to Mebh. After finding Moll who charges Robyn with making sure Mebh leaves with the wolf-pack, Robyn confronts Mebh in the scullery and continues to insist that Mebh just needs to leave without ever telling her the instruction is coming directly from Moll. Knowing her mother is alive but captured, it's unlikely Mebh would have actually left, but at least she would not feel that Robyn betrayed her and Robyn would have more opportunity to reason with Mebh instead of events leading toward their Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure.
    • Robyn to Bill. Robyn's protests to her father are quickly dismissed and she never stands her ground. When she finally decides to defiantly block Bill from shooting Moll in wolf form, she only says "[The Lord Protector]'s wrong, Father! All of this is wrong! Don't you see that?!", instead of explaining that she's now a Wolfwalker and that she understands the entirety of what's going on. When Bill gets distracted by the bell, Robyn has no more time to bring Bill up to date about the Wolfwalkers, and instead has to act quickly by freeing Moll, only leaving a terrified Bill an apology before the two of them escape. This poor communication leads to the tragic moment later where Bill, shoots Moll, in wolf form with a crossbow because he believes Robyn's life is in danger.
    • Robyn to Bill. Round 2. With Mebh retreating into the forest after Moll's seriously injured spirit form, Robyn realizes she needs to go and help. She reveals herself as a Wolfwalker to her father and despite his pleas for her to stay with him, she falls asleep in his arms and releases her wolf form. However, she never once reassures her father that she will need to return to her body. So all poor Bill sees is his daughter collapse, a magical wolf forms, looks at him sadly and then flees into the forest thus leaving him to feel that she's just left to join the Wolfwalkers forever.
  • The Power of Love: Wolfwalkers normally need to be asleep to let their spirits become wolves. Although it helped that Bill was straining against his neck chain to the point of passing out, his sheer paternal need to protect his daughter from the Lord Protector allows him to shift into his wolf form in the nick of time.
  • The Promise: Robyn promises to help Mebh find her missing mother so they can take the pack and leave together for somewhere safe. Through the film, Robyn has more and more trouble keeping her promise while Mebh treats it as an unbreakable oath that must be fulfilled and is deeply upset at any suggestion that Robyn won't keep her word. Luckily, Robyn eventually keeps her promise to help Mebh by helping Mebh heal Moll's arrow wound.
  • Punchclock Villain: Most of the soldiers and hunters are just doing their job, more or less. Bill starts off as an example.
  • Remote, Yet Vulnerable: A Wolfwalker's human body is unconscious and completely defenseless while their spirit runs around as a wolf. For most of the story, they are safely in their beds, but in the climax the Lord Protector realizes that the wolf he is dueling with is a transformed Bill, and aims a pistol at his human body. Luckily, Robyn stops the Lord Protector from shooting him in the nick of time.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • A lot of Mebh's incredible friendliness with a "townie" that tried to kill her at first becomes a lot more understandable with the revelation that with her mother missing, Mebh also lost her only human connection and is extremely lonely.
    • When the Lord Protector points his pistol at Bill's unconscious body you can see that Robyn is gone, setting up a Five-Second Foreshadowing that she's the one who fires the crossbow.
    • When Mebh is joined by the wolf pack in trying to heal Moll, she is pushing so hard that the healing magic was spilling out of the den proper, illuminating the entire ravine and even starting to heal Bill's head wound, which gets smaller as the fight scene between him and the Lord Protector goes on. By the time he approaches Robyn, the wound has completely healed.
  • Right Behind Me: Sean Og earns himself a stay in the stocks by complaining about the Lord Protector in this way. Perhaps in the future he will pay more attention to someone approaching him on horseback with a squad of fully armed and armored foot soldiers and horse-drawn carts in tow.
    Sean: Ah, the great Lord Protector! Reknowned for being true to his word! Hilarious. At least the old king kept us safe! He's just an upstart! Lord Protector! Looord Protector! Protector of what?!
    Guard: [grabs Sean] Oi, come here!
    Lord Protector: If you have grievances, you should speak with me directly.
  • Roof Hopping: Robyn escapes from her house this way while in wolf form, after her father tries to shoot her. Later on, Mebh also does this when she ventures into town to find Robyn.
  • Rotoscoping: While not live-action, the Wolf Vision scenes were first blocked out in virtual reality, then the frames were printed out and drawn over in charcoal to give the animation a first-person effect.
  • Scare Chord:
    • When Robyn first finds the Wolfwalkers' den, she witnesses Mebh's wolf form return to her human body. The camera does an Extreme Close-Up of Mebh's face as her eyes snap open, scored by a sharp drumbeat.
    • Also, when Robyn hides from the Lord Protector and eavesdrops on him talking to Moll, an intense brass sound plays when he spots her.
  • Scenery Porn: Pretty much the entire movie as even the scenes in the town have a rustic, medieval woodcarving aesthetic to them. But the artistry really shines anytime they are in the forest. Top marks go to the Wolfwalker's den behind the vines with its majestic waterfall, collection pool, and Celtic inscriptions everywhere.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Many soldiers sensibly run for it when faced with an entire pack of wolves attacking them intelligently in the dark and not being spooked by the forest on fire. Doesn't help when their leader is ranting about witchcraft and the devil's lair.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: During the climax, when Bill in wolf form has the Lord Protector pinned in his jaws at the edge of a broken bridge, it's unclear how the situation will play out. However, the Lord Protector decides it's Better to Die than Be Killed and slips free falling to his death, making it a moot point. However, the Lord Protector's final prayer makes it clear that he sees himself dying as a martyr against the pagan hordes.
  • Shoo the Dog: Robyn attempts to free Merlyn into the wild when she feels unable to help Mebh or Moll, urging him to tell Mebh to leave the forest with the pack and go with her to somewhere safer. Merlyn's expression makes clear that he doesn't want to leave Robyn, and he later leads Mebh into town to confront Robyn instead.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While rummaging through Robyn's bag at one point, Mebh pulls out the Eye of Crom Cruach.
    • According to the filmmakers, the scene where Robyn and Mebh run together as wolves was inspired by the running scene in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
    • The tapestry hung above the stage when the Lord Protector attempts to tame the wolf was created by concept artist Alice Dieudonné during pre-production to echo illustrations of Saint George and the Dragon, with the dragon replaced by a wolf.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • While there's some artistic license taken, the backdrop of the film was heavily informed by the real Oliver Cromwell's conquest of Ireland during the 17th century and the mass extermination of wolves during his reign. At that point, anti-wolf sentiment in Ireland really was at an all-time high, and this would eventually lead to wolves becoming completely extinct there (the last wolf in Ireland is said to have been killed in 1786). Bill, a hunter from England moving to Ireland to wipe out the wolves by the Lord Protector's orders, alludes to how English authorities encouraged their own professional hunters to go to Ireland to kill them; they viewed the idea of armed Irish hunters roaming the countryside and hunting wolves as a threat, due to the ongoing conflict between the Irish and the new English settlers.
    • The giant oak tree that Robyn and Mebh use as a meeting place is lined by a circular stone wall. This is based on ringforts common throughout Ireland, used to protect livestock.
    • The runes and wall carvings in the Wolfwalkers' den are based on Pictish rock carvings.
    • One of the woodcutters disparagingly calls the Lord Protector "old Lord Ironsides". "Old Ironsides" was a nickname given to the real Oliver Cromwell.
    • The way the Wolfwalkers are depicted are a hybrid of multiple "werewolf" myths. Most prominently, the tale of Saint Patrick and the tribe of Irish natives who were cursed to become wolves is an actual folk tale, and the Wolfwalkers are directly inspired by the Werewolves of Ossory, particularly the Astral Projection part.note 
  • Sleep Deprivation: After her first time out as a Wolfwalker, Robyn is too scared to sleep since she will transform. It comes in handy near the climax, when she needs to assume her wolf form quickly, her exhaustion allows her to fall asleep easily.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Mebh often communicates with the wolves she lives with, and a later scene shows that she can understand Merlyn as well. Robyn also talks to Merlyn often, but it's not clear if she can actually understand him before she becomes a Wolfwalker.
  • Split Screen: Some scenes show multiple points of view at the same time, usually dividing the screen into vertical thirds (one example here). Some even progress left-to-right like a comic book.
  • Stock Punishment: Sean Óg gets punished by being placed in a pillory.
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream can be heard from a random soldier at the climax battle.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Being hunters, Bill and Robyn use crossbows. This sets them apart from the soldiers armed with muskets and halberds.
  • Symbolism:
    • There's a constant theme of cages in the story. Every time Bill has to stifle his daughter's free spirit by "keeping her safe" in town, there seems to be a certain cage motif. She's either looking through bars of some sort or through a window that resembles a cage. The helmets of the foot soldiers look like tiny cages to reflect that, even outside the town, they're still trapped in Lord Protector's viewpoint and orders. The town is stylized to look like a flat gray square from a distance, like a cage. The Split Screen sequences set in the town are often framed with bars and chains. Bill and Robyn are both humans who live in town, and the more they acquiesce to the Lord Protector's restrictions, the more they're shown to be trapped in his cage. When Robyn forces Mebh into a cage, the shot is framed from Mebh's perspective, making it look as though Robyn is the one behind bars. Finally, after riding out of town on Wolf!Moll's back, it's Bill who's looking through the town gates, indicating that while Robyn has freed herself, Bill is still bound by his emotional turmoil over the thought of losing Robyn.
    • For most of the story, Robyn wears her hair in braids to show that she's restrained by the society she was born in. When working in the scullery, she covers her hair with a bonnet like the other workers there, showing how she's forced to stifle herself even more. During Robyn's dream on the night she transforms into a wolf for the first time, her dream self's hair being loose gives a feeling that she's a free and good-willed spirit waiting to be unleashed. When Bill attempts to execute Moll, Robyn lets her hair down from her bonnet and wears it loose like she did in her dream, showing she's freeing herself, and stops the execution.
    • After breaking off their friendship, Robyn sadly closes a door behind her as she resumes her chores at the scullery, almost as though signifying she's shutting out her friendship with Mebh.
    • Afterwards, Robyn looking down sadly at a puddle she's mopping as it reflects her tearful visage seems to be a metaphor for how severing her friendship with Mebh has left her so unhappy she could just cry herself a puddle of tears.
    • The great tree at the edge of the woods not only acts as a meeting place for Mebh and Robyn, but also represents Mebh's friendship with Robyn. After Mebh declares war on the town and leaves, we next see her gathering her wolf army at the great tree, only it's been chopped down.
    • The flower Robyn gives to Mebh also represents their friendship, especially as it was first given to Robyn as a gesture of affection by her father and Mebh fondly mentions it to her mother. Mebh crushes the flower and throws it away in anger when Robyn breaks her promise to help find her mother near the climax. In the epilogue, Bill places an identical flower in Moll's hair, suggesting their reconciliation and a potential relationship.
    • The Lord Protector represents adult, level-headed, Control while Mebh is the counterpoint of wild, feral, childish Chaos. It makes sense that those two have the most dramatic clash in the story. Yet, while Mebh's desire to free her mother resonates with the emotions of the audience, her impulsive actions to achieve her goal realistically cause more harm than good. Had she been able to attack the city as planned there would have been significant casualties on both sides. As it is, while her actions initially provoked fear in the townspeople, the Lord Protector is able to quickly reassert control and go on to attack the forest with fire, bullets and cannons.
    • The differing artstyles of the town and the forest contrast the rigid, blocky shapes of a tightly-controlled society with the interconnected swirls and softer lines of nature. This is also reflected in the character designs, either aligned with a society that restricts their freedom and sharply defines who they are or with a dynamic, life-affirming wildness that flows and weaves and changes shape rather than remain static.
    • Sean Og starts off as the only human character who knows the Wolfwalkers are real, and is the most vocal that they shouldn't be cutting the forest down. He's caged and chained up by the Lord Protector for his trouble, and he spends most of the film in the stocks. At the end of the film, after the Lord Protector has been dealt with, he opens the iron gates of the city walls so the townsfolk can step outside to appreciate the beauty of the forest being healed by pagan magic and the chorus of the wolves. Essentially, Sean Og frees the townsfolk from the narrow worldview and learned helplessness imposed on them by the Lord Protector.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: Done by Mebh when Robyn tells her to leave the forest with the wolves before the Lord Protector burns it all down, which she sees as Robyn breaking her promise to help her find her mother. She furiously grabs the flower in her hair that Robyn gave her and crushes it in her clenched hand before throwing it away and storming off.
  • Synchronization: For a Wolfwalker, any wounds or injuries sustained in their wolf form will be mirrored on their human form. It's notably seen when Moll gets shot and when Bill gets slashed across the face in wolf form, resulting in an identical cut, on their human face. It's implied that this works in reverse as the Lord Protector aims his pistol at Bill's unconscious body, but Robyn successfully shoots the pistol out of his hand before this is put to the test.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: A non-lethal version. The mood briefly lightens when Mebh reunites with her mother after the escape from town. But mere moments later, Moll is shot by Bill out of nowhere in a major case of Mood Whiplash.
  • Take That!: "Work is prayer," is as likely as not a shot against the Puritanical belief that hard work is a virtue while "sloth" is a sin. It's only ever uttered by adults while they're stifling Robyn's free spirit, and is often followed by montages of her being trapped in miserable, grueling, repetitive scut work. It very clearly shows that hours of hard work for its own sake doesn't build character or lead to godliness, but is just another way to strip people of freedom.
    Bill: Work is prayer, Robyn.
    Robyn: [exhausted] Then I prayed the whoooole Bible.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: Most of the original music for the film uses two principal motifs, a down-up-down-up-down and four-note descending scale followed by a higher up-down-up, in various ways to create different moods.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: The Lord Protector raises his sword over his head to kill Robyn in her wolf form. Cue Bill, who's become a Wolfwalker himself slamming into the Lord Protector knocking the sword out of his hand.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Robyn chooses to be good, forsaking the order of England in order to protect the wolves of Ireland against the Lord Protector's brutal campaign. At the end, so does Bill.
  • Too Many Halves: One of the woodcutters describes Wolfwalkers as "half-wolf, half-witch, half-people".
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: Two nights in a row, Robyn becomes so upset with her father refusing to listen to her about the Wolfwalkers and insistance that she stay in the scullery, that she goes straight to bed without dinner.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Being just a child, Mebh's main trauma comes from her mother's prolonged absence. When she learns her mother is being held captive by the Lord Protector, all that matters is to free her even though Moll, fearing for Mebh's safety, wants her to leave the area and take the wolves with her. She believes Robyn is betraying her because she knew of Moll's capture and seems unwilling to help. After Mebh's initial attempt to free her mother fails, she intends to summon the wolves to attack and eat the townsfolk rather than leave without her mother. While the audience can connect with a child's desire to free her mother, Mebh's impulsiveness causes more harm than good. Had she carried forth with her plan to attack the town, there would have been significant casualties on both sides. As it is, the Lord Protector is able to use Mebh's threat to rally the townsfolk and heads out with an increased motivation to destroy the forest and the wolf pack with fire, muskets, and cannons.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The second trailer shows Bill's wolf form.
  • Up Close with the Monster: During the climactic battle when a newly-transformed Bill has the Lord Protector pinned to the ground, he moves his muzzle close to the face of the villain and lets out a growl.
  • The Virus: Being bitten by a Wolfwalker will pass the "curse" of Saint Patrick onto you and the effects seem to take place immediately. Even though Mebh considers Robyn becoming a Wolfwalker "flipping great", she does point out that her mother had forbidden her from biting anyone.
  • Visible Odor: "Wolf Vision" is represented by most of the background graying out while things the wolves can smell are colored and have trails of that color.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • A big part of Robyn's arc consists of her trying to gain the courage to say this to her father, in order to have him rethink following the Lord Protector's orders to kill all the wolves in the forest. Near the climax of the movie, Robyn finally gains the courage to question her father's actions after Bill readies himself to execute Moll, explicitly telling him that what he's doing is wrong, and it causes Bill to admit his fears of Robyn being punished by the Lord Protector.
    • Robyn herself gets this from Mebh, who becomes angry with her for putting her in a cage in order to prevent her from going near Moll.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Said by Bill to Robyn after he saved her from a pack of wolves.
  • White Stallion: The Lord Protector is the only character who rides a horse, a well-armored white steed, when he goes south to quell an insurrection and later when he leads the soldiers into the wood for their final battle against the wolves. During the fight, the horse is shown badly wounded and unmoving after the cannon explodes. However, the script reveals that the white horse survived the battle and is shown drawing the vardo wagon in the epilogue.
  • Whoosh in Front of the Camera: When Robyn searches for Merlyn on a glade, a wolf gives her a scare by rushing by in the foreground. The wolf turns out to be Mebh.
  • Wimp Fight: Between the two woodcutters that Robyn and Mebh mess with, when Mebh steals their food and each of them thinks the other took it. Laughing at their silliness is the first time the girls start to bond together.
  • Wolves Always Howl at the Moon: The moon is full during Robyn and Mebh's first night together as wolves, and they both howl along with the wolf pack while silhouetted against it.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Lord Protector has no compunction ordering Bill clapped in irons for what he perceives as failures with threats to "deal" with him.

The wolf will leap from child asleep
The wolf will run to rising sun
The wolf will guide you in your dreams
Run free

Wolf, wolf
Howls the wolf
Wolf, wolf run free

Wolf, wolf
Howls the wolf
Run free


Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell (The Lord Protector) is portrayed in a very Mean-Spirited light here in WolfWalkers.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / HistoricalVillainUpgrade

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