Skellig Summary

David Almond


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Skellig Summary

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Skellig, which was originally published in 1998, was written by British author David Almond and has won multiple awards, including: the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year and the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association. It was also a runner up for the Michael L. Printz Award. A main reference point for this novel, one the author has himself acknowledged is the short story “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by the Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Márquez, who often worked in magical realism.

The novel, which falls into the realm of magical realism is about ten-year-old Michael and his family—consisting of his mother, father, and a newborn baby who was born premature, is now sickly and might not survive—after they move into their new home on Falconer Road.

The tension derived from the baby’s sickly life is a key driver in the actions and emotions of the novel. Michael’s parents are tense because of it and the worry they feel over the child makes Michael feel left out. It isn’t as simple as feeling left out for Michael, though, as this makes him feel guilty because he knows the situation is serious for his sister and the family as a whole. In addition, Michael experiences another level of alienation, as his school is now further away and it takes longer to get there and back, prohibiting him from hanging out with his friends as much as he’d like.

A little while after moving into the new house, Michael decides to take an adventure down to the garage on the property—which he’s usually not allowed to go near because it is structurally unsound and his parents don’t want him getting hurt. There, he finds what he first thinks is a creature, but more resembles a man—who you later come to find out is the titular Skellig. It is at this point that Michael’s luck begins to change, because while Skellig looks run down and hopeless, there is a sense that he has more capabilities than he lets on.

Skellig gets Michael to promise to not tell anyone and the boy agrees, also agreeing to bring Skellig sustenance—in the form of food and ale (a much better meal than the insects Skellig had been eating). On one of these trips, a key revelation of the book comes about—Michael discovers that Skellig seems to have wings where his shoulder blades are. It is here, too, that the overtones of names in the novel should be noted. Not only does the main character have the name of one of the archangels—Michael—but he also lives on a road named after a person who trains winged creatures. Thematically, this is an important factor for the rest of the novel.

Once Michael realizes the new nature of Skellig, he realizes he can’t help the creature alone. He entrusts Mina, his new neighbor, with help. Mina, herself, is considered eccentric—she is homeschooled by her equally-eccentric mother in the ways of the famous poet William Blake—and Michael believes she is the perfect person to help him, as she has a love of birds, among other things (again, pushing on this idea of understanding and/or taming winged creatures). Shortly after introducing Mina to Skellig, they realize he must be moved from the garage, as it is going to be destroyed. They find an abandoned house and move the creature there, where they discover cod liver oil helps him heal. In addition, Skellig befriends a pair of owls, who bring him mice to eat, furthering his recovery. An important moment happens in the abandoned house—Skellig and the two children share a vision where they all fly together and, in addition, the children both have wings, too. This vision ties together some of the themes about birds and control, in addition to foreshadowing other events that happen later.

It is at this time that two more major occurrences happen in the novel. First, Michael’s sister, Joy, is moved to the hospital because the doctors fear she is on the brink of life and death. Michael’s mother, because Joy must have heart surgery, decides to stay at the hospital with the baby. That night, she dreams she sees Skellig come into the hospital, pick up the baby Joy, and lift her heavenward, curing her in the process of doing so.

Once the baby Joy is saved, the book begins it’s steady descent to the end of the story. Skellig leaves shortly after Joy is found to be safe from death. After he is gone, everyone involved in the story ends in a happier place. Michael and Mina remain friends and Michael works to establish his artistic side, which Mina helped him find earlier in the book. Art plays a role, too, in the finale, as Mina paints a picture of Skellig, which Michael’s mother recognizes as the creature from her dream.