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Ani Roberts

Skellig essay 2020

Almond’s Skellig shows that transformation is a process which one cannot undertake alone.


Skellig by David Almond is about a boy named Michael and his discovery of a mysterious creature named Skellig. Through his novel, Almond explores the journey of transformation – that is, an ability to overcome challenges and evolve as an individual. Almond highlights the role others play in challenging characters to grow and expand their perspective of the world. First, Skellig shows Michael’s newfound friendship with Mina enables him to transform emotionally, as she challenges his beliefs about the world and helps him find hope that his sister will survive. Additionally, Almond explores the role that love and nurturing play in Skellig's transformation through Mina and Michael’s care. Furthermore, Almond reveals how change will not always be easy or welcome through Michael’s relationship with Leakey and Coot.


Through Michael’s bond with Mina, Almond explores how friendships can lead to meaningful transformation. At the beginning of the novel, Michael is frustrated and struggles to deal with his sister’s illness; however, as Michael’s friendship with Mina develops, he learns how to process his feelings and to remain hopeful that his sister may survive. Almond explores Michael’s doubt in his sister’s survival through the dead pigeons Michael’s father shows him. The dead pigeons symbolise Michael’s difficulty processing the severity of his sister’s illness, as he is afraid and hesitant to touch them. As Michael befriends Mina, he increasingly confides in her the graveness of his sister’s health, and she encourages him to remain optimistic, reassuring him that he doesn’t know anything for ‘certain’ and that ‘everything may be fine’. Almond demonstrates how Mina guides Michael to transform his doubt to hope that his sister may survive when he continually ‘touches his heart’, trying to connect with her. Furthermore, through Michael’s friendship with Mina, Almond highlights how beliefs and ideas about the world can be challenged. Michael is initially judgemental and sceptical of Mina’s interests and beliefs as she, unlike him, is home-schooled. Michael progressively learns that Mina is intelligent and has deeper knowledge on topics such as evolution than him, exposing him to a new understanding of how the world is constantly changing. Mina teaches Michael that dinosaurs evolved into birds, which enables him to become more open-minded and realise that there are always opportunities for renewal in the world. When Michael dreams of the baby blackbird being protected by Mina, it foreshadows his change in perspective to finally see what Mina does: that vulnerable things in life can evolve into something beautiful.  Through Mina’s support in guiding Michael to process his sister’s illness with optimism, and in encouraging him to become more open-minded in his beliefs about the world, Almond shows that friendship is pivotal for transformation.

Almond explores the transformative power of unconditional love and nurturing through the relationship that Mina and Michael build with Skellig. At the beginning of the book, Skellig is guarded and wants nothing to do with Michael or Mina. Almond demonstrates this as he doesn't tell the pair his name as a defence mechanism to distance himself from them. Instead he's 'mister nobody, mister bones [and] mister had enough'. Michael and Mina however were able to look past his rough exterior and, as a result, Skellig confides in them. Almond reveals an additional way Skellig changes - when Michael initially met him, Skellig was done with living, he wouldn't have cared if he withered away, '[he] was filthy pale [and] dried out' but Michael and Mina gave him strength, a reason to keep going. The kids helped Skellig to save himself and that led him to have the ability to save Joy. Almond highlights this when Skellig thanks Michael and Mina for giving '[him] [his] life again'. Michael and Mina's acceptance of Skellig is a testament to their ability to look beyond his exterior, to empathise, and it is only through their perseverance that they can finally convince Skellig of his worth.


Almond highlights how transformation can be complex and unwelcome through Michael's friendship with Leakey and Coot. Before his sister became sick, Leakey and Coot were Michael’s best friends, however they don't show much empathy towards his new situation and the reason behind why he is taking time off school. They think it’s all 'bollocks' and that Michael has 'just been upset', that's all. Leaky and Coot only truly realise something is wrong when 'it [had] been a week since [Michael] could beat anyone at school [on the footy oval]’. Almond reveals how oblivious the boys are to Michael's home life, by addressing that Leaky and Coot believe his absence is due to 'the lass in the tree',' the [one] who climbs trees like a monkey’. In many ways, Michael has outgrown his friendship with Leaky and Coot because of Mina expanding his views and ideas. This is relevant when he doesn't get the same sense of accomplishment from playing footy with the boys as he used to. '[He] was hopeless'…'he didn't want to be doing this’ anymore. Michael was envious of Mina whilst he was playing, he would much rather spend time with her. Michael needed Mina to open his eyes about his waning friendship. Even though things can become complicated, that is usually the case when people change and transform and often it turns out for the better.


In his novel Skellig, David Almond examines ideas about transformation; that is, an ability to master challenges and develop as a person. It is through the caring relationship that Michael and Mina build with Skellig that change in each one of them is enabled. Michael and Mina learn that magic and miracles can happen and Skellig learns to trust and thrive. Almond also shows that empathy and support in a family such as Michael’s can support positive change to take place. Certainly, the ongoing support that they show one another as they endure the crisis of baby Joy’s life-threatening illness tests their ability to endure. Skellig is a story of transformation through love, trust, and endurance. 

Ani Roberts

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