The Secret of Moonacre

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The Secret of Moonacre
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gábor Csupó
Produced by David Brown
Michael Cowan
Brian Donovan
Meredith Garlick
Monica Penders
Jason Piette
Screenplay by Graham Alborough
Lucy Shuttleworth
Based on The Little White Horse 
by Elizabeth Goudge
Starring Ioan Gruffudd
Tim Curry
Natascha McElhone
Juliet Stevenson
Dakota Blue Richards
Music by Christian Henson
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by Julian Rodd
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • 6 September 2008 (2008-09-06) (TIFF)
  • 6 February 2009 (2009-02-06) (United Kingdom)
  • 13 May 2009 (2009-05-13) (France)
  • 19 November 2009 (2009-11-19) (Hungary)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $7 million[1]

The Secret of Moonacre is a 2008 fantasy film based on the novel The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. The film was directed by Gábor Csupó and starred Dakota Blue Richards in the leading role. The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in the United Kingdom on 6 February 2009 by Warner Bros.


This begins with Maria Merryweather mourning her father and mother at their funerals. She reads a book her father left her entitled "The Ancient Chronicles of Moonacre Valley". In the English countryside of Moonacre Valley there resides two clans: the de Noirs and the Merryweathers. A woman of the de Noir clan is so pure of heart that nature gifts her with a set of powerful magical moon pearls, and she comes to be known as the Moon Princess. The two families unite to celebrate her wedding to Sir Wrolf Merryweather, and exchange two magical animals as gifts: her father, Sir William offers a rare black lion to the bridegroom, and Sir Wrolf bestows a white unicorn from the ocean to his bride. In return, the Moon Princess decides to share the moon pearls with both families. But the power of the pearls incites greed in her father and fiancée. Maria stops reading when a picture of the Princess frightens her.

Maria's father was murdered in London. At the reading of his will, she discovers that he gambled away the family's estate and most of her inheritance. The only thing left is the mysterious book. Due to the loss of the house, Maria and her governess, Miss Heliotrope, must go live with Maria's estranged uncle, Sir Benjamin, in Moonacre Valley, where her father departed from years before her birth.

On their journey to Moonacre Manor while the halfwit cabby Digweed is unlocking the gate, Maria and Miss Heliotrope are attacked in their carriage by bandits. One of them is Robin who's hand is scarred by Maria's sewing needle. They manage to escape and upon arrival, Maria discovers that her uncle is a strict, cold, and bad tempered man with very little interest in them. Sir Benjamin confiscates the book on sight, claiming his brother had no right to take it from the manor. He warns Maria that the bandits who attacked them are de Noirs, and she should keep out of the forest if she wants to avoid encountering them again.

Maria begins to notice there is a strange magic in the house. A piano plays by itself; Sir Benjamin's large ferocious-looking pet dog with black fur and red eyes, named Wrolf, appears as the black lion in mirrors. There is always food available despite there being no cook or kitchen in sight; the ceiling of her beautiful bedroom projects a moving image of the night sky and the stars are flying away, from her bedroom window she has seen a white unicorn, and a portrait of a woman in the forest appears in the hall outside Maria's bedroom, no matter how many times Sir Benjamin has it taken down.

Sir Benjamin teaches Maria to ride a horse. As she's taking it around Moonacre, she hears a distressed cry coming from the forest. She finds a rabbit in a trap. As she's releasing it, Maria is ambushed by the de Noir bandits and meets Robin again. They intend to take her back to the clan's leader, Coeur de Noir,(Robin's father) but Wrolf arrives and fights them off. She takes the rabbit home and names her Serena.

The next day, Maria is led by Wrolf to the secret kitchen and its magical cook, Marmaduke Scarlet. He tells her where her uncle hid the book and advised her to finish reading the story. Once she does so, she learns that Sir William and Sir Wrolf revealed their greed and began to fight over the pearls. In the scuffle, Sir William got the locked casket containing the pearls, and Sir Wrolf took the key. Angered and hurt by their selfish desires, the Moon Princess cursed the land. If another Moon Princess does not arrive to reconcile the families and return the pearls to the ocean within five-thousand moons time, Moonacre valley will be plunged into "eternal darkness". From that day on, the Merryweathers and de Noirs despised and blamed each other for the loss of the pearls, which mysteriously vanished. Marmaduke claims Maria is the new Moon Princess, knowing she saw the white horse as proof (which only a true Moon Princess can). Maria is confused and refuses to believe him. She returns to her room, where she works out the next full moon will be the five-thousandth.

Feeling she can not possibly save the valley in time after a dream of being chased through the forest and drowning in a river, she decides to run away. Finding the main gate locked, she looks for an exit through the forest, where she hears a voice calling her name. Following it, she finds an entrance to a large hollowed out tree. It's the home of the person who was strange dresses in her room, a strange woman called Loveday. In her mirror Maria sees a vision of the moon crashing into Moonacre. Loveday advises to find the pearls. Maria realizes that the book's bookmark holds the key to the pearl casket and she plans to give it to the de Noirs, thinking the pearls are still locked in the box. Loveday agrees to show her to their castle, but turns back, declaring she's "never going back there again," leaving Maria to continue alone.

Maria manages to sneak into the de Noir castle, but is caught in the dining hall. She hands over the key to Coeur de Noir, but he shows her the casket is already unlocked and empty. He believes the Merryweathers stole the pearls, and the curse will only punish them. In order to stop Maria from fulfilling her role as Moon Princess and finding the pearls, Coeur de Noir has Robin and his pals lock her in their dungeon. She escapes and is guided home by Wrolf.

After she escaped, Coeur de Noir orders her to be killed by saying "their death is our victory." Robin seems a little put off by this and remarks: "stupid girl, should've stayed where you were". When Maria returns home her uncle is furious, and refuses to listen to her, but apologizes to her later that evening, revealing he's glad that she's back.

Loveday appears in her room through a hidden door the next morning, giving her a lovely red dress that belonged to the first ever moon princess. Maria persuades her to come downstairs to help find the pearls which she thinks are hidden in the house. The piano plays as if in recognition. Loveday begins to play along, and Maria joins her, but soon notices a mirror, showing her Uncle and Loveday, in wedding attire, dancing to the same music. In the mirror, she reveals to Benjamin that she is a de Noir and Benjamin becomes enraged, believing she tricked him to look for the pearls. Back outside the mirror, Maria talks to Loveday about what she saw, and becoming angered at the pride of both her uncle and Loveday, realizing that Pride is the real curse of the valley.

Upstairs, looking at the portrait of the first Moon Princess, she realizes that it points the way to the pearls. The chef suggests she asks Robin (who is the only one who knows the forest enough) and when she refuses he points out that she has plenty of pride herself, causing her to think again. When leaving, she gives the chef letters addressed to Loveday and Benjamin, telling them to meet in the house.

Trapping Robin, by hanging him from his ankle, she makes him promise to listen to her. After he agrees, Maria cuts him down and convinces him to help her find the pearls, which the Moon princess herself hid in a hollow tree deep within the forest. As Robin is creating a false trail with one of Maria's hair ribbons she lost earlier, Maria notices that he was keeping it, and there is some gentle flirting between them. Meanwhile, Benjamin and Loveday meet and quickly realize what Maria has done, and follow her with Miss Heliotrope Chef and Digweed, using Chef's superior senses. On the trip, Benjamin and Loveday's relationship slowly begins to repair itself.

Maria, Robin and Wrolf are getting close, but robin is abducted by one of the de Noir clan and is taken to his father. Maria thinks he has abandoned her. Wrolf is trapped in a pit by two more of the de Noirs. Maria finds the tree with the help of the unicorn. De Noir vows to catch her himself, calling his son and daughter (as Loveday is revealed to be) traitors. De Noir finds Maria near the tree and Robin escapes to help her. Wrolf is shot and slowly losing his strength, he lies on the grass, seemingly dying. Robin tries to protect Maria and releases her from his father. They run into the tree roots and into a secret chamber (which is the Moon Princess's bedroom). Maria finds the pearls on a statue and as soon as she touches them they start to glow. They are followed by some de Noir men. Robin and Maria escape from them by running down a secret tunnel which leads them to the place "where it all began."

De Noir is waiting for them, but then Maria's Uncle, Chef, Digweed and Loveday arrive, followed by Maria and Robin who stop them all from fighting. Maria attempts to get Benjamin and de Noir to sacrifice their pride, but neither will do it. She attempts to return the pearls to the sea herself but they fly back to her. She realizes she must sacrifice herself if they are to sacrifice their pride, and throws herself into the ocean. Both families are shocked and sad at this, especially Robin. He falls to his knees as he watches her plunge off the cliff and into the water below.

The moon accepts her offering, and Maria is rescued by the fabled white unicorns from her father's story book. Wrolf is restored to life (but as the giant black lion) and the valley is restored to what it once was. The de Noir bandit attempts to shoot Maria, but Miss Heliotrope beats him up with her umbrella. Benjamin proposes to Loveday again, and she accepts. Digweed confuses Miss Heliotrope's question "Is there to be a wedding?" as reference to her and himself. As there is nothing important to be done, they all smile and Maria looks behind her towards the audience. The story ends with her face drawn into the book, which is then closed. Beside the book is the casket, key, and the pearls.



In pre-production it was decided the film needed a different title from the book. An internet poll was run, giving fans of the book a chance to vote for their preferred title: The Moon Princess or The Secret of Moonacre. The Secret of Moonacre won.

Filming started on 1 October 2007, and took place between Hungary and London


  1. ^ "The Secret of Moonacre (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 

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