Brian Jacques & Redwall

According to the BBC, children’s author Brian Jacques, who is most famous for his Redwall books, has passed away at the age of 72. I’m very saddened by this, because Jacques’ books were one of the first introductions that I had to fantasy literature as a child, starting in late elementary school and lasting throughout my time in High School.

My high school library was well stocked by the time that I reached Harwood. The first book that I remember reading from the series was Mossflower, the second book published in the series, with Martin the Warrior fighting against the evil Tsarmina in the castle Kotir, where he frees Mossflower from tyrany. The stories were clearcut, easy to read and no matter how many times I revisited them, I was always entertained by their stories and characters.

There were a number of favorites in the series for me: Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker stand out, as well as Mattimeo, The Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrol, Marlfox, and Lord Brocktree, not to mention the book that started it all: Redwall. But, of all of the stories, Mossflower has long remained a favorite read.

What impressed me the most in the series was the interconnected nature of Jacques’ world. The books were published outside of a timeline, and as new books came out, they typically visited different parts of the story’s overall chronology. Characters that I read about in one book had become myth or legend in the following, giving an impressive sense of scale for the series, which probably left the biggest impression on me as I began to read fantasy.

Redwall was a series that I eventually phased out of my reading as I got older and found new things to read. As new Redwall books came out, I began to realize that there really wasn’t anything new from book to book: the same formula, dialogue and largely – heroic characters – which came into conflict with other things that I was reading that allowed for more variety, and more ambiguity to the characters and plotlines.

I’ve never looked back on the series since High School, but I’ve never forgotten that had I not read Redwall as much as I did, I may never have gotten into other speculative fiction books: Harry PotterThe series came towards the end of the Redwall books. This was also at the same time that I started reading the classics of science fiction: Dune and Foundation, I, Robot and Starship Troopers,

The Redwall stories are pivotal novels, perfect for that age: full of adventure, heroic characters and rich worlds, they have an absolute moral compass, but exist outside of the normal conventions: religion doesn’t muddy the waters here, and the reliance isn’t on the magic or the instruments of the world (in most cases), but on the superb characters themselves that Jacques created.

With his death, the world is missing one excellent storyteller, and for that, I’m saddened, because the stories that he told were the ones that needed to be told: right verses wrong, and that even the meek can go on to become something great, even legendary.

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One thought on “Brian Jacques & Redwall

  1. Fine commentary, an assessment of Jacques and his books that places it in both it’s genre categories, children/YA and fantasy. I came to the books as an adult, but one who has always loved what I call “animal fiction” from these books to works such as Wind in the Willows, Watership Down and Duncton Wood. You are right about a sameness that comes to the series over time, but read with some time between – I bought each as it came out in hardcover – they remain very enjoyable. I have two in the series unread, and will move one to the top of the TBR.

    Thanks for your post on this!

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