Reading Redwall

Posted: January 1, 2014 in reading
Tags: , , , , ,

I know that New Year is meant to be a time for looking forward, but I just read a post that made me want to wax nostalgic. So today lets give it up for a children’s fantasy classic – Redwall.

The cover of the edition of Redwall I read - still creeping me out after all these years

The cover of the edition of Redwall I read – still creeping me out after all these years

Rats and mice and swords

Redwall is an anthropomorphic animal fantasy story in which good animals defend their abbey home from bad animals. The first in a series of books by Brian Jacques, it was one of my first fantasy reads and I’m still a fan. It’s a bit twee for adults unless you’re riding a nostalgia wave, but it’s a great fun read for kids.

West country moles

The reason I love this book is in the details. Different types of animals have different accents, from the broad rural accents of the moles to the Irish ferret sidekick to whatever the shrews are meant to be. The routines and festivities of life in a medieval-style community are nicely laid out. And the food, the endless, delicious-sounding food, like an Enid Blyton picnic made magnificent.

Sure, there’s an exciting tail of peril and adventure as well, but what matters is the moles and the scones.

OK, but…

I recently re-read Redwall as a bedtime book for Mrs K. As an adult I can see some problems with it. The love interest is a terrible example of the traditional soppy domesticated helpless little woman. The lead is kind of bratty, though he’s the mouse equivalent of a teenager so lets call that good characterisation. And by making certain species of animals good and others bad it shares The Wind in the Willows’s uncomfortable underlying message that our morality is, in part at least, pre-destined from birth.

Still it’s a vivid adventure, one of courage, intelligence and determination in the face of terrible odds. It’s an accessible introduction to sword-wielding fantasy for primary age children. And it’s a book that I’ve loved for decades, and I can’t wait to share it with a future generation.

  1. rumpydog says:

    Happy new year!!!!!

  2. glenatron says:

    I loved that book when I was younger. I think I read quite a few of the others too, but I can remember pretty much nothing of them except some good place names.

    Recently my beloved introduced me to Mouseguard, which is pretty much a modern comic take on the same theme, well mice with swords; I’d call that the same region at least. The art work and storytelling are tremendous, though as with most comics it’s gone in a second if you read at any kind of rate. If I had kids of a Redwall age I suspect they would enjoy that too.

    • I also read several of the other books, but by about the sixth they were starting to get repetitive (or I was starting to get too old). In retrospect Mossflower was my first encounter with the disappointment of prequels that can’t live up to the legend in my head.

      I’ve heard good things about Mouseguard, and you’ve led me down a good path with GGK so I’ll have to give it a go. Might be a good one to share with the nieces once they’re a bit older too.

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