Redwall is a wonderful little tale.
It’s the tale of an abbey in the woods and the various woodland creatures who inhabit it (in a world seemingly devoid of humans). It’s a tale of good and evil. Of peaceful creatures and the times when peace is no longer enough. It’s a tale of piracy and plundering, of those with power taking whatever they wish from those without. It’s a tale of a prophecied warrior, and the tiny mouse ready to step into much larger shoes to do what’s right to protect his friends.
The animals that make up the world are absolutely lovely, and you can really feel each different character. The quick little mice, the flitting sparrows, the evil rats, the terrifying snake, and the badger–larger and stronger than all the rest. Having all manner of creatures means Jacques can exagerate the characteristics needed for any particular scene and still make everything feel ‘real’.
I think the main downside is that at some level, it’s a book written for a younger audience. There is a feeling of magic in the world (without any explicit sort of spell casting or anything), but if you dig too deep, it’s a world that doesn’t really hold together. What all animals are sentient? Mammals are. Birds and reptiles. But what about the fish they eat? The horse that rats ride in on? What do other predators do? How can you have species of such radically different sizes living together? Just how big is Redwall (physicall)? How big do you make a hallway that can house mice and badgers?
And then there’s the ‘chosen one’ aspect. It’s something that generally annoys me in books, but I feel like a book for younger readers gets away with it? There’s never any doubt that the prophecy will be fulfilled, but it’s still a cute and at times touching story around all that.
It’s a cute story. I remember reading several of these books many years ago and have been wanting to go back. This time, I’m listening to the audiobooks, which really are enchanting. I love how the voices are done.
I look forward to the rest of the stories! And maybe in a few years, to sharing these with my own children.
A few random quotes that are particularly thought provoking or wonderfully written:
The young mouse stood with his paws folded, an expression of disgust upon his features. The old gatekeeper patted his shoulder. ‘I know how you feel, Matthias. I could see you were only putting on a brave face for the benefit of the others. That is good. It shows you are learning to be a wise leader. You hide your true feelings and encourage them not to give up hope.
Teaching the younger generation… and realizing that some things have to be learned on their own.
Closing his eyes momentarily, he thought of Martin the Warrior. Did he ever feel tired? He must have, defending the Abbey with his large heavy sword, wearing all that armour. Whatever happened to the sword? It had to be somewhere. Legendary weapons didn’t rust and wear away to nothing, otherwise they’d never get to be legend.
He’s got a point, even if it doesn’t really apply in the real world.
“Could it be Asmodeus?’ Matthias inquired innocently.
Basil Stag Hare dropped a half-eaten apple pie on the bedside table. He was suddenly very serious.
‘Asmodeus? Where did you hear that name?”
“A little bird told me,’ Matthias replied.”
Such wonderful quotes. The best part is: it’s the sort of world where it really can be a little bird!
Knowledge is a thing that one cannot have enough of. It is the fruit of wisdom, to be eaten carefully and digested fully, unlike that lunch you are bolting down, little friend.
Aginst, the wisdom of elders and the need for the young to learn for themselves.
Standing up to tyrany:
Are you going to go down on your knees and beg for your life, old one?"
Abbot Mortimer stared calmly into Cluny’s savage eye. “I will never bend my knee on my own behalf. However, if I thought I could save the life of one of my friends I would gladly fall down on both knees. But I know you, Cluny, better than you know yourself. There is not a scrap of pity or mercy in your heart, only a burning desire for vengeance. Therefore, I will not kneel to one who is consumed by evil.