This week, we’re looking back at a book which wowed us a great deal as kids. Liverpudlian writer Brian Jacques’ magnificent Redwall series had everything going for it and the humble writer, despite his success, enjoyed living a low-key lifestyle. This was tempered by his brilliant fantasy novels which promoted liberal attitudes so young readers in the 1990s could grow up to be so excellent. Just like us!
Mariel of Redwall was the first Redwall novel we read, circa 1994. Our mate Phil introduced us to it (cheers, Phil) and we spent the next few years reading and re-reading the Redwall books. We couldn’t get enough. But as this one was the first we read, it has a special place in our cold, black, bleak, remorseless hearts. More importantly, this is a ravishing adventure story which young generations should still be introduced to. Here’s why.
Mariel of Redwall
Okay, so in the world of Redwall you have these anthropomorphic animals such as mice, rabbits, hares, badgers, stoats, ferrets etc. Typically, the animals you’d class as “vermin” make up the antagonists, whilst the friendlier animals are the protagonists. Case in point, in Mariel of Redwall the evil rat Gabool is the evil SOB. He’s up against the plucky, introverted young mousemaid Mariel and her “skullwhacker” (a length of rope she hits others with).
We think the main point to get across here is the liberal nature of the novels. Jacques did an astonishing thing by populating the stories with societies functioning on a multicultural level. Also impressive are the many female characters – whether making up antagonists or protagonists, they’re always exceptionally well drawn out and take on a life of their own. They don’t, in other words, inhabit tediously restricted behaviours. It’s a real tapestry of psychological excellence.
The books are, however, just bloody rollicking excellent adventure stories of the highest level. In Mariel of Redwall, we catch up with the young mousemaid after, bruised and battered, she washes ashore near the abbey of Redwall in Mossflower. Having lost her memory, she’s immediately defensive, introverted, and aggressive towards anyone who approaches her.
She is, however, taken in by the good animals of Redwall and she befriends the young mouse Dandin. From there develops a tale of badger lords, fighting hares, searats, and four plucky young sorts who are determined to bring down Gabool’s evil ways. For us, we always got behind the bad guys and loved the names Jacques came up with – Frink, in this book being a major example. Gurrad in another book being right there.
In an era of Harry Potter, all we can suggest is the Redwall series shouldn’t be forgotten. Jacques died in 2011, but his legacy is this tremendous series (20+ books in total) which is gritty, determined, thrilling, and just a really great way to get young people interested in reading. What could be better suited for a young person of 10 or so to be handed these beautifully crafted novels? If you have kids, let it happen. That’s an order.
Tooth and Tail
This indie title isn’t one we’ve gotten round to yet, but we think you can guess the similarity. It’s obviously inspired by Jacques’ novels, but it isn’t in any way a part of the series. It’s just a loving homage, we suppose, and one we’ll get round to soon enough. Yeah? Don’t hassle us on this one. We’re busy.
The interesting thing with Redwall is this has film quality stamped all over it. Why haven’t there been any films based on the novels? There was a TV show circa 1999 but this took the disastrous route to make the series more infantile, whereas the books are often brutal and horrific. A proper full on film depicting this would be brilliant in the right hands, but for some reason it’s not emerged. Whatever.