Flashback Fridays: Who says that I am dead Knows nought at all. / I – am that is, Two mice within Redwall . . .

You’re a young mouse destined to save your home and woodland friends from the dangerous enemies that have overtaken the Abbey.  In order to do so, you must answer an ancient riddle and go on a dangerous quest.  You will not return the same mouse you were when you left . . .

Do you remember:

Redwall by Brian Jacques (Ace, c1986)

When talking about kids reading long fantasy novels, many credit J. K. Rowling or Rick Riordan for starting this trend of young readers who won’t bat an eye at a 400 or more page volume.  But Brian Jacques was publishing his tomes long before either writer hit the scene.  And this young reader happily devoured them.    If you’re not familiar with the series, the Redwall series chronicles the adventures of anthropomorphic woodland creatures going on quests, battling villains and fighting impossible odds to win the day.  The story in this first book, tells of young Matthias, a mouse whose destiny does not lie in becoming a monk as he imagines, but in becoming a legend.  For on the tapestries of Redwall abbey is the mysterious riddle of Martin the Warrior that might reveal the location of his sword.  And when Redwall is attacked, Matthias is thrown into a frantic search for that sword and his own destiny!

Swashbuckling adventure, riddles, heroic struggles and alliances, death-defying battles,  and amazing piles of scrumptious food. If you don’t mind your heroes furry, then this may be a series to check out and enjoy. There are twenty-two titles in all within the Redwall series, eight of which are prequels to the original Redwall book.

Readers joining our woodland creatures on their adventures should expect a wide range of local accents coloring the speech of the animals.  (It can make reading these books aloud a real challenge!).  Pretty much as it falls out, what kind of critter you are defines whether you’ll be on the good side or the bad side.  Ferrets, stoats, foxes, rats and similar are all villains while mice, badgers, moles, rabbits, hedgehogs and similar are our heroes.  While there’s occasional magic involved, most of the actual magic is significantly brief.  The stories depend largely on the sense of grand adventure and epic battle.

And we can’t possibly mention Redwall without mentioning the food.  Piles and heaps of foodstuffs that are enough to make the fiercest dieter drool.  Here are a few quickly chosen quotes from my Fantasy Delicious post:

“tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.”  –Redwall

“I smell apple pie and raspberry cream pudding and scones, fresh from the oven too, with damson preserve spread over them.” –Mariel of Redwall

I found an entire three pages devoted to describing foodstuffs at a big feast in  Mattimeo.  Here’s just a snippet: ”Then there were the cakes, tarts, jellies and sweets. Raspberry muffins, blueberry scones, redcurrant jelly, Abbot’s cake, fruitcake, iced cake, shortbread biscuits, almond wafers, fresh cream, sweet cream,  whipped cream, pouring cream, honeyed cream, custardy cream, Mrs. Churchmouse’s bell tower pudding, Mrs. Bankvole’s six-layer trifle, Cornflower’s gatehouse gateau, Sister Rose’s sweetmeadow custard with honeyglazed pears, Brother Rufus’s wildgrape woodland pie with quince and hazelnut sauce. To name but a few . . .“–Mattimeo

Seriously, if I could choose a book to stop in for a bite to eat, this series would win.

Fans of the books may also find The Great Redwall Feast (Puffin, c1996), A Redwall Winter’s Tale (Puffin, c2001) and The Redwall Cookbook (Philomel, 2005) for more fun and food.  A graphic novel was produced of the original book–with rather mixed results.  Add in a handful of books about the books (featuring different tribes and maps and so forth) and there’s quite a bit out there.  And there’s an animated series based on the books as well!  Not nearly as good as the books, but not bad for a low budget cartoon.  Plenty of epic fantasy fun.

On the plus side, this series should be readily available at your local library.  It’s still in print and still popular with readers.  In the past, I’d often find this series shelved in adult and young adult fiction as well as children’s fiction.  This likely had to do with the length of the darned things more than anything else (although these are admittedly entertaining stories for adults and young adults).

Sadly, we lost Brian Jacques in 2011, but this British author has left his readers a sizable library of stories to read and enjoy.

Check out the official website at: http://www.redwallabbey.com/


Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I love Redwall. I spent hours reading those books as a kid, and even re-read the first one to my wife a couple of years ago, to show her how great it was. When I was about twelve I started going through the books making a list of all the food with the aim of making it. I don’t think I did any cooking in the end, but I might have to look for those cookbooks.

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