Reading Redwall

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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.