Redwall, by Brian Jacques, is a series of children's fantasy novels. It is the title of the first book of the series, published in 1986, as well as the name of the Abbey featured in the book and the name of an animated TV series based on three of the novels (Redwall, Mattimeo, and Martin the Warrior), which first aired in 1999. The books are primarily aimed at older children. There have been twenty-two novels and two picture books published. The twenty-second, and final, novel, The Rogue Crew, was posthumously released on May 3, 2011.
The book series does not chronicle any one particular timeframe. Rather, it is set in many periods in the history of the world of Redwall, which entails Mossflower woods, surrounding islands, and a land called Southsward. Some of the books focus on characters who, in other volumes, are historical figures (e.g., Martin the Warrior's father, Luke, in The Legend of Luke). Typically, those books are set before the founding of Redwall Abbey. There is a timeline in the Redwall series, but it generally places the books in a completely different order than the order in which they were written. However, there were two phases when the novels were published in chronological order.
The characters in the books are all anthropomorphic animals of some sort, almost all of whom are capable of speech (with a few exceptions like the horse in Redwall).
Redwall contains little practice of magic. Elements of the supernatural or paranormal appear mainly in two forms: First, the ghost of Martin the Warrior or another long-dead hero will often appear in hallucinations, dreams, or visions to one of the woodland creatures (usually, but not always, an Abbey-dweller) and impart information. The information is always accurate (though often in the form of a riddle) and is of a nature such that it must have come from the ghost of Martin the Warrior and could not be the result of a creature "solving" a mystery in its sleep and dreaming about Martin the Warrior on its own. Also, some creatures in the books are called "seers" and claim to be able to see the future. While some of these "seers" turn out to be frauds; others such as the seers of Outcast of Redwall, Loamhedge, The Taggerung and Lord Brocktree are quite real and play a key part in the turning of events in these books. Virtually all of the seers, both real and fraudulent, are vermin, who are generally considered more primitive and superstitious than woodlanders and other goodly creatures and are almost always the "bad guys." However, in the booklet Tribes of Redwall Mice, both Martin the Warrior and Abbess Germaine can foresee the future. Also present is the sword of Martin the Warrior, which is believed by many creatures (especially vermin, who in some instances try to steal it) to be magical. This sword was forged from the fragment of a meteorite at Salamandastron by Badger Lord Boar the Fighter in the book Mossflower.
Though the primary location is an abbey, and a church of St. Ninian's makes appearances, there has been only little mention of a creator or godlike deity. This occurs throughout the series, such as in the book, Redwall, where Basil Stag Hare comments saying, "Good Lord," once throughout the story. In The Legend of Luke, it is said that "St. Ninian's" is a misnomer from a sign that originally read "This ain't Ninian's!," after a mouse named Ninian refused to help his wife build a house; some of the lettering later wore off, leaving ironically the words "s ain't Ninian's", although the church is mentioned as having a lady chapel. There is occasional reference to a 'Spirit of the Seasons', but whether this is a personal being or an abstract poetic device is not elaborated. However, there have been at least three mentions of the devil, Hell and other demons. Cluny the Scourge, after sending one of his minions to death, roars "Tell the devil Cluny sent you!" On another occasion, Constance the Badger makes a reference to "Hell's whiskers." According to the ferret Killconey, the snake Asmodeus is named for "the devil himself" (the name itself, Asmodeus, is a reference to Asmodai). There are also numerous references to "Hellgates" throughout the series.
While these references from Redwall, the first book, were made before the series had truly realized itself, The Taggerung makes references to an underworld again when a devilish character called "Vulpuz" is mentioned by one seer as the ruler of Hellgates and the ancestor of foxes. In several of the later novels, whenever a creature dies, characters make references to "Dark Forest" or "Hellgates" as places where creatures go after death. Dark Forest however, has not been explained further.
Books in the series often contain one or more "monsters," but these are not mythical creatures, rather being some type of ferocious predator. Monsters have included snakes, and adders (from Redwall, Doomwyte, and Triss), large carnivorous fish such as pike, and sharks (from Marlfox, The Bellmaker, Triss, Lord Brocktree, and Mossflower), a plesiosaur-type creature (from High Rhulain), a wolverine (from Rakkety Tam), a scorpion (from Mariel of Redwall) and a giant sea serpent (from Salamandastron and High Rhulain though mentioned very very briefly in the latter), along with an eel (from Mossflower, The Taggerung, The Long Patrol, Outcast of Redwall, and The Sable Quean), a giant lobster (Mariel of Redwall) and crabs (from Mossflower, The Legend of Luke and Lord Brocktree).
A typical book in the Redwall series details a particular period in the history of Redwall Abbey. In all but a few cases, the book is about the inhabitants of Redwall Abbey and the surrounding Mossflower Woods. Usually, there are at least two different stories going on. For example, a typical book may relate the story of a small expedition by a group of woodlanders, as well as the story of a large group of Redwallers at home fending off a vermin horde. Because of the widely spaced storylines (chronologically speaking), very few creatures are mentioned in more than one or two novels, except in a passing historical sense. One notable exception is Martin the Warrior, who appears in all books, even if, most of the time, only in spirit form or no more than as a passing historical mention. (Additionally, Martin's sword is present in almost all of the novels.) Though he is not mentioned by name in Lord Brocktree, Martin is referred to in Brocktree's dream as "a young mouse bearing a beautiful sword." A second exception is the badger Cregga Rose Eyes, who appears in three books: The Long Patrol, Marlfox, and Taggerung. One other exception is Bella of Brockhall, who features first in "Mossflower", second (chronologically speaking) in The Legend of Luke, and one final time in The Outcast of Redwall.
Other recurring elements and characters in the Redwall series include Badger Lords and Badger Mothers, "Dibbuns" (the Redwall name for infant woodlanders), a Skipper of Otters, Foremoles, hares, helpful birds, one or more Log-a-Logs (a shrew tribe leader), and mouth-wateringly detailed descriptions of (almost entirely vegetarian) food.
At the time of Jacques' death, twenty-one novels had been released, with The Sable Quean having been released in February 2010. The twenty-second and, due to the passing of Jacques, final book, The Rogue Crew, was released on May 3, 2011.
The prequels to Redwall are not released in any chronological order; however, all of the sequels, including Mattimeo, were released in the order in which they occur. The books are listed below in their chronological order within the fictional world of Redwall, with publication dates noted.
The first three chronologically ordered books (Lord Brocktree, Martin the Warrior, and Mossflower) take place before the construction of Redwall Abbey, while the fourth, The Legend of Luke, takes place during the construction of the abbey. Many or most of the books that take place before Redwall was constructed are written in the format of a story told by a visitorâ"for example, Martin the Warrior is told as a story by a descendant of Brome, who was visiting Redwall. These books are organized by the main story, not by the "actual" time period, which is almost always after the construction of Redwall.
Most books that are adjacent to each other in chronological order take place within a generation or so of each other (as evidenced by mentions of past characters in the later books). It is notable that, by contrast, there is an indefinitely long chronological gap between Salamandastron and Redwall; conversely, Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker both feature the same cast with a short span of time between them.
In the Redwall universe, species almost invariably (with very few exceptions, including change of character mid-story) determines a creature's nature, whether good or evil. Some common noble species in Redwall include mice, otters, moles, hares, squirrels, hedgehogs, shrews, birds, voles, and badgers, while common vermin include rats, foxes, weasels, ferrets, ravens, snakes, stoats, ermine, sables, wildcats, magpies, rooks, and crows. However, many other varieties of species also make appearances throughout the novels as well. Dormice also appear sometimes but are rarely major characters. On numerous occasions it mentions seals, whose language makes little sense to other creatures; also bank voles on numerous occasions, usually as a "good" character but once as an evil character. Twice, in Mattimeo and Loamhedge, there is a creature, apparently half weasel and half ferret, called a Wearet, while the book The Rogue Crew features a (purportedly) half weasel and half rat Wearat as its principal villain. Pine martens have been featured in three books, once as the main villain and twice in the service of a wildcat. Several reptiles are also mentioned, such as adders, other snakes, and lizards. Amphibians like toads and frogs have been featured also, and are depicted as lower creatures that live in more basic tribal systems and usually serve not as the primary villains but as secondary distractions to heroes. There are also some creatures that have only been mentioned once or twice (e.g., wolf, beaver, turtle, whale, wolverine, sable, tortoise, golden hamster, bats, monitor lizards, polecats, and in the first book horses, pigs, dogs and cows). Crows and other corvus birds also appear on numerous occasions, usually being vicious and territorial. Other birds such as owls, herons, red-tailed hawks , and eagles are mentioned, some having major parts in books, including in Mattimeo when a raven named General Ironbeak manages to invade and almost conquers Redwall Abbey. In "Martin the Warrior," a group of squirrels called the Gawtrybe are presented as villains, though squirrels are usually considered "good."
The Redwall universe is centered around Redwall Abbey, a red sandstone abbey. Built after the events of Mossflower, it is the home to many of the good animals of Mossflower Woods. Another important location is the mountain fortress called Salamandastron, home to the Badger Lords and the famed hares of the Long Patrol, the mountain's army. There are many other places, such as the fortress Riftgard, Loamhedge, and Green Isle. Also, a main waterway is the River Moss. In some stories, such as The Bellmaker and The Legend of Luke, most of the story takes place onboard sailing ships and many dangers are only those involving the weather and damage resulting from such.
There are also the far northern lands; much of the wildlife in the books from those lands are primarily native to Scotland specifically, such as pine martens and golden eagles.
As well as the northern lands, there are numerous islands featured in the series; usually, each island is featured in one book only.
Literary significance and reception
From the beginning, Brian Jacques was praised for his Redwall series, being described as one of âthe best children's authors in the world.â The books of the Redwall series have drawn comparisons to everything from J. R. R. Tolkienâs The Lord of the Rings to Kenneth Grahameâs The Wind in the Willows to Erin Hunter's Warriors and Richard Adamsâs Watership Down. Jacques combines âaction, poetry, songs, courage, and vivid descriptionsâ to create a unique style that spans the seemingly endless series.
The Redwall series has also received praise for its âequal-opportunity adventuring, in which female creatures can be just as courageous (or as diabolical) as their male counterparts.â Novels such as Mariel of Redwall, The Pearls of Lutra, High Rhulain and Triss all feature strong female leading characters. Jacques has also received acclaim for his development of unique language intrinsic to certain species, giving the novels an "endearing dialectal dialogue."
Some reviews have been critical of the Redwall novels for providing too simplistic a view of good and evil. The characteristics of the animals in the novels are fixed by their species, making them quite âpredictable," though there have been a few books, such as in The Outcast of Redwall and Pearls of Lutra, in which vermin have acted selflessly, in one taking a spear through the chest and back meant for his former nursemaid, and in the other saving the Abbot of Redwall from lizards. Another exception is in The Bellmaker, where a searat strove to start being good instead of evil, abandoning his life of pirating to live by himself. In some cases, different members of the same species possess different moral compasses. For example, the wildcats in the book Mossflower each exhibit different characteristics: although Lady Tsarmina is cruel and vicious, her father Lord Verdauga is seen as hard but fair, and her brother Gingivere is kind and eventually joins the side of the woodlanders. As a general rule though, characters tend to "epitomize their class origins," rarely rising above them.
Many reviewers have also criticized the Redwall series for repetition and predictability, citing "recycled" plot lines and Jacquesâ tendency to follow a âpattern to the dot.â Other reviewers note that such predictable âingredientsâ may be what âmakes the Redwall recipe so consistently popular.â Although the series did not continue to break new ground, it does provide satisfying adventures with âcomforting, predictable conclusions for its fans.â
The last interior artist was Sean Rubin. Prior to Rubin taking over in 2009, David Elliot illustrated six books in the Redwall series, including Eulalia!, published in 2007. Elliot also illustrated the anniversary edition of Mossflower, with full page illustrations. Other previous interior illustrators include Gary Chalk (Redwall, Mariel of Redwall, and Martin the Warrior), Allan Curless (The Bellmaker to The Long Patrol), Chris Baker (Marlfox to Lord Brocktree) and Peter Standley (The Taggerung). The cover artist of the US editions of the novels is Troy Howell. Pete Lyon and Douglas Hall provided cover art for different UK editions of the first four books. Later, Chris Baker became the UK cover artist up until the release of Triss, when David Wyatt took over.
Books in the Redwall series have been translated into Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Hebrew.
The first season of the Redwall television series, released in 1999, was based upon the novel Redwall. It was later followed by two more seasons, based on the books Mattimeo and Martin the Warrior. Production for the series is assumed to be finished. Each season contained 13 episodes. Each episode was opened with Brian Jacques himself giving a synopsis of the story so far. These scenes were later cut from subsequent reairings and DVD releases.
There have been full-length audiobooks published of most of the Redwall books, the exceptions being The Pearls of Lutra, Marlfox, Lord Brocktree (on cassette), The Legend of Luke, and The Rogue Crew. Instead of being read by a single actor, the novels are narrated by a large cast. Brian Jacques served as the narrator for almost all of the audiobooks (with Salamandastron being the sole exception), sometimes reading select parts, and his son Marc Jacques appeared as the characters Matthias, Martin and others.
Some abridged audiobooks have also been released. They include Redwall, Mossflower, Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrol, Marlfox, The Legend of Luke and Lord Brocktree. Each is three hours in length and read solely by Brian Jacques.
In 1996, Evelyn Swenson composed an opera based on the first book in the Redwall series. It was produced by OperaDelaware in Wilmington, Delaware and later toured Europe.
- Official website
- The Redwall Wiki - A collaborative Redwall information and news resource
- Current Illustrator's site
- Book cover gallery
- Redwall MUCK (Multi-User Chat Kingdom) - A text-based roleplay game based on the series, operating with author's permission. Est. 1995
- Redwall: Warlords - The online text-based game