Original blog post available here.
Redwall was by no means the first story to have its animals go Medieval (as evidenced by the fact that people were literally writing stories about it during the actual Middle Ages; see above).
However, Redwall, authored by the late Brian Jacques, was going Medieval with enough aptitude and success to get 22 books and nearly 30 years of mileage out of the concept.
Now, Redwall, strictly speaking, is a Fantasy series, what with being set in a world of talking animals and all. But once you get past the fact that everyone is animals, there’s not really that many Fantastical elements to books.
It’s less like the obvious, overt Fantasy of something like Lord of the Rings (which itself admittedly does have a fairly specific, understated nature and subtly to its magic) or the Dungeons & Dragons books (which do not), and closer to a straightforward historical fiction where everyone just happens to be animals.
Any Fantastical elements that do exist are never really made explicit, and anything that could be the result of supernatural influence could just as easily be a happy coincidence.
And all of the Fantastical elements that are present in the books are more or less consistent with real-life Medieval beliefs and superstitions about things like ghosts, and prophecies, and destiny.
For example, throughout the series, it seems like the ghost of Redwall’s founder and greatest hero is still protecting the place, his sword might be magic, there’s a big, evil snake who is probably just a big, evil snake, but is presented as some kind of fairytale monster or demon.
The short answer is that none of the Fantastical elements necessarily are supernatural, but are happening in a world inhabited by characters that definitely believe in the possibility of them being supernatural.
Like I mentioned, there’s 22 Redwall books. I think I’ve only read three or four of them, but that’s still enough to recognize certain patterns, which in turn is enough for me to leave you with a helpful warning.
Redwall will emotionally destroy you.
Technically, they’re kids’ books, but they are brutal.
The books are full of battles full of characters getting killed and horribly wounded, the aforementioned big, evil snake eats people alive, the villains tend to ludicrously evil — and not usually in a cartoonish, over-the-top way.
The villains are not only irredeemably, stupendously evil, but also frighteningly plausible in the nature of their villainy.
Also, at least one major character gets brutally and/or unceremoniously murdered per book. On the plus side, a lot of the villains also get brutally murdered, which can be pretty cathartic.
Yeah, it’s pretty grim of a series full of talking mice and weasels.
There was also a Redwall cartoon from the era I was a kid that adapted three of the books: Redwall (the first book, about a mouse named Matthias), Mattimeo (the third book published, but the next in chronological order, about the son of the main character from Redwall), and Martin the Warrior (a distant prequel to the later books, detailing… well, take a guess).
And, good news in that regard, it can be watched on YouTube via the official Redwall channel with minimal hassle.
Gooder news: it’s a Nelvana show, which means it’s CanCon!
Though I would like to pre-emptively apologise for when you are emotionally devastated when a character gets brutally murdered.
Copyright 2021 J.B. Norman
For more recommendations, go here.
For my social media pages and email list, see below: