Well, my attempts at political blogging have pretty much failed, so I have decided to pontificate about children’s literature instead. I’m on a Redwall kick at the moment and wanted to share my nostalgia with the masses. I’m rereading the books out of order (and then, I never read them all in the first place), but Brian Jacques didn’t write them in any coherent order anyway, so I don’t think it really matters.
For those of you who don’t know, the Redwall series is a fantasy series aimed at kids from around nine to twelve, about a land populated with anthropomorphic woodland creatures (mice, rats, squirrels, etc.) and their adventures. Redwall Abbey is the center of the books; it is a pleasant place, acting as the bulwark against the evil hordes of vermin, such as rats, who bring violence to Mossflower Woods.
So, full speed ahead on what was one of my favorite books in the series as a kid, Mariel of Redwall. The first section is called “The Maid from the Sea.”
The first chapter begins with two mice, Abbot Bernard and Simeon, the blind herbalist, standing on the walls of Redwall Abbey. (Oddly enough, these walls are red. Also, if I remember correctly the mice and squirrels have a suspicious monopoly over the office of Abbot.) We find out that Simeon has the Magical Sensing Powers of so many blind characters in fiction, as he can tell there is a storm coming, while Abbot Bernard cannot. (Foreshadowing! A storm coming? Get it? Get it?)
As Simeon and the Abbot return back to the Abbey proper, Simeon can smell “‘hot apple pie and raspberry cream pudding, and scones, fresh from the oven too, with damson preserve spread on them.’” This is one of many, many passages dealing with the food of Redwall, so prepare yourself.
We also hear mention of Sister Sage, who evidently serves food, and Dandin, the young mouse whose job it is to “’beat a hollow leg with two clubs,’” as Simeon puts it in some awkward exposition, because apparently ten-year-olds can’t be trusted to work out what “‘beat[ing] the log alarm”’ might mean for themselves. Dandin is “‘a bit overenthusiastic.’” Hmmm, could this excess of energy be one of the unmistakable signs of Our Hero?
Father Abbot tries to use his sense of smell to figure out what kind of drinks are being poured inside the Abbey, but gets owned by Simeon. Nice try, though!
We get some purple prose about a stormy sea far away from Redwall Abbey, which branches into an even more purple passage about Gabool the Wild, who is the king of all the searats (essentially pirates; also, rats are invariably evil). He rules Terramort Island. Evidently, his fangs were ripped out of his mouth in battle and so now he has golden ones, which shows more skill in dentistry than I would have expected pirate rates to have. He also somehow has a beard? I’m not sure how rats have beards, but it’s got ribbons in it. Also, he has huge gold hoop earrings, and “rings, bracelets, medals, and buckles.” His eyes are “weird.” Yes, that’s the word Jacques uses to describe them. And a scarlet cloak that is whipping around wildly in the breeze, which I admit sounds pretty cool.
Anyway, Gabool is standing around on a high cliff near the sea, like a dumbass, and yelling “Gaaaaaboool!”, into the wind, like a . . . damn, I already said “dumbass.” Really, if you survived all these huge battles for this long, why are you risking your life in a storm for no particular reason?
We now transfer our perspective to the sea itself, where a “pitifully tiny figure of a mousemaid” is being tossed about by the waves. She’s barely staying afloat by clinging to some driftwood, and she has a rope around her neck. Unfortunately, she ends up getting wrenched away from the piece of wood while trying to untangle the spar from the noose, gets knocked unconscious by the same damn piece of driftwood, and gets tossed around in the sea some more, presumably doomed to die. But of course she’s not going to, because the title has the name Mariel in it and she’s the only female character who’s important enough to get introduced in the first chapter.
Stay tuned for some more horrifying abuse of animals by other animals tomorrow!