Mariel of Redwall, Chapter Two

We start off our next chapter with Dandin being awkward by pounding the log alarm way too hard. Awkwardness and over-earnestness: two unmistakable signs of a fantasy hero. Wait and see, my friends. Also, Dandin is hanging out in an unfinished bell tower. That will be a plot point later.

We also get introduced to Mother Mellus, “the Redwall badger,” yelling at Dandin to come down. “Dandin blew rainwater from his whiskers, smiling roguishly he called back, ‘Right this instant, marm, just like you say.'”

See? He’s a rogue! What more proof do you need, people? He is Our Fantasy Hero. Then he throws himself off the tower, like a dumbass. Maybe he and Gabool can start a Dumbasses-Who-Like-to-Do-Dangerous-Things-on-Tall-Structures-During-Storms club. Mother Mellus grabs him angrily and the two share some stock bickering between the daring hero and the smothering but good-hearted mother figure as Mellus drags Dandin into the Great Hall. Bernard and Simeon are there, as well as Foremole, “the mole leader,” (see? Moles never get to be abbot. They’re only trusted to be in charge of their own species); Gabe Quill, the hedgehog who tends to the beverages of Redwall; Sister Serena, the head nurse; and “Dibbuns,” the orphans that the brothers and sisters who live in the Abbey take in from the surrounding woodlands. And if you hate infant hijinks, well, you’re not going to like these books very much.

Then we spend about four pages establishing that Abbey food is really, really good, no I don’t think you understand guys, it’s really good, let me list off every possible cordial and scone and so on that could half-plausibly be made by rodents. Although it’s all English food, so take Jacques’s descriptions with a grain of salt. We also learn that Redwall is full of good-natured banter as well as adorable children and delicious food, and is all-around a nice place to live. Lastly, Simeon compliments Dandin for his brave log-beating, to the great pride of the latter, and goes on to exposit that Martin the Warrior founded Redwall, and his spirit still haunts the Abbey, revealing himself to select creatures when the Abbey is in need of his help. Oh, Martin the Warrior! How your spirit has saved so many self-important young heroes from needless deaths. I liked you. You actually had a bittersweet ending, which is rare in these books that almost invariably have perfect conclusions.

That sounds like I’m complaining about these books, but I’m not. There’s time and ink enough for fantasy books with depth and poignancy and complexity. Simple fairy tales have their place. Part of the comfort of reading books like the Redwall series is being surrounded by the familiar fantasy tropes and feeling a connection to that sort of cultural unconscious.

Pompous interlude over! The chapter ends with Dandin saying that “‘anybeast out in this must be well drowned by now!’” But see what I mean? Of course the chapter ends with a heavy-handed allusion to another plot. Sometimes cliché is comforting.

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