RIP Brian Jacques: A Sentimental Account of my Fond Memories of Reading Redwall/Castaways of the Flying Dutchman..
Fantasy tales with classical elements baffle people. More so, they are easily dismissed because they are not considered relevant anymore. Some people take that belief far to the extent where they dismiss these stories or view them anachronistically: If they reflect values from an earlier point in time then therefore that mode of thinking should be abolished or frowned upon.
Yes, I love books with substance that mirrors some idealized world or the real world with brutal detail. But sometimes, I love those novels that I can plunge into a world that is totally different from my own. I want a world that is not cluttered only with those elements of real life that are grimy. There is a piece of me that wants that classic story that includes heroics and adventure. It may seem that these desires are immature and could probably be viewed as a technique for my mind to regress to simpler things. Yet, that desire fastens on to some simpler idea of goodness where true forgiveness, love, and sensitivity is upheld.
At the age of eleven, Redwall offered me that escapist destination. Within the variegated world of Redwall, there were medieval elements, talkative animals, sumptuous feasts, elusive rats, and the enigmatic Badger Lord. When Lord of the Rings proved too much of a trial to read, the Redwall books provided me a more accessible fantasy tale that was equally as rich in many regards. Plus, it instilled within me an unending fascination with the map.
Every time, I read a Redwall book, I bookmarked the area of the book where the map was located. I would track the paths of all my favorite characters. I could easily visualize the relative location of these places to others. It offered me a sense of realism when most people would have the preconceived notion that no one can fool us into believing that talking animals could exist. Momentarily, within the world of Redwall, I was under the belief that this parallel world of feasts, sword battles,heroics, and riddles aplenty was real.
I still recall reading the Redwall books during our study breaks in sixth grade. We used to have this little alcove in the back of the room where I was tempted to pick out every Redwall book there to read. During that time in elementary school, I was fairly reserved. Well, I would get enthusiastic about Harry Potter around that time or some other book I read. Actually, sixth grade offered me a cornucopia of many good books like the Artemis Fowl books, Madeleine L’Engle’s Time series, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Giver, and The Series of Unfortunate Events.
Still, Redwall was fastened to me. I could not shrug off the withdrawal symptoms that developed out of neglecting them. Those pleasurable memories of those feasts, tricky riddles, and empowering stories kept tempting me back. Most people would quickly misapply the term “unhealthy,” to this addiction of mine. Many people would look with disdain that I can remember books more than particular in that class. Perhaps, they’ve never been spellbound for a book. Or, they’ve never had that experience of reading a book that offers them some mental image that shows them some sort of glimpse of heaven.
These books were a great emotional comfort for me. The world around me was rapidly changing. While, I was eleven or twelve, I was forcibly being thrust into the dangerous realm of adulthood. If anything, the Redwall books assuaged the discomfort brought on by this wild change of climate. Beyond the horizon of childhood, I believed that I could still retain memories of all that goodness that could be overwhelmed by future darkness. Just as I am doing now, I am venturing through the happiness, the joyful nostalgia of the memories produced by these books. They make me believe in the internal order and symmetry of all things.
C.S. Lewis once related his experience of sighting the hidden Christian elements that lie below the surface of a well constructed story. I think all great books have a disguised Christian meaning or hope of transcendence far below the surface. Redwall always held that below the surface. It always offered that hope or faith in glorification and resurrection.
Moreover, it helped to clarify the hope in a fogged mind that was disturbed by the oppressive darkness of the present. In conspiratorial whispers, it begged that at the end of everything, we would all be resplendent and dining in Redwall abbey in fellowship. We would be there to recount every detail of all adventures and how everything transpired to allow for the ultimate good to overtake. Of course, there were be some unexpected guests at the feast. They were the ones who never announced their internal faith in meaning or life beyond just the pain and suffering of short timed wars. Wouldn’t the abbot be smiling from the front of room in assurance that everything before us is not just some construct of our delusional minds? That all that blissful memories from good tales were really just appetizers for the real feast that awaits us all after this long, arduous battle is done.
Currently, I can bask in that hope that Brian Jacques can be a happy attendant to his own feast. He has written many feasts. But now, I think he can finally rest in the fact that he has no need to try to replicate the events that are followed and even ended with a feast. He is enjoying that feast that continues on infinitely without stall. Those happy memories were not blotted out by the universe’s dementia that forgot that it had a creator or a purpose. It remembered that everything stretches beyond the surface just as every wonderful piece of art does. Surely, Brian Jacques is smiling and joining the largest league of Inklings who are all seeing their imaginations become manifested. Madeleine L’Engle, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Robert Jordan, and others are probably talking, laughing and realizing that all of their stories, artwork, or music served some greater purpose to keep our minds fixed upon the idea that this world around us really is just the surface of things that await us.
Readers, I hope all of us can try to remember every wonderful memory that we all had within the world of Redwall. Hopefully, all of us will today reminisce on all those beautiful memories spent within Brian Jacque’s stories. Certainly, I hope that his family is greatly comforted by the idea that many people were impacted positively and infinitely entertained by the worlds Brian Jacques created. I’m certainly glad that he always persevered to be a writer even when that one person told him he was “foolish, delusional, or had unsound thoughts.”
For now, I’ll be procuring some copies of forgotten books by this author. Over the course of the next few weeks, I hope to explore the world of Redwall again after nine or ten years.