feasts, ferrets, and fantasy: brian jacques’ redwall

One of the most consistent aspects of my reading life is the re-reading of books. I read all of my books at least once every couple of years; I read some of them once a year (or more), and I read some of them once a year at very specific times (ahem, Tolkien, during the Winter holidays, without fail). Redwall has been a favourite of mine for a number of years now.  In fact, I still own the (pristine originally but now incredibly battered) copy that my dad gave me for my birthday (ummm twenty years ago? Oh whoa).  This was the same birthday that I got Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, so my dad obviously has excellent taste in birthday gifts. I loved bringing this book in to show to my students because I put off reading it forever–in book terms, about two weeks in real life–because I wasn’t sure how interesting a book about a mouse could be.  And then, well, I opened it up and read:

Matthias cut a comical little figure as he wobbled his way among the cloisters, with his large sandals flip-flopping and his tail peeping from beneath the baggy folds of an oversized novice’s habit. He paused to gaze upwards at the cloudless blue sky and tripped over the enormous sandals. Hazelnuts scattered out upon the grass from the rush basket he was carrying. Unable to stop, he went tumbling cowl over tail.

Bump!

Well, I was hooked. And then, oh my, there was the food.

Food is huge in the Redwall series.  There are feasts, camping cookouts, *light* breakfasts, and a multitude of words and phrases dedicated to what may be the most gourmet group of woodland creatures in the history of literature.  In fact, although that opening paragraph is not quite as beloved to me as “It was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort”–these mice, moles, badgers, and  squirrels (and hares!) could give even Frodo, Sam, and Merry a run for their second breakfast.

Redwall is one of those books that has grown richer with each re-read.  The story is incredibly simple (a young mouse must grow to be the hero that they Abbey needs), but the history and characters in the book are rich and fascinating.  Especially because I’ve now moved to the U.K. (and, umm, have an actual idea of what some of the animals and settings (and food!) in the stories might look like), I’ve grown to enjoy the book more and more.  The humour and good-natured friendships that abound in all of the books in the series make it a fun read and comforting re-read.  Of course, there are a number of books in the Redwall universe now, and many of them *feel* the same (I don’t mind all of the feasts, but there will ALWAYS be a feast…and I will admit to a preference for the MossflowerRedwallMattimeo trilogy), but that doesn’t detract from the story at all. They’re fun, friendly, and oh, the food!

Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream…devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg…