Before the stories of witchcraft and wizardry in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, the triumph of good over evil took place between the woodland creatures living in Redwall Abbey and hostile vermin invaders.
British author Brian Jacques, who died of a heart attack on Feb. 5 at age 71, brought tales of adventure to the imaginations of children throughout the world, including ones who later came to Harvard.
“Redwall was the first epic fantasy I ever read. Fantasy started with Harry Potter for some people, but I was already a fan by then,” said Benjamin P.S. Klug ’14.
Andrew R. Mooney ’14 began reading the series when he was around 6 years old after he saw his brothers read it. Although the books are aimed at children ages 9 to 12, they also appealed to some advanced, younger readers.
“Once you started reading, it was hard to put them down, especially for a kid with a wild imagination,” Mooney said.
Jacques’ style was flowery and descriptive with details ranging from extravagant feasts to beautiful landscapes. Similar to J.R.R. Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings series, Jacques created an imaginary world with original languages and legends.
“The books were vivid and somehow not weird even though they were about animals,” said Alexander P. Zimmer ’14.
Redwall was first published in 1986, and Jacques subsequently penned 21 more books in the series.
Each of Jacques’ novels is similarly structured, with several groups of characters in different situations who eventually meet at the end of the story.
Fans of the series admitted it fit a formula.
“At the time I thought it was the most amazing writing ever. I would say it’s still pretty good, but it was a bit formulaic,” Klug said.
Though Jacques is most famous for the Redwall series, he also published several other stories, including a series about the Flying Dutchman.
He first told the Redwall stories to friends and children, but later wrote them down. His former English teacher submitted them to a publisher.
The final Redwall story, “The Rogue Crew,” is scheduled to be published in May.
While The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings have remained timeless stories, Redwall may not live on as popularly.
“I think Redwall was a kind of thing you had to be there at the right age at the right time. A lot of people have imitated that style [of writing],” Mooney said.
Over 20 professors in the English, Comparative Literature, and Folklore and Mythology departments who were contacted by The Crimson said they had not read the Redwall series, but many acknowledged Jacques’ contribution to children’s literature.
—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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