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Does the Weapon Make the Warrior?
February 1st, 2002

Time and again, throughout the Redwall series, the subject comes up. A valued weapon is lost or found, and the old Redwall adage is stated. "The weapon does not make the warrior." Yet, events and heroes seem to contradict that saying. It appears that Brian Jacques doesn't believe his own words.

Consider Matthias in Redwall. We meet him as a bumbling, clumsy novice who is more eager for adventure and battle than peace. He trips over his own sandals and is obviously not trained in weaponry. Even so, when he picks up the sword of Martin the Warrior, he is instantly a warrior of great prowess, able to hold his own against Cluny the Scourge, who grew up around blades and was a veteran fighter. No training necessary.

Or what about Martin in Martin the Warrior? He's easily defeated as a youngling when Badrang captures him with only a spear. He spends seasons as a slave, never touching a weapon. Suddenly, he's an expert with a pygmy shrew's sword, able to defeat Badrang, who wields a fine hand-and-a-half sword.

It doesn't happen that way in real life. Any new skill takes time and work to acquire. It's rarely automatic. Try fencing sometime. Even that light foil is difficult to use effectively, especially against a trained opponent. After a tough bout, especially if you've never held a weight with one hand at that angle for that amount of time, you may be sweating and out of breath and your arm may be sore. With a full suit of armor, or even with only a shield, you probably wouldn't even be able to move much, let alone parry a thrust.

Or try taking up archery. After you learn to stand correctly, hold the bow properly, pull the arrow back far enough, and aim, you might be able to hit somewhere toward the center of the target at ten feet. But, try it at twenty feet, or fifty, or one hundred... and this is with a modern bow and modern arrows. Try it with a handmade bow and handmade arrows, with high adrenaline, fifty feet away from a moving target. It's virtually impossible. The infamous English longbowmen could draw eighty to one hundred pounds of bow, hit a moving target from one hundred feet away, and fire ten to fifteen arrows a minute. But, they trained from the moment they could hold a bow. They wouldn't be able to accomplish that, otherwise.

Try learning to use a sling. Or a javelin, or even a staff. None of those are possible to become expert in with only a very short time, although many characters in the Redwall series do. It takes practice, work, and often a natural talent of some sort to become good at anything.

Brian Jacques understood this in the back of his mind, I think. Sometimes creatures mentioned having been trained, or one creature will train another, and so forth and so on. However, his characters rarely train more than a month- usually far less. It's certainly not enough to be able to defeat creatures raised to war.

So- does the weapon make the warrior? Perhaps not a warrior's heart... but in Redwall, it does seem to make the warrior's ability.


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