The Long Patrol Links Interviews Forums Brian Jacques Releases The Bookshelf Editorials Features

Re: Religion in Redwall
February 19th, 2005

Reading Lord Trawnbull Thickstripe's editorial on why there is religion in the Redwall series, I came across a few discrepancies, and would like to present an opposing view as to this issue.
"According to "Ask Brian" Volume 2 located at, Brian Jacques states there is no religion in Redwall. However, I feel this is untrue. I believe BJ does not want to get into semantics regarding religion, and chooses not to disclose details about it. I firmly believe Redwall has *some* sort of religion." -Lord TBT

Brian Jacques is the author of the series. The books are his creation. So, therefore, his word should be final, surely? Not so, Lord TBT believes. Apparently, Mr. Jacques is frightened of becoming entangled in religious discussions.

But, before I work on the subject editorial, just look at this topic from the layman's point of view. These books, however good, are a work of fiction. They focus around a community of talking animals. Surely one, if writing about something so fanciful, can make the central setting an abbey without facing criticism? No.

Statement one of the subject reads:
"The central location IS AN ABBEY.

What's an Abbey? An abbey is a religious building that is part of a monastery or convent."

An abbey is a place of equality, where people subside and live in harmony. Surely this is more important to one who is looking for a central location to a tale than the fact that it is a religious building? I believe so. As does Brian, I think.
"The leader is an Abbot or Abbess.

An Abbot generally belongs to a class of bishops and oversees abbeys. An Abbess is a nun who leads a convent (or an abbey)."

Notice also how this leader is referred to often as "Father" or "Mother" in the series. In short, an abbot/abbess is a guiding figure. They are looked to in times of questioning. Would one have it that the leader was a military one, a general? Or a political one, a president? If writing a story involving an abbey already, the sensible choice is an abbot or abbess. They are also a combination of the above, or at least for the purposes of the series, where the abbey is harried by enemies. On top of this, they are a parental entity.
"Adults are referred to as "Brothers", "Sisters", and "Friars".

"Brothers" are males involved with a religious order. "Sisters" are nuns or females involved with a religious order. "Friars" were Roman Catholic monks."

Carrying on the previous point, the abbey is the location, so why have anything but titles associated with this theme? Also, "Brother", and "Sister" are carrying on the communal track of an abbey, with all inhabitants equal. "Friars" are always cooks in the series, and the title is in no way associated with religion other than name, it being the label of a chef's post, and not given to wandering monks. It is also a pun on "Fryer", a witty turn.

"Dark Forest" is referenced many times in the Redwall series. Vermin have been known to swear, saying "Hellsgates"! This is the afterlife, where dead characters go. When a character is on the verge of death, he or she sometimes runs into relatives or important people from their life "at the gates".

Atheists or unreligious types do not believe in the afterlife. The afterlife, Heaven and Hell, are all religious concepts."

Can I aid you here? There are also places involving "sunny meadows" and suchlike. I think every civilisation has some sort of afterlife. So-called "atheists" must believe in some ethereal being, merely because they are denying the existence of something. So is it not valid to say they are denying a noun, however abstract? Does this count as religion? Mr. Jacques involves Dark Forest and such places because his stories have morals. Maybe they are that there is a reward for bringing justice and truth to the world? Ponder this: if there was no afterlife in Redwall, could you think of what the books would be like? I don't think the existence of somewhere after death is religious, more civilised. In fact, this has been backed up by my School Chaplain.

Another theory I can surmise is that Dark Forest is a reference to burial; the body is returned to the earth, where there is a sediment of leaves: Hence, Dark Forest. However, this seems unlikely.

We are all familiar with the spirit of Martin the Warrior; he is the universal character in every book. Ghosts and spirits of other characters also turn up. Spirits generally come from the afterlife to speak to others, thus confirming again that the afterlife exists. One could compare these "spirits", in a way, to angels."

Indeed one could, if one set that as a target.

I think this paragraph is wrong in several ways: One, the spirit of Martin the Warrior is not present in all the books. Lord Brocktree is set a long time before his existence, Martin the Warrior itself features him as a corporeal being, and so do Mossflower and The Legend of Luke. These "spirits" of characters that appear are hallucinations. In Outcast of Redwall, Sunflash is bitten by a snake. While in a fever, he sees "ghosts" of his ancestors. When he awakes, he says they are but hallucinations induced by his physical and mental state. Even if they are not, then they are put in to add to the story. One has to look at this debate with the fact that the series is fictional in mind.
"Medieval times

The series is set in the Middle Ages, this is undeniable. The Middle Ages was the Christianization of the Roman Empire. Christianity was spread throughout Europe.

I believe this is some underlying symbolism for the time period and the setting."

How extraordinary. You believe Brian Jacques involves religious undercurrents in his text? Perhaps if this was His Dark Materials, or some 4th century scroll, I would be inclined to agree with you. However, I think that seriously there is no underlying religious meaning. The Middle Ages is a time setting. It is reasonable to say that this is more interesting than having a story about abbeys set in the Imperial Age. Abbeys are generally thought of as being in their prime in the Medieval period. Logically, the series would be set there.

We know marriage occurs in Redwall. We don't see these weddings, but there are married couples within the series. Marriage is a religious concept, especially considering the time period of the setting."

Marriage is the joining of two- for this purpose- people who love each other. Also, it probably helps with book sales. If couples did not marry, there would probably be families who wouldn't approve of their children reading about birth outside of wedlock. However, this is secondary when you consider that this is the generally accepted way to entwine two people. Atheists marry, if only in a registry office.
"I believe these 7 points prove religion DOES exist in Redwall. If there wasn't a religion, said roles and references wouldn't have been made. You're free to disagree, but the above holds solidly."

With no offence meant, I don't get the impression Brian is an incredibly religious man. Not many people are. He has written his brilliant works of fiction with a basic principle in mind- the ideas of an abbey culture, without the religion, combined with a modern lifestyle. If he meant for there to be religion, he would have had services in Great Hall, stained glass windows of angels. But no, Great Hall is a dining and meeting area, the windows demonstrate what Redwall stands for, and its history. I, and most readers of the Redwall series, are agreed there is no religious significance. But, the reader is free to make their choice.


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