-The Dark Fox
August 29th, 2003
As I write this, the Redwall E-zine Terrouge is carrying an article entitled "Anticipating Loamhedge". It starts off normally enough, with a brief description of Loamhedge's background, and a little of what is known about the upcoming Redwall book. When it gets to the predictions made by people from around the ROC, however, the article takes a shocking turn, as dozens of statements decrying the Redwall series as "repetitive" and "tiring" pour in. I won't bother to quote all of these, as it would only be long and pointless, but I will note that one allegation implied that the average Redwall book was a "feel-good yarn of endlessly dizzying interchanges of multiple plots, stereotypical characters with no discernable motives, and unsatisfying simple conflicts."
The above statements on the Redwall series are nothing more than opinions (though I'm fairly sure some people with similar feelings would disagree), and there's nothing wrong with a person feeling that way towards the Redwall books. I pity that kind of mindset, but I understand it, and hey, to each his own. The real question here lies in why these people are participating in the ROC - the Redwall Online Community. Surely someone who holds the series in such contempt can't have any interest in discussing the books? No, there is a deeper reason for their existence within the ROC.
Before I continue that thought any further, I should address a claim made by many holders of what I will henceforth call the "anti-Redwall sentiment", which seems to vindicate their presence in the ROC. This is the claim that the quality of the Redwall books has been declining in recent years. Those who hold this opinion believe that the Redwall series was not always repetitive, but has only begun to reuse its old plot elements in the last few books. Although this too is merely opinion, it is also completely unfounded in that this "repetition" is nothing new. The Redwall books have been reusing elements of one plot structure almost since the beginning. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Brian has made each book witty, thrilling, and fun in it's own unique way. The point is that there has been no sudden change that has caused Redwall fans to become bitter towards their once-beloved series.
Where, then, did the anti-Redwall sentiment originate within the ROC? I think the main cause is the average age of a Redwall fan. While Redwall can appeal to readers of all ages, it especially seems to attract early teenagers, who are gradually moving on from simple books to more complex ones. Early on, they have nothing but enthusiasm for these exciting books, which are much better than any book series they've read before. As they search for Redwall websites on the internet, they find a plethora of websites, clubs, and forums. Here, in the Redwall Online Community, they play games, make friends, and have fun.
As these Redwall fans grow older, however, their tastes begin to change. They begin to read more complex books, with deep meanings and underlying themes. Often there comes a time when these Redwall fans will eagerly pick up the newest Redwall book only to meet with a series of shocking revelations. This book doesn't contain all that much depth. Its plot and many of its characters seem reminiscent of the earlier books. This book doesn't seem as incredible to me as the other books did when I first read them. Thus, the anti-Redwall sentiment is born inside disillusioned fans. They proceed to blame the series for losing its magical effect upon them, but Redwall hasn't lost any of its charm or whimsy. The only thing that's changed is them.
This only brings us back to square one: if they've stopped liking Redwall, why are they still a part of the ROC? The answer is both simple and complicated at the same time. To put it simply, part of the problem is something I've been doing throughout this editorial: treating the Redwall Online Community as an independent, tangible entity. When a Redwall fan grows tired of the series, they often cling to the fun they've had and the friends they've made over the internet. In doing so, they try to ignore that this is the Redwall Online Community, sites dedicated to the Redwall series where Redwall fans can discuss and celebrate the books. Instead, they think of it as the more ambiguous ROC, a place where people have fun discussions and role-play, and linger on Redwall sites like ghosts of the fans they once were.
These "ROC ghosts", clinging to the fun they've had discussing Redwall while abandoning the series itself, are beginning to transform the Redwall Online Community into something it was never intended to be. The signs are easily evident. More and more websites are being created which focus on other ROC websites instead of Redwall. Many "Redwall" role-playing sites now allow magic and exotic animals, while distancing themselves from the actual elements of the books. And, of course, many "fans" that have absolutely no interest in the Redwall series now populate various Redwall forums.
Where will this transformation lead us? Nobody can be sure, but I've got a pretty good idea. Somewhere along the line, a few sites will begin branching out away from Redwall entirely, proudly proclaiming that they're "not just for Redwall anymore". The "ROC Ghosts" will flock to these sites, eager to stay with their old friends while avoiding the actual discussion of Redwall. These websites will slowly distance themselves from Redwall completely, until only the oldest members remember that they were ever connected to Redwall to begin with. As twisted as it may sound, this outcome would probably be the best one for all of us. The "ROC Ghosts" will be able to cling to the fun they had while participating in the Redwall Online Community, while leaving the actual Redwall fans to enjoy the community for what it really is.
Or, to be blunt, we'll be better off without them.
(NOTE: no offense was meant towards Terrouge. While I disagree with some of the articles they publish, I have nothing but respect for the people who run it.)
-The Dark Fox