September 29th, 2002
With the release of 'Tribes of Redwall: Otters' and the paperback edition of 'The Taggerung' I think it might be a good time for reviewing otters as a species. 'The Taggerung'(released last September) is the first book to have an otter wield the sword of Martin so it appears to me that the importance of this species looks set to grow.
A potted histroy:
In the first 'Tales of Redwall', in what I call 'Old Redwall', otters featured in generally quite limited roles, the biggest of which being that of 'Skipper of Otters' in 'Mossflower', but even that role was somewhat small compared to the roles of mice and badgers. The first real breakthrough for otters was in 'Salamandastron'. It is Thrugg the otter, who, with baby Dumble on his back, saves Redwall from the grips of Dryditch Fever by trekking to the Mountains of the North and finding the flowers of Icetor. Yet even here he is still slightly on the sideline, with characters such as Samkin, Mara and Urthstripe stealing the limelight.
In 'Martin the Warrior' otters drifted back into the shadows, with the biggest character being my namesake, Keyla. But the next year brought a fresh, if slightly scarred face, to the species: Finnbar Galedeep. Not only is his death the biggest tragedy in the book(in my view) but he kills the villain(Foxwolf).
After 'The Bellmaker' came 'Outcast of Redwall', where otters became of a lesser importance, the biggest parts played by otters were Skipperjo, Ruddle and Folrig. But, then came 'The Pearls of Lutra'. This, in my view, is the first tale to have the single central character as an otter. Now some people may wish to dispute that Grath was the central character in 'The Pearls of Lutra' and that Finnbar was already the central character in 'The Bellmaker', making him the first, but I can argue against this. In the 'Redwall Friend and Foe' there seems to be one 'friend' and one 'foe' listed for each tale, released by that point. Also, the character listed seemed to be the central character of each tale, which is logical. Finnbar is not listed, suggesting that he is not the central character, and that Joseph is, as he is listed. Martin II is also not listed, but Grath is, suggesting that she is the central character. But you may, quite rightly, ask whether these estimations are correct. But, they come from the best source: Brian Jacques himself.
After 'The Pearls of Lutra' came 'The Long Patrol' and 'Marlfox', both two very good books, but neither featured otters in particularly significant parts. But then came the odd ball of the series: 'The Legend of Luke'. Though the book is dominated by mice we get a very interesting character: Folgrim. He is probably my favourite character in the entire book. He gave the book a completely new dimension and accomplished what I think is one of the 'Tales of Redwall's best attributes: the development of characters. 'Lord Brocktree' gave us two more otters, both of whom were quite different. Ruff is depicted a being a carefree rogue, slightly hard done by, but landing on his feet. Brog on the other hand is shown as a dutiful, compassionate son and a good leader. Though as characters neither develop greatly the contrast between them is good.
Most recently we had the real otter masterpiece: 'The Taggerung'. This book is bursting with otters. For a start the two main characters, Deyna and Mhera, are both otters. Besides that we have the first otter in known Redwall history to wield the sword of Martin, a sure triumph for the species.
So this takes us up to the current times, waiting for 'Triss'. In this soon to be released new addition to the series we have two definate otters. The first Kroova, a sea otter, who has such a marvelous song. If you have not read his song yet be sure to read an earlier editorial and find it; it is great. If I am reading into things properly it would seem that he is the sea that a badger and hare (I would guess Sagaxus and Bescarum). The other is Shogg, who I presume is a normal otter. He seems set to attempt to escape Riftguard with Triss and Welfo. I reckon he is the otter pictured on the UK and Canadian cover with Triss in a boat sailing towards what I imagine is Riftguard. I also reason that Sarabando the otter looks set to make his debut, as a dibbun. Though that is still open to doubt.
Also in 'Loamhedge' we know we have Sarabando, for definate, questing in search of Loamhedge. I personally reckon he will be wielding the sword of Martin.
Why are they so popular?
Most fans would not hesitate to say that they like otters, even if it is not their favourite species. Why are they so well liked? Because they dance the line! They do not tend to take the central role to often and are a slightly more 'wacky' species with their nautical terms. But at the same time they are not over wierd and are able to play the more central roles. Have you noticed how when Tammo was the central character his harelike ways were slightly toned down? This enabled him to play a serious character. But with otters this is not so vital, as they are not that extreme. They wear both the central and the sideline hat well. Now with their rise in recent and forthcoming books their popularity looks set to rise.