Triss: My Final Word|
September 29th, 2002
The general release of 'Triss' draws ever closer. Almost every week something new seems to emerge to me; it is no surprise that we know so much already. So much has been said previously that I think it is time to just sit back and wait, as all our hype seems unlikely to bring its release any closer. But, before I take my own advice, I am going to lay all my cards on the table.
This editorial will be broken into three main sections. The first of these will display my sources of information, giving credit to the relevant people. The second analyses what facts can be drawn from these pieces of information. While the third is full of estimations and guesstimations as to the possible implications of these facts.
1. Sources of information:
1) The famous handwritten note:
"RIFTGUARD - Stronghold of the albino ferrets and their ratguards. Prison to a host of starved and miserable slaves, one of whom is Triss the squirrelmaid.
So how is this island stronghold connected to Brockhall, Redwall Abbey, and Salamandastron?
A young badger, and a young hare run away from their home. They join up with a sea otter friend to go adventuring in his boat.
Terror lurks in Mossflower Wood, the creatures of Redwall find their way of life endangered by a nameless horror.
A sea chase, mysteries to be solved, old scores to be settled, new companions to be made. Feasts, songs, battles aboundin', and a heroine whose name will be written into legend. The Swordmaid...... TRISS!
Faithful Redwallers -- wait until my Webmaster David brings you more news from me.
Recorder of Redwall Abbey"
2) A blurb posted on the official site:
"Enslaved by the evil ferret King Agarnu of Riftgard, and his cruel daughter, Kurda, the brave squirrelmaid Triss plans a daring escape by sea.
At the same time, far away in Salamandastron, three young companions sail away from their mountain home too, but for a very different reason - they are seeking adventure.
Meanwhile, in Mossflower Woods, a pair of wandering Dibbuns accidentally discover the long-lost entrance to Brockhall, the most legendary home of the Badger Lords.
The three groups of travellers are drawn together by fate, when Triss comes to Redwall, and the inhabitants of the abbey find that they have a new champion - someone brave enough to carry the sword of Martin the Warrior and face the evil that threatens them all.
In this, the fifteenth novel in the Redwall epic, Brian Jacques once again looks to the history of the sword of Martin the Warrior for his adventure, and introduces a new and unforgettable heroine."
3) Information on the characters, posted by Snowfur of the Redwall Encyclopaedia:
a.. The good beasts: Triss the squirrelmaid and her friends Welfo the hogmaid and Shogg the otter, Lord Hightor and Lady Merola of Salamandastron, Abbot Apodemus the mouse, Bescarum the hare, Sagaxus the badger, Kroova the sea otter
b.. The baddies: King Agarnu of Riftgard, Princess Kurda, Prince Bladd (all ferrets)
4) Various questions from the most recent 'Ask Brian' contest:
"Q: Where are Triss and Loamhedge placed in the chronological order of the Redwall books?
A: After Taggerung."
"Q: Will a girl ever become the redwall champion and have Martin's sword?
A: See Triss."
"Q: Over the last few months, I heard that the club Dibbuns Against Bedtime was to be used in the book The Taggerung. I have recently read the book, and noticed that the club was not included in the book. I was just wondering if it was actually ever supposed to be included in the book, and if so, why was it left out?
A: It's in Triss. "
5) Parrot56 e-mailed me recently and he said, amongst other things:
"'Triss' has 380-something pages and we do see the return of a mouse abbot and other mice in the abbey"
6) An extract from the August issue of Terrogue in an article written by Sean, giving an interesting perspective on the new book:
"Triss is the absolutely funniest Redwall book yet written. At times, it's almost a complete farce. I cannot say whether Mr. Jacques did this intentionally or the characters just lend themselves to excessive humour. Either way, I laughed to tears quite often. Triss witnesses the advent of non-serious badgers, German accents, and funnier, more gluttonous hares than ever before."
7) Here are various definitions of words that will help when examining characters, which you might quite possibly already know:
Saraband- a traditional dance to 3 4 time.
Brag- to show of. (Please do not laugh, if you know this already, as it is a common word)
Sagacious- wise, sage-like.
Tor- a hill or rocky height.
I would like to thank all those who have provided information.
a.. Triss: she is a squirrel. It is clear that she wields the sword of Martin. It is also clear that she becomes the Redwall Champion. She is a prisoner on Riftguard.
b.. Welfo: she is a hogmaid. She is a friend of Triss and also a slave. Her role later on in the book is not stated.
c.. Shogg: no gender is stated. However, his name sounds masculine. He is an otter, the third slave on Riftguard(no, there probably are more than three) and another friend of Triss.
d.. Lord Hightor: a badger lord of Salamandastron.
e.. Lady Merola: a badger lady of Salamandastron.
f.. Abbot Apodemus: the abbot of Redwall abbey. He is a mouse.
g.. Bescarum: a hare. Probably a glutton, if he is the one referred to in Terrogue.
h.. Sagaxus: a badger. He is a friend of Bescarum.
i.. Kroova: a sea otter. He owns a boat, in which he, Bescarum and Sagaxus sail off in search of adventure.
j.. Two dibbuns: information concerning them is scarce. They discover Brockhall.
k.. Inhabitants of the abbey: many would appear to be mice. No badgermother is known of at present.
l.. King Agarnu: king of Riftguard.
m.. Princess Kurda: princess of Riftguard.
n.. Prince Bladd: prince of Riftguard.
o.. Ratguards: inhabitants of Riftguard.
p.. A nameless horror or an evil that threatens the characters: this may simply be one or several of the afor mentioned characters.
a.. Redwall: obviously. I have already stated the abbot and its other inhabitants. Triss will become its champion. Nothing else is concrete in terms of the abbey.
b.. Riftguard: the second most important setting after Redwall, probably. It is an island on which albino ferrets, namely King Agarnu, Princess Kurda and Prince Bladd, live, served by their ratguards and slaves. There are three slaves that we know the names of: Triss, Welfo and Shogg. Some impression of what the island looks like can be gained from the brilliant British/Canadian cover.
c.. Salamandastron: with apparently a smaller part to play. There is no evidence that Salamandastron will feature greatly in 'Triss', though it is clear it will in some way. The only event that we know will happen at the extinct volcano is that Bescarum and Sagaxus are most likely to leave there. However, Lord Hightor and Lady Merola are both known as characters suggesting that it may have some greater importance.
d.. Brockhall: a promised return of the legendary home of badgers. Little is known of Brockhall's importance. No book has featured Brockhall since 'Mossflower'. All we know is that two dibbuns discover it.
3) Chronological placement: we know it and 'Loamhedge' come after '(The) Taggerung'.
4) Page Count: previous reports from reputable sources claimed 400. However, this may have been derived from an early approximate estimate made by the publishers; the actual length is, in the words of Parrot56, "380-something pages".
1.. Triss, Welfo and Shogg are slaves on Riftguard. They plan to escape by boat, and I think we can implicate with reasonable certainty that they do so successfully.
2.. Bescarum and Sagaxus run away from home, most probably Salamandastron, where Lord Hightor and Lady Merola. It is described not as an act of rebellion, merely as them seeking adventure. They join up with Kroova and sail to sea in his boat.
3.. Two dibbuns, to be named in the next section, find Brockhall.
4.. They all somehow end up at Redwall. Triss becomes champion, or atleast wields the sword of Martin.
5.. The abbey is threatened by some currently unnamed terror.
6) Features: these are those parts that will feature yet have not been linked in a reasonably definite place.
a.. The DAB(Dibbuns Against Bedtime) will feature. Its role is not clear. However, whether it is important or not, some may see it as Brian Jacques coming closer to the ROC, despite his general preference to older technologies.
b.. In the hand written note we are promised a sea chase(possibly involving Triss and co), mysteries(possibly concerning Brockhall), old scores(possibly between the slaves and the aristocracy of Riftguard), new companions(well that is a bit obvious really), feasts(of course), songs(we have already been given a sample by www.Redwall.org in the shape of Kroova's song), battles(with no definite cause or geographical position yet, though the abbey is always a good bet) and a heroine(well Triss, obviously).
c.. Some focus on the sword of Martin and its history.
d.. A return of mice in the abbey.
e.. A Germanic accent.
f.. More than usual comedy and farce.
a.. It is hard for one to determine much about Triss's personality. When I first read the handwritten note and saw that she would wield the sword of Martin I saw her as being very much like Mariel. This view changed when I saw the illustration from a chapter heading posted by Snowfur on the Redwall Encyclopaedia; Triss appeared to be being threatened by Princess Kurda and quite scared too. This image contrasts with the feisty image we have of Mariel, suggesting to me that Triss is more than that. We should not be surprised by this. It is very easy to expect the same characters to keep appearing with simply different species and names. It is easy to forget that when 'Mariel of Redwall' was first released she was actually a very different and new character herself. Some people did not like how Tagg was not, in their eyes, right in his treatment of Sawney Rath, as if, as a hero, he should not do that, and then go on to complain that they felt Nimbalo was too much like Gonff, in my view contradicting themselves, complaining when new ground is advanced upon and when a character is similar to a previous one is used. Whatever we predict a character to be like before the book, it is likely to be wrong, and whatever ideal we hold, if it is met, we are unhappy as we say it is all too predictable.
b.. There are no real clues as to the personalities of Welfo and Shogg, except for the fact that they are slaves and friends of Triss and are going to escape. Their importance is not clear either.
c.. I would assume that Lord Hightor and Lady Merola are married and not brother and sister or something, but one never knows. If I was to guess their relation to Sagaxus, I would say that they are his parents. However, there are many possibilities that need to be considered. Lord Hightor's name is intriguing to me, in particular the 'tor' part. I can personally not think of any possible meaning; it is quite probable that there is none.
d.. I would guess Sagaxus is the non-serious badger referred to as he is the younger. However, his name, if it is, as I would guess, derived from sagacious, seems to contradict this. Perhaps it is intended to be ironic.
e.. Bescarum may simply be a young hare of the mountain and friend of Sagaxus. I find it interesting how Snowfur mentioned him before Sagaxus. Does this mean that perhaps he is more important to the story or that he appears first? Quite possibly neither.
f.. I should in some ways say this in the section above but the two dibbuns are Sarabando and Bragoon. If you are wondering who these two are, read the handwritten note concerning 'Loamhedge' in which they are referred to as "two dibbuns now growing old", suggesting they have been dibbuns in another book, the only one possible being 'Triss'. It is quite likely that they are connected to the DAB in some way. There names may actually be clues to their characters: e.g. Sarabando dances a lot and Bragoon brags. But, I am not at all certain apart from that their names seem quite dibbun like.
g.. It would be very easy for someone to suggest that the relationships in the royal family are similar to those is 'Mossflower', with the daughter dominating over the son. However, it is important, again, not to look at past characters and assume that future ones will be similar to them. The fact that they are albino ferrets may have little sway at all, or it may be used as a slight 'novelty feature', as the Marlfoxes did.
h.. The nameless horror certainly seems very mysterious. The fact that it is nameless might suggest it is a character we have not already been acquainted with earlier in the book. The way it is said to threaten their way of life would suggest that it perhaps is not involved in conquest. Perhaps it is some bird of prey that looks to the abbey dwellers for prey; who knows? I myself am content to wait for release to know.
a.. Redwall: it would appear to not be in decline, as was hinted upon in 'Marlfox'; the fact that we have an abbot would seem to confirm this, though we do not know of any badger mother. But, it may be that no badger mother has been mentioned simply because she is not very central and not a returning character.
b.. Riftguard: its location is currently unknown to me. For me there are two possible locations that could be reused: Terramort and the isle of the Marlfoxes, though it would not surprise me if a totally new location is created. For me there is only one real limit for its location; if the travellers are to be drawn together by fate, then Riftguard must be close enough to Salamandastron, Redwall and Brockhall, yet the slaves escaping Riftguard meet up with those sailing away from Salamandastron, suggesting it is in the western sea, possibly discounting the isle of the Marlfoxes.
c.. Salamandastron: it's role seems quite limited to me from what I have seen. However, it is possible that it may play a larger part later on. It is quite likely that the hare forces of Salamandastron number greater than a thousand, judging by the steadily increasing figures in 'The Long Patrol' and 'The Taggerung'. One does wonder how so many hares could be accommodated. Perhaps this has some relation to the storyline itself.
d.. Brockhall: it looks as if it really will be the ancient home of badger lords, considering the length of time, both in real time and Redwall chronology, since its last feature. So consequently when these dibbuns stumble upon it find it by accident, they probably where not searching for it and most likely do not know what it is. In addition, it is most likely that it is in a bad state, or atleast unclean, and, almost definitely, uninhabited by badgers, though perhaps by some other beast.
3) Chronological Placement. If it is true that Sarabando and Brogoon are the two dibbuns I have already referred to then it would mean that 'Triss' is chronologically before 'Loamhedge', which makes sense as it is to be released one year before and was, as far as I can say, written the year before.
4) Storyline: there is very little for me to add here.
a.. It is probably a few chapters into the book before they escape Riftguard, giving time to set the scene. However, it would be my guess that they have already begun planning the escape before the book has started, cutting away excess storyline not necessary and not potentially off putting to a first time reader.
b.. Similarly, little time is likely to be spent on Bescarum and Sagaxus before they leave. Though, by the way that Snowfur chose to mention Lord Hightor and Lady Merola, it seems likely that we will see them before they leave or atleast see something of Salamandastron in the book.
c.. It is likely that, if one looks at the 'features' described in the last section, some score will be created before or at the beginning of the start of the book, most probably involving Triss as she is the heroine.
d.. After the escape by sea, it would seem quite possible that they are pursued by some creatures from Riftguard, thus giving a sea chase. I would guess that one member of the aristocracy is one of these creatures from Riftguard if they are to be a central villain. However, it is important to consider that the rulers of Riftguard may simply not be the central villains, like how Sawney Rath was not really the central villain in 'The Taggerung', though sometimes I wonder who was.
e.. The purpose off Brockhall in the greater storyline is slightly lost on me. I would guess that it would most likely have some relation to the appearance of this unnamed terror, as they are both in the same area.
f.. There are two loose ends that do not seem to fit the rest: the DAB and the focus on the sword of Martin. Perhaps they are simply side salads, much like Boorab and his years on probation, though the sword is said to have been looked to again for the story. However, this may simply mean that some of the story's focus is upon Triss, who wields the sword.
'Triss' looks really good to me. There are particular points that I am looking forward to:
a.. A female champion of Redwall.
b.. The nameless horror; there is such a great potential.
c.. Another badger lady of Salamandastron.
d.. The DAB.
e.. An abbot; we have had a run of abbesses over the past few books.
f.. More mice back in the abbey.
h.. Dibbuns being more involved in the story.
i.. A badger couple ruling Salamandastron.
j.. Germanic accents.
k.. More comedy.
However, there are, not to be negative, potential pitfalls:
a.. A heroine who has been done before.
b.. Lady Merola and other female characters besides Triss being sidelined. I think this would be a particular shame as one of the most attractive things about the book to me is the idea of a female champion.
c.. All abbey dwellers simply filling in template positions.
d.. A weak storyline being used that includes Brockhall merely as a novelty.
e.. The story being weakened by the including of dibbuns.
f.. The comedy meaning that little convincing serious storyline can be formed.
g.. Old mold creeping in to predictably and dominantly.
The last of these is what has plagued the series ever since it became a series. If Triss had been written a little while back I might have resigned myself to it being a simple template tale, but with 'The Taggerung' Brian Jacques has re-affirmed our belief in his capability to go beyond the template.
There will, however, always be an element of old mold in every tale of Redwall, as, to me, it is partially the enduring theme of the series: growth towards maturity. Even the grown, such as Martin and Cregga, grow as life shapes them.
In conclusion, 'Triss' looks really good. Ignore all expectations. Enjoy the book for what it is. I believe that the hype has been of an appropriate nature; we have been given enough for anticipation and speculation, but not too much to spoil the surprises. I would not wish anyone to spoil this by revealing more.