September 29th, 2002
I have recently finished 'The Lord of the Rings'. It had parts that I liked and parts that I did not like, but overall I felt it certainly was a well written classic piece of imaginative literature. But something struck me, and the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew; there were distinct parallels between 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Taggerung'.
Deyna and Frodo:
To some the central character in each book could not be more disalike to the other, but actually I believe there are some similarities. Both are born into a place of peace and plenty that enjoys the quiet life, where few seek adventure and throughout their journeys they both long to return there.
However, there is one thing that appears to break the parallels: the ring, the central object of 'The Lord of the Rings'. But, there is an equivalent in 'The Taggerung': the birthmark and the being Taggerung. In both situations they give power, yet cause more harm than good. Both are lusted after by many, yet are not wanted by he who posses it, both have drawn their bearers closer to their enemies and both must be relinquished in order to live a happy peaceful life. In each case it is the power of the ring/the anger of those lusting after Taggerungship that defeats the main enemy of Frodo/Deyna, though that does not mean to say that Frodo and Deyna do not defeat their lesser enemies.
Nimbalo and Sam:
Every hero needs a sidekick and Deyna and Frodo are not exempt from this. The similarities here are on quite a basic level; both a generally comical but with moments of serious drama and emotion. Both are likeable characters.
Mhera and Aragorn:
Both eventual leaders emerge into their roles through the course of the book, but it is at the point of siege that both show their best qualities. Both are nowhere in the hierarchy of what they eventually rule. Both appear wise for their age, though Aragorn is actually really old. Both rise to positions of leadership in times of threat. Both are close to the next figure.
Cregga and Galadriel:
Both of these act as wise mentors to the above character. Both are, I believe, the oldest living characters in each book and both are fading; in the end, Cregga dies and Galadriel sails away from Middle Earth. What they did in there earlier lives is hinted in the book. Both have their riddles, which are fulfilled as the book develops.
Russano and Gandalf:
These two characters are, in some ways, the male equivalents of Cregga and Galadriel. Both are also mysterious figures that appear from nowhere. But, they also do something more; they actually use their power, though neither gains victory by any huge battle or massacre.
But, despite these parallels, there are also points of difference, which are in some cases polaric.
a.. The first is that of the enemy. In LotR, Sauron is extremely powerful, more so than any other character. Whereas, in 'The Taggerung', there is actually no definite main villain; it is probably either Sawney, Gruven or Ruggan. Each fails, the first two in death and the latter in submission. Sauron is also supernatural and is potentially omniscient, all knowing, whereas, in 'The Taggerung', all characters are non-supernatural, apart from the Taggerung, possibly, depending on how you read the book.
b.. The main criticism of LotR for many is the way it is very much male dominated. The only two exceptions to this are Galadriel and Eowyn. The former actually never fights and is simply a wise figure, while the latter is mellowed and tamed by her husband to be. But, in 'The Taggerung' females are far more potent: Mhera, Cregga, Grissoul, Rukky Garge, Fwirl, Antigra, Madd...
c.. The ending to both books has a sense of closure to it. But, LotR finishes with departure, while 'The Taggerung' ends with the arrival of Russano and the hares. This is also true when one looks at the Redwall series as a whole; there are generally new beginnings being made. It has been commented recently in an article at Terrogue that it would be good for the series to have a finish; I disagree. The two series mentioned in the article as to having very final endings, LotR and Narnia, are able to do so, because they relate the events of an entire world, whose fate balances on the outcome of the storyline. In addition to this, there are also clear spiritual undertones as to moving on to a world after that in which the story is set, allowing a finality without death. This is not possible in Redwall where it is simply a tale and not a mythology; the events of a particular book have little effect on the future of this imaginary land.
There are, of course, different themes to the books. Redwall is really concerned with characters growing, actually as a person changing, whereas in LotR it is more concerned with characters revealing their true power, the hobbits being a slight exception. The settings are slightly different too; the LotR has far darker surroundings. It is also true that LotR is depicted in a Norse themed world, which is inhabited by characters of mythical creatures as opposed to animals.
Which do I prefer?
There are two sides to this question: which do I enjoy more and which would I call more a classic piece of literature? In answer to the first question I would say Redwall, though that is only my own personal opinion. The stories capture me more and I am never left for a moment in a place where I am not greatly compelled to read on just then. I also feel that they are more re-readable for me, as, even when I know the storyline, I still really enjoy the reading. In terms of asking which would I call more of a 'classic' piece of literature, I would say LotR; it is full of symbols and reflections on the real world by the author; this is less so in Redwall.
What is the lesson here? I would say that just because a book is a 'classic' does not mean you have to feel that you are clearly missing something and that you are clearly not deep enough in your thoughts, if you do not enjoy it as much as other books. When we read Silas Marner in school, the majority of my class really disliked, and yet many of us read such classics as Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austin and Tolstoy avidly. The best books a really the ones either most enjoyed or productive.