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The Grey Debate
-Nora the Rover
September 30th, 2003

For centuries untold, the battles between good and evil have appeared in legends, myths, stories and tales, battles and history.

The good always wins over the evil in the end; a hero rises from the crowd, or a group of rebels, brave enought to fight and drive away the foe. The idea is ancient, embedded into people's very way of life. There are several exceptions to this, however.

Since the beginning of the ROC, (Redwall Online Community.), countless Redwall fans have argued and written over a large debate.

Grey characters.

What has caused this to become such a large issue, even, at times, rather unpopular? It's a bit of a difficult and controversial subject to write about. I'll explain some of the reasons why many Redwall fanatics are debating over this problem...

Firstly, what are 'grey' characters? Most people think of them as people, (Or creatures, in this matter.), that have no affilation with either the 'good', or the 'bad' side, or creatures that, normally thought 'bad', (For their species/race), actually become good, or the other way around.

As stated in Redwall.org's 'Ask Brian', Brian Jacques clearly stated that there are 'no grey characters in his books', only 'goodies, and baddies'. Many people took this statement wrongly, and became upset.

According to socialpsychology.org, the idea and behaviour of some of the creatures of the Redwall books is similar to racism. I know, it probably sounds somewhat ridiculous, but it's true. If you've noticed, in most of the books, the woodlanders and creatures of Redwall Abbey treat vermin with distaste and are quite prejudiced against them. It's obvious that they have reasons for disliking rats, ferrets, stoats, foxes, weasels, etc. Most vermin tend to also hate woodlanders and the like, and seem to be greedy, cruel, and evil to the 'good' creatures.

Basically, the woodlanders were taught to dislike vermin, from the time they were Dibbuns. It seems somewhat hard for them to like the idea of vermin as good creatures, just as it seems difficult for vermin to see good creatures acting as they do.

As in the Crusades of the Middle Ages, the people of Europe saw the Saracens, Muslims, and Middle Eastern people as rude, cruel barbarians. Many political and military leaders showed the people a wrong image of the Middle Eastern people. It was simply because their style of life and beliefs were different.

This brings me to the central idea: Why some creatures were viewed as bad, or might even be driven into becoming bad because of the stereotypical image of the 'vermin'. Veil, from The Outcast of Redwall is a perfect example of this prejudice.

Some people thought that Veil, a ferret raised by the Redwallers, had been driven to becoming bad; e.g: he was blamed for causing trouble, stealing things, etc. Some of the time it was true. Bryony, his adopted mother/caretaker, believed that he had been driven to becoming evil, after the incident in which he tried to poison the friar. My belief is that this was an excuse to cover up for his behaviour. It wasn't because he was a vermin, but because he was spoiled and was allowed too much lenience. In the end, he showed his true character of being raised by the good woodlanders; sacrificing his life to save Bryony's. Perhaps Veil wasn't exactly evil, although he did many bad things.

The next example is Deyna/Tagg, from (The) Taggerung. The otter was raised by vermin after being kidnapped as an infant. The Juskarath clan seer had believed that Deyna was to be the next Taggerung, a great war leader, for Sawney Rath's Juska clan. Known as Tagg, at the time, Deyna knew of the ways of vermin, and their style of life, yet he didn't enjoy or approve of the plundering or killing. Deyna left the tribe when he refused Sawney's orders to kill Felch, a traitor to the tribe. Many people have wondered why Deyna hadn't acted as a typical vermin. It's most likely because of the memories and dreams he had of his life before he was kidnapped. He knew he wasn't a vermin, but a woodlander, most of which he knew weren't killers or rude and ill-mannered.

Mixed throughout the books, there are also characters who have betrayed their own 'groups' and aren't the creatures they appear to be. Fenno the shrew, (Marlfox), killed his own leader out of anger and jealousy. Druwp the vole, (Martin the Warrior), was greedy, and was easily bribed. He tried to give information away to the enemy of the plans of the slaves' escape. Luckily, Keyla prevented any such thing from happening. Blaggut, a rat, (The Bellmaker), joined forces with the Redwallers after his captain was killed. Romsca, a ferret, (Pearls of Lutra), showed kindness to the abbot of Redwall Abbey, and prevented him from being killed by Lask Frildur.

Cats have caused quite a bit of a problem as well. In Mossflower, Lord Verdauga Greeneyes treated Martin the Warrior with fairness after he had been captured by his army. He had seen that Martin was no ordinary mouse and spoke true to his word. Tsarmina, daughter of Verdauga, later killed him, so she could have power and rule over the conquered parts of Mossflower. Gingivere, son of Verdauga, was wrongly blamed for his father's murder, and imprisoned. He later escaped, along with two hostage hedgehogs, and helped in the battle against his sister's tyrannical rule. Gingivere's wife, Lady Sandingomm, also contributed in the war, offering their farmhouse as a shelter for woodlanders. Squire Julian Gingivere, a descendant of Gingivere, in Redwall, helped Matthias in his search for Martin's sword and fought alongside Captain Snow in the final battle. Ungatt Trunn, (Lord Brocktree), brother of Verdauga Greeneyes, besieged Salamandastron and took it for himself. Later, Lord Brocktree won back the mountain fortress from Ungatt Trunn, his sworn foe.

Owls are also grey characters, in a way. Most owls are somewhat grudgingly respectful of the woodlanders and often are called to help them, though not without a price. Udara Groundslay, Captain Snow, and Stonehead McGurney are some examples. Most eagles and birds of prey act quite fierce and only agree to help a creature if there is something in the plan for them as well.

People have many different views on the behaviour of these 'grey' characters. Some have said that without them, the Redwall books would seem terribly dull, as well as RPGing. Other Redwall fans have said that they dislike the idea of grey characters, though they are few in number. I believe that these grey characters provide interesting personalities, and that people shouldn't be so prejudice against others.

These are just my opinions of why and what grey characters are in stories, but I hope the explanations have helped a bit. Hopefully this has changed your view about grey characters. It's an interesting topic to dwell on. Everyone has their own idea of grey characters, who knows what you might get out of it?

-Nora the Rover

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