Redwall Summary

Brian Jacques


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Redwall Summary

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Redwall by Brian Jacques follows the struggle between gentle mice and savage rats. The mice live in Redwall Abbey, along with a number of refugees from the woodlands. In order to save the mice and refugees, Novice Matthias quests for the lost Sword of Martin the Warrior. The story begins with a celebration. The mice are throwing a jubilee sponsored by Abbot Mortimer, and creatures from the nearby woods are invited. Matthias, a clumsy, young mouse, takes guests home when a wagon filled with rats races by. The rats are led by Cluny the Scourge, who plots to take over Redwall Abbey. Cluny, with his Horde, has already taken over St. Ninjan’s Church, which was abandoned.

In the face of the rats’ threats, the woodland creatures band together; Matthias proves to be a worthy leader in all things military. The rats have stolen a picture of Martin the Warrior, which had hung on the wall. In its absence, Matthias, the other mice, and the woodland creatures can see clues to finding Martin the Warrior’s sword. With the sword, they feel they will finally be safe from the violent rats.

Matthias begins his search for the sword under Brother Methuselah’s advice. Meanwhile, Cluny makes multiple attempts to take Redwall Abbey, and Matthias is imprisoned for a short time. He is kept hostage by the sparrows who nest under the eaves of the roof, and who follow King Bull Sparra. While he is imprisoned, Matthias learns new clues about where he might find Martin’s mighty weapon, and once he escapes, he makes his way out of Redwall Abbey to seek the sword out. Because of his quest, he is absent for much of the siege.

Along his journey, Matthias meets and befriends a group of shrews. He gets advice from a cat and an owl when he finds an abandoned farm—they tell him to beware the sandstone quarry because there is a giant adder there named Asmodeus. Asmodeus, it turns out, has taken and hidden Martin’s sword, so Matthias knows he must face the snake. He manages to behead the snake and find the sword. As he heads back to the Abbey, he hopes that the rats have not taken it over. Matthias brings with him an army of sparrows and shrews.

Unfortunately, by the time they reach Redwall Abbey, Cluny has wormed his way in with trickery. Now, he is executing the mice and woodland creatures who call Redwall Abbey their home. The armies clash, and the struggle comes down to a one-on-one battle between Matthias and Cluny. They fight to the death. Though Cluny is stronger, Matthias manages to defeat and kill him. Matthias’s bravery does little for Abbot Mortimer though, who is fatally wounded. Before he dies, Mortimer commands that Matthias is named the champion of the Abbey and that he marry Cornflower, the mouse he loves. At the end of the story, the mice at the Abbey welcome woodland creatures as they celebrate a year after what they call the “Late Rose Summer Wars.” The mice celebrate their victory and the ensuing peace.

A prominent theme in Redwall is good versus evil. Redwall Abbey operates much like a Roman Catholic abbey; it is self-sufficient and focuses on purity of the soul, though there are no religious overtones—for example, the mice do not talk about the will of God. Instead, their focus is on their work, on providing refuge to other good woodland creatures in need, and in keeping the evil rats out of the abbey. The rats are not the only representation of evil; Asmodeus’s name is synonymous with the Devil and is an allegorical symbol of the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. This snake does not hunt because he needs to eat; he hunts to kill the good. Cluny represents the pinnacle of evil in Redwall; he is merciless and enjoys pillaging and hurting others.

Death is also an important theme in this story. However, depending on the character in question, its meaning changes throughout. For example, Matthias is warned to think of the sword not as a magical item, but as a bringer of death. For Cluny, death is a mere trifle. He deals death without remorse, readily and often brutally. For most of the mice, death is a necessary part of life that should also be mourned. When Methuselah dies and Matthias is believed to be dead, both are mourned and honored as heroes.

Redwall is a series of children’s novels in the fantasy genre, as well as the title of the first book in that series. Published in 1986, Redwall was adapted for television in 1999. In total, three seasons were produced, each with thirteen episodes. In 2000, the story was brought to the big screen with Redwall the Movie. An opera was adapted from the first book of the series in 1996 by Evelyn Swenson.