On a story of confusing proportions

I am having a bit of trouble getting through Redwall. I feel terrible, since I know lots of people – including one of my best friends who I talk about here – loved the books, and so many people have told me they are fantastic, but I am finding reading it a bit of a battle. As I mentioned before, I have been a bit sleep deprived for the past few weeks, so it is entirely possible that I misunderstood or just missed the section where Brian Jacques explains everything but… my main problem is that I can’t visualise everything in my head because I can’t work out the proportions!

Let me explain.

Redwall takes place in a fantastical world, where animals talk and have human characteristics and wear shoes and swords and eyepatches. The main character is Matthias, a young mouse who lives in Redwall, an abbey in the middle of a forest. Here is where my problem lies. It is never clearly explained whether this abbey is human-sized, and the mice mice-sized, or if the mice are human-sized and live in a human sized abbey, or whether everything is mice-sized. Do they live in the walls of the abbey, and co-habit with humans? Other creatures take shelter in this abbey, such a badger, a hare and a family of squirrels. Is the badger normal badger-sized, and the mice mice-sized? Or are all the animals sort of evened-out, so they are all a similar size?

These questions are never answered (or if they were, I must have dozed off at that point). There is mention of a horse pulling a cart which contains two hundred rats, which makes me think that all  the animals are their normal size. But if so, how does the badger fit in a mice-sized abbey? There has been several times that I have put down the book and gone: but how does that work?

I need some sort of diagram to clarify it all for me.

Until then, I am having trouble picturing everything, since I don’t know what size everything is supposed to be! An without a book filling your head with lovely images, it is hard to engage with the story. I do like the sparrows though (who speak a language called sparra – a sort of pigeon english. See what I did there?). Perhaps thats because I can see sparrows and mice talking to each other – they are almost the same size.

I know at least one of my followers is a Redwall fan. Can he (or anyone else) explain the dimensions of everyone to me, so I can settled down and finish the book?





  1. This makes me think of Despereaux by DiCamillo a little. I read it because everyone told me how fabulous it was, but I could barely get through it. I still don’t understand what people loved about it.

  2. I liked Mossflower a lot more than Redwall and owned at least 7 of these before I grew out of them, but that doesn’t really address your issue with them. I think, when I was little, I thought about it thus: 1) there’s no humans at all and this is a fantasy world, so proportionality doesn’t matter the way it would in say, Watership Down, and everything is animal-sized 2) there are some significant differences in size, which matters most when fighting – it would take a bunch of rats, for example, to take down a badger, but not as many as in the real world – I think the cover art is very useful in that regard, 3) I had totally forgotten the horse thing, that would have really confused me, but I think that sort of thing mostly disappears in the other books …

    • I’ve been reading about the Redwall series online, and apparently Brian Jacques didn’t really know the rules of the world himself when he started writing the first book, and there are some inconsistencies between the first book and the rest of the series. Apparently Jacques alludes to (I didn’t pick this up though) humans and domesticated animals in the first book, and never mentions them again – there is an understanding in the following books that there are no humans in Redwall’s world.
      There is also clarification in later books that all the animals are either shrunken or enlarged so most animals are sort of on the same scale, albeit the larger animals are still a bit bigger than the small animals. The horse, for example, some has written is inconsistent with the rest of the series, as not only is it so much larger than any other animal (large enough to carry 200 rats in a cart) but it also cannot speak. Brian Jacques just didn’t know exactly how his world would work yet, which is why these little niggly bits differ from the rest of the series (and annoyed me!).
      I might give the next book a go and see if all this stuff is clearer to me as the boundaries of the world will be much clearer in other books.

  3. Pingback: On strategising squirrels « 1001 Children's Books

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