Why have all the vermin leaders in the books gotten into the habit of killing and hurting their own troops for little to no reason? Not only is it unwise to kill the creatures that would be fighting for you the next day, but this will also kill morale and encourage desertion.
Because it makes us not sympathize with the villain who eventually gets their comeuppance. It does get gratuitous, but most things involving the villains do.
Also to evoke fear in the troops so that they would obey the leader's word without question, for fear of death.
How does the vermin population stay so high when most of the males get slaughtered in each book?
Maybe all the surviving female vermin are like Kaguya the mouse and use parthenogenesis to rebuild their populations. Plus, they are 'vermin'', which naturally are tough little bastards that you can't kill (like groundhogs).
The reproductive potential of any population is determined mostly by its females. Assuming that a roughly equal number of female and male vermin are born, even if most of the males die fairly regularly, as long as a small number of males survive, the vermin population will actually GROW. Especially since these are rats and ferrets and such, which have extraordinarily short gestational periods.
The vermin are migrating from somewhere else due to population pressure - much as the Norse did in the last centuries of the first millennium and the Saxons before them. Great waves of surplus population are leaving their homelands looking for new territories.
There's also the obvious answer: the hordes, however large they appear to those they threaten, rarely number more than several hundred. Even when these armies are wiped out, it probably has no significant impact on their overall population.
Come to think of it, where are all the vermin coming from?
The "lands of snow and ice across the sea" is a good source. Many vermin have been stated as coming from there, such as Gulo the Savage and his band and Urgan Nagru and his army. Verduaga Greenye and Ungatt Trunn came from a high mountain kingdom.
Redwall has Cluny essentially recruiting about a fifth or more of his army just from vermin that lived within Mossflower, and while some were willing to join due to his name, others had to be threatened into working for him — and even then, they missed at least a couple of foxes. There seems to be a pretty big groups of vermin that simply don't bother the Redwallers, or even simply didn't travel much, until a strong leader decided to go on the offensive.
Why are all the vermin races Always Chaotic Evil? I can understand most cases, but when one was raised from infancy in Redwall Abbey this gets rather ridiculous.
There were a couple who were good, but their names escape me. Anyway it's just easier to justify fighting and killing your enemies if you think all of them are evil. Don't forget that some of the stories are specifically stated to be old stories that are being retold to an audience. When it came to writing them down, the fact that some of the creatures being killed were decent, honorable warriors with families and friends were probably forgotten. After all, these are abbey folks.
Blaggut (rat) from The Bellmaker is probably the clearest example of a 'good' vermin, and it's pretty obvious that he's going to redeem himself. Romsca (ferret) of Pearls of Lutra was nice but on the side of the bad guys and probably only helped the good guys because the bad ones were a far less cute group, did a Redemption Equals Deathand wishes she were born a goodbeast. Rasconza (fox) might count simply by never really running into any of the heroes. Grubbage (another rat) from Triss isn't really as major a character, but he's treated fairly well.
All we really have to tell us that Veil was evil is Bryony's word, and she may just be rationalising his Redemption Equals DeathHeroic Sacrifice. A large part of it was the screwed-upness caused by having no fucking clue who his parents were or what they had done.
It's also implied that everyone had at least had misgivings about Veil, if not outright distrust. It might've fed into the whole 'everyone hates me' thing he had going, but it'd probably be out of place in a 'kid's book'.
He also tried to poison someone over rather childish revenge, and did poison someone else by accident. Before that, he was still a kleptomaniac, rude, and predisposed to violence. This well could have been caused or fed by the distrust of Abbey-dwellers, but he's still a pretty nasty guy.
Really, this is just a stylistic choice. Brian Jacques himself has said that he doesn't like stories with a lot of moral ambiguity. He has a lot of adult fans, but his stories are primarily written for children, and children generally do prefer to just be the good guys fighting the bad guys. Consider it Reconstruction.
The problem with vermin characterization lies in the fact that in some books species are literally hats, with, say, "searat" being literally treated as a (criminal) career, while in others vermin are just written as less developed and more savage species. And sometimes this happens even within the same damn book (see: Outcast). And sometimes it is implied that there are peacefully living vermin beyond Mossflower, but everyone who actually bothers to travel from there are corsairs, raiders and conquerors.
Though this has long been Canon Discontinuity, in Redwall Methuselah is described as having conversed with benign foxes before. Also, during the Council of Elders meeting in Cavern Hole after Constance and Matthias first see Cluny, Constance describes his army of rats as "very bad and evil" and many of the mice come to the rats' defense, calling Constance out on her stereotyping. She proves to be right of course, but it's interesting to see how very different Redwall is from the rest of the series.
Actually in a way it makes sense: most of the vermin belong to species that would eat redwallers in real life.
What really bugs me is that, over all, what's a vermin and what's a good creature doesn't seem to be directly related to diet. It's more of a bell curve of evilness related to size, with a few outliers. Very small creatures, such as mice, shrews, and voles, are always good. Always. Medium sized ones, like foxes, weasels, and rats are generally evil. Large ones, like badgers and sea otters, are good again, even if they're carnivores. Even with cats... three out of the five we've seen are good, and they fit in near the top of the medium sized group.
But wolverines are twice the size of badgers, if not larger, and they're evil. Squirrels and rats are about the same size, and least weasels (the type most likely to be seen in England) are much smaller than the average squirrel, although ferocious as hell. Even stoats aren't always that big. Hedgehogs fit in the middle of the weight range between rats and foxes. And it's not clear that the carnivore/herbivore distinction even exists within the setting: the mice shouldn't be able to digest fish, but do, and Veil and Squire Julian should have problems with a diet with much vegetation at all, but have no problem.
Good cats: Both Gingiveres and Lady Sandingomm. Bad cats: Verdauga, Tsarmina, Ungatt Trunn, Lady Kaltag, Jeefra, Pitru, Riggu Felis, and his entire army.
Brian Jacques has stated that he used the perceptions of English farmers of the animals to determine if it was evil or not.
So voles must occasionally do something to tick the farmers off that mice, shrews, and moles don't, then?
That's ridiculous. Rabbits are extremely damaging to crops, mice spread diseases just as much as rats, and ferrets were trained and domesticated by humans to hunt and kill rabbits.
Foxes tend to have a fairly neutral reputation in real life, and they used to be stated as having such. Correct me if I'm wrong, as I did stop reading this series a while back, but they kind of dropped that idea didn't they? Badgers have a nasty reputation as well. Seems he generally just chose the little guys to be good and the big ones that weren't badgers to be bad. How often have the good cats actually done anything important, again? Though really, all the 'vermin' that would come from much, much larger species seem to be only slightly larger, so even the sympathy for the little guy thing dies a little.
He didn't take them only from farmer achetypes but also literature stereotypes. In children's literature Foxes are usually sly and tricky.
For good cats that do anything, Squire Julian along with an owl take out a sizable supply of rats at the end of Redwall, albeit off screen. That's the only one, but 50% isn't that bad. 'Good' cats have been dropped, though.
I've always been of the impression that he drew a lot of his archetypes from Wind in the Willows, with obvious improvisation when it comes to rats and toads. Badger is a huge nobleman, an imposing but ultimately benevolent figure, who stands between the protagonists and the malicious horde of weasels in the woods.
What I want to know is why in one of the books, a weasel talks about eating a rabbit, and how there's nothing he loves more than rabbit, but in one of the later books, there is a character who actually is a rabbit! And he's as big as the rest of them!
I like eating cows ... and pigs ...
To be more precise, the rabbits are as big as the rest of them, and can talk.
While I'm on the subject of size, how is it that mice and otters are able to live in a building that's a practical size for them all? Hell, how was it in Loamhedge that a BADGER was able to climb through the window? Fantasy, yes, but bizarre...
Maybe Badgers are smaller in their world.
It's somewhat implied that Redwall animals are not the same relative sizes as their real world counterpart. So instead of the badgers being as big as a house from a mouse's perspective, they're more like...Andre the Giant big, or something.
The works with drawings usually make badgers much larger than mice, on a scale between three and six times their height from my estimates. While smaller than the real-world difference, still pretty large. That said, the Abbey was kinda designed for regular visits by larger animals, including a cat that was able to fit a whole mouse in his mouth (no swallowing, vore fans) and presumably badgers and rabbits over time. I'd assume that the doors are very light, that the mice get used to standing on tip toes, and/or the badgers have serious spinal problems by now. The animated series only had a roughly 2x size-difference, which suggests one of the cats had a really big mouth, but fixes most other issues.
The rabbit-eating weasel is not the first reference to semi-cannibalism in the series.
That honor belongs to Cluny in the very first book, in the first few chapters he is introduced! Not to mention Folgrim, the Cannibalistic otter! (He gets better though)
Cannibalism is kinda Cluny's hat — even if you don't consider the eating of hares in this setting to count, he threatens to have several subordinates including other rats roasted.
Gulo the Savage is an obvious example. In The Rogue Crew Razzid Wearat and some of Ketral Vane's vermin made it quite clear that they were cannibals.
Why does anyone every bother attempting military conquest of Mossflower? Redwall Abbey, the center of government, is famously impregnable, has enough supplies in its cellars for years as well as an orchard, a reliable source of freshwater, moles that can tunnel to any point in the surrounding countryside undetected, and magical ghosts. Not to mention it's closely allied with Salamandastron, a small but very well-defended city-state with a military apparently capable of extended foreign deployment. Establishing strong, friendly ties would reap far more benefits.
Because then there'd be no plot.
For that matter, why is Redwall so impregnable anyway? It's built on the same site as Kotir, which obviously proved not so impregnable, and that was a castle built for war, not an abbey built for mice in skirts. And that location is at the bottom of a huge depression in the ground. Even if you don't try to defeat it by creating a freakin' lake that's a pretty big tactical disadvantage.
This is actually brought up in one book where the south wall starts to collapse because of this.
Redwall has yet to face a force that included significant amounts of moles, and retained a significant force of moles itself. Given the disastrous results of previous attempts to undertunnel the architecture, and the place being designed by the very mouse who decided to flood Kotir in the first place, it's a bigger proposition than you'd expect. On the other hand, the walls have been successfully bypassed before, and in other cases were only supported due to the aforementioned magical ghost (or were bypassed and the goodbeasts saved only due to the magical ghost).
It's also implied that siege engines (i.e. catapults, ballistae, trebuchets) are next to non-existent because few know how to construct such devices. Off the top of my head, Timballisto from Mossflower was the only such character who knew how to construct such a device. Had any of the vermin armies had catapults to batter down the walls of the abbey, those books would have turned out a lot differently.
And the fact that there's reputedly all kinds of rich stuff (like, oh, I don't know, a shiny sword, an enormous tapestry, wines that, if traded for gold, would probably fetch a lot of money, various golden items (the only source of this coming from the first book when Chickenhound decides to repay the Redwallers for saving his sorry hide by taking all of their valuables, then killing old Methuselah, even unintentionally.) There's also two huge bells, and the sword is reputed to be "magic" through various stories that apparently grow more outlandish with each telling.
At least one Big Bad has shown the ability to learn from the past. Ublaz Mad Eyes heard that the Tears of All Oceans were at Redwall and basically told his lackeys, "Screw that, I'm not going to send an army halfway around the world to get slaughtered by mice. Find another way to get them."
Sawney Rath from Taggerung refused to go anywhere near Redwall as well. Too bad his successors didn't have the same sense...
It bugs me that Brian Jacques used racial and regional stereotypes as the basis for the personalities and temperments of entire species. Maybe it's not as obvious to someone who isn't from the UK, but Jacques uses regional stereotypes (particularly of Northerners) as well as racial and class stereotypes as the basis for his characterizations and these are treated as natural and OK. And beyond that, few if any characters actually escape these stereotypes.
"racial and class stereotypes" Explain.
Hares are RAF officers. Most vermin are Cockney-accented thugs. Moles are down-home quaint country folk (this is subverted at least once, specifically in that one book where the protags go to Southsward and meet a 'normal'-talking mole).
The RAF isn't a race....
Word of God states that Brian was not being racist. He based the general stereotypes off of people he'd actually met and befriended—with their permission—and then turned each into a species' hat. All of the regional stereotypes were actually Affectionate Parodies.
Ah, you mean the guy being accused of prejudice has claimed he wasn't being prejudiced? Well, never mind then. ("Affectionate" stereotyping is still stereotyping.)
I've always been puzzled by timescale and lack of technological advancement. In Mossflower their technology seems to be around the level of that which existed in England during the Crusades, so about the mid-tenth century, but the prequel to that prequel, The Legend of Luke, describes boats that seem more advanced than that. Keeping that in mind, I seem to remember several instances where creatures (usually badgers) are described as living fantastically long lives, equivalent to several generations of mice, and their histories don't seem to overlap. Not to mention the large numbers of other creatures with normal lifespans chronicled whose stories don't overlap. I would have a hard time believing that the books span any less than 500 years (or the animal equivalent—time is usually measured in "seasons", and it's hard to tell if this refers to years or actual quarter-year seasons) but they never even get close to 15th century technology. You'd think a militaristic state like Salamandastron would've developed at least primitive firearms.
For what it's worth, badgers really do live many times longer than mice. So should the other large Redwallers, like otters.
The 'season' actually does refer to the quarter-year season such as spring, summer, fall, or winter, but each 'season' is the growth equivalent of two human years. So a Dibbun who is one season old is approximately the same relative age as a human two-year-old. Or something approximately like that. I believe that it also varies with species, as it would in Real Life. Also, on the matter of technological advancement... there doesn't seem to be any real effort to 'advance' technology. While Salamandastron is a military city-state, its only enemies are wandering bands of pirates and vermin. It doesn't have the stable, long-term enemies that would inspire the kind of technological development seen in post-medieval warfare. They have something that works, they're well-versed in making it work, and there don't really seem to be very many inventive types among them—well, except in tactics, anyway.
Seasons are iffy as well. Some creatures, particularly young ones, seem to follow the "a season is two years" rule; others, like Tagg, stick closer to "a season is a year." It's a lot like the size ratio that way, differing as necessary/whatever Brian Jacques happened to remember.
The biggest reason for lack of advancement progably lies in the fact that there are only two somewhat permanent (and only tenously connected to each other) centres of civilization in the land plagued by savage tribal raiders on all sides. There are no trade to speak of and almost no one is free from farming or serving as a warrior, to pursue a life of education. This is one of the worst possible setups for technological development. Seavermin actually seem to be more technologically developed, designing pretty large and advanced ships, but their societies are obviously highly unstable.
It's striking how in the first few books, there are references to human-scale objects and creatures—such as the horse and hay cart that brought Clunny the Scourge and his horde to town, and subsequently the barn that the wildcat and his owl friend live in. Another question of scale—are flora scale with humans or critters? It's implied in Mossflower that the Badger's ancestral tree house is a large, human-scale tree, but Redwall would have to be truly enormous relative to its inhabitants to support a fruit orchard of such trees. Oh, and is the produce also to scale? I mean, a mouse could live comfortably in a dried gourd.
The first couple of books - especially the first one - seem to have been written before Jacques was entirely certain what he planned to do with the world (especially consider things like the "solitary beaver" in the first book, given that the other fauna are based on England and beavers (or for that matter horses or domesticated cats) never show up again). There are explicit references to human civilization in the first book (not to mention Earth geography) that never come up again. Such things have probably been retconned away after that point (apart from Brockhall, since I know that shows up again in Triss). This troper is fairly certain that the vegetation is about on scale with the inhabitants, since they're much closer to being in scale with each other than the equivalent Earth animals.
The series is actually pretty reliable about making vegetation small, whenever it's mentioned. Matthias is introduced in Redwall as a very small mouse with a number of hazelnuts held in his arms, and while hazelnuts are not very large, the real-world scale would make such things impossible — three hazelnuts would be larger than he is. Likewise, a young tree is just about the right size for a badger's bow, while even human-scale saplings would be well oversized. The very large trees may simply be a byproduct of relatively little deforestation (and in the case of Brockhall, being at least partially if not mostly underground). Animal size... it's pretty much the Furry Fandom equivalent of Superman being As Strong As He Needs To Be; any Mossflower speaking animal is exactly the size it needs to be for the plot at the time. Constance can carry a cart that's large enough to hold a big family of mice, but a couple servings of fish on a mouse's scale is all she wants to eat, even when others have significantly more. The architecture could actually go either way. The Redwall Abbey itself was constructed solely by the talking animals of the setting, and it's still staggeringly high; Jess Squirrel is described as looking like a speck at the top of the abbey, and the trees nearby are described as being more than six yards high while still being under the wall's height (while a two pound trout is considered a record-setter and large enough to feed an abbey).
In Pearls of Lutra, a whale is described as being about the size of Redwall Abbey. This would suggest that contrariwise, Redwall Abbey is about as big as a whale, disregarding the potential for exaggeration in either direction. Taking a humpback whale as an arbitrary standard, that puts the Abbey at probably around 40-50 feet long assuming real-world whale sizing... making it a bit smaller than an average suburban US house. Of course, whales are also described as looking like islands, but again, there's the possibility of exaggeration.
Anytime the characters scratch their tails, grab each other by the tail, and it's not portrayed as anything odd. Particularly with Lonna, who "tugged Stugg's little rudder fondly". You can't tell me that's not the equivalent of giving a 7 year old a friendly pat on the butt.
I would have considered that to be more like pulling his hair gently. Scratching a tail is like scratching your arm. Just because it's located near the butt doesn't automatically make it the equivalent of one. It's just another appendage.
On and off, but particularly in Legend of Luke, Brian Jacques seems to go through a phase where he has the characters perform completely random gestures before doing certain things. For example, Dinny placing his paw over his ear "in traditional molesinger's manner", three hedgehogs bowing so their spikes touch in a "traditional" greeting of their species, and Beau grabbing his ears "in traditional hare manner." Never in the books before do they mention anyone behaving like this, and none of these so called "traditional" gestures are ever mentioned again.
Gee ancient northland guys are sure weird. Burr Aye.
You know how they always had cheese at the big Redwall feasts? First book aside, there were no domestic animals, and there were never any bovines or sheep or goats. Where'd they get the milk? I know they mentioned dandelion milk once, but you can't make cheese with that.
They're all mammals, and mostly the sort that ordinarily has lots of offspring at a time, and consequently, lots of milk production, albeit briefly. However, in the stories, characters rarely have more than one or two children at a time. The cheese is probably made from extra mouse/vole/whatever milk.
Their cheesemaking process is actually detailed in "Outcast of Redwall." The milk comes from a set of roots and tubers that grow in the area, pounded to release the substance.
Okay, but where do the eggs they use come from? Don't get me wrong, I love the books, but in a world where pretty much all animal life is sentient, that seems like a glaring problem...
What eggs that they use? As I recall, only stoats and foxes and the like actually eat eggs. For the woodlanders, it's perfectly possible to cook and bake without eggs.
Not all eggs laid by birds are fertile. Possibly there are local birds who allow their non-viable eggs to be traded for, like how one of the poultry in Charlotte's Web allowed Templeton the rat to take an infertile egg away from her nest.
Considering that they make milk out of roots and tubers, it's fairly logical to assume that the Abbey dwellers have a lot of eggless, dairy-free recipes. Basically they're vegan, besides their love of honey. And before anyone asks, yes, Redwall does make a few mentions of Bee People who are in a trade agreement with the Abbey.
How does Redwall possibly sustain the eating habits of its creatures? Considering the orchard, pond, gardens, and surrounding woodlands, it's not so much a stretch that they always have food supplies; it's that they never seem to want for anything. Feasts are lavish and gluttonous and often span several days, while even regular meals can get laden down, and everybody is free to eat as much as they like. Add in that the Redwallers are prone to taking in entire bands of woodland denizens permanently and frequently host the Salamandaston army. Have they ever needed to tighten their belts?
At times, such as when the grounds were captured during Loamhedge, or during the plague in Salamandastron.
This is just a small part of what puzzles this troper; logistics. As with the foodstuffs issue mentioned above, it's never explained where the massive number of iron-based weapons, tools and the like come from, to say nothing of who builds all of those (relatively) advanced ships. It takes a hefty supporting industry to build, supply and maintain even 15th century-level vessels. Then there's the fact that iron mines, smelters or the like never appear in the stories. Granted, there are the Badger blacksmiths and the "sea-coal" they use in their forges, but mention is never made of were they get the ore. Or for that matter, leather. Do they butcher their dead and use their skins to make the relevant goods?
Not to mention many many vermin (And a few goodbeasts) wear gold or brass earrings. Yet never once has a jeweler (or any character showing talent for making said jewelry) appear, adding that crafting jewelry doesn't seem very vermin-ish.
It's a bit What Happened to the Mouse?, but it really bothered me that the characters in Salamandastron (with the exception of Urthwyte, very briefly, in Marlfox) are never mentioned again. Mara was a Badgermum, for crying out loud.
Won't Redwall eventually run out of space? For one reason, Redwall has a cemetery within it's walls. Every Redwaller (Or visiting hero) that died was buried within there, after the length of time since it was built to current, that cemetery would take up at least two thirds of the grounds.
How do tattoos work in Redwall? One would assume they just paint permanent designs on their fur. But they could just shave it off whenever they feel like it, except Tagg's tattoos had to be medically removed Even further confusion is that the healer reminded Skipper that she gave him a tattoo with needle and ink. How does that work with fur!? This seems to be the kind of thing, we just shouldn't think too hard about.
The tattoo might show through the fur, though that might not work with otters, which have fur so thick that it's nearly impossible to see their skin when parted with a comb. Maybe the ink under the skin affects the hair's pigment?
In Lord Brock Tree Jukka's tribe loots weapons and armour off of dead vermin. Yet they are never shown actually using the weapons and armour on their journey. Kind of anti-productive. Since the art and story itself imply the whole time that the tribe wore simple tunics and used slings and unique homemade spears the entire journey.