Redwall (novel)

Redwall is a fantasy novel by Brian Jacques. Originally published in 1986, it is the first book of the Redwall series. The book was illustrated by Gary Chalk, with the British cover illustration by Pete Lyon and the American cover by Troy Howell.

Plot introduction

When Redwall Abbey is attacked by a rat known as Cluny the Scourge, the Redwallers rise up in defense, and a young mouse known as Matthias embarks on a quest to recover the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior.

Plot summary

The novel centers on the fate of its eponymous abbey and the characters contained within, although much of the book takes place in the forest surrounding the Abbey. Redwall Abbey was founded by an ancient female mouse named Germaine, and a great mouse hero named Martin the Warrior, who swore himself to peace after founding the abbey, and his followers throughout the ages have done the same. One of the abbey residents, Matthias, dreams more of times of adventure than a life of quiet servitude, but he is counseled to patience by his elders. Redwall is a fixture in the local community, set in the heart of Mossflower Woods, and was designed to be a place of refuge for the beasts of the forest in times of trouble.

Trouble arrives in the form of Cluny the Scourge, in the Summer of the Late Rose. Cluny is an evil, infamous rat, owning an extra-long tail with a poisoned barb on the end, and commander of a horde of vermin. The foebeasts arrive at the beginning of the book and make their headquarters at the Church of St. Ninian, to the south of Redwall, with the intention of taking the Abbey for themselves. The Abbey inhabitants, who refuse to back down, make ready to defend themselves if necessary, especially since most of the inhabitants of the surrounding area are now within its walls. None of them are particularly martial, but Redwall folk, and indeed much of the Mossflower population, are generally described as slow to anger but fierce fighters when roused, and they are able to make an effective defense. Matthias, fearing that Cluny will still overrun them, begins a quest to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior, which is supposedly hidden somewhere within the Abbey, stored away for a time of need. He is helped particularly by Methuselah, an old and grizzled librarian mouse. Matthias is a brave-hearted young mouse, if small in stature, and as the story continues, his natural leadership abilities begin to emerge.

Clues to the location of Martin's sword, as well as his shield and the sword's scabbard, have been built into the Abbey. Matthias recovers the latter two, and with Methuselah's help eventually divines where the sword is hidden. Unfortunately, it isn't there any longer, having been stolen by a wild sparrow tribe that dwells on the Abbey roof and then by an adder (snake) named Asmodeus, who appears throughout the novel to pick off wandering creatures. After killing the crazed Sparrow King, Matthias continues to the lair of the gigantic snake Asmodeus, acquiring several allies: Log-a-Log, the leader of a local band of shrews; Basil Stag Hare, wandering do-gooder and general cad, and Warbeak Sparra, the aforementioned princess of the sparrow tribe. He also befriends Captain Snow, an owl, and Squire Julian Gingivere, a cat. Matthias and Log-a-Log succeed in retrieving the sword from Asmodeus's cave (in the process killing the snake) and Matthias rushes back to Redwall to save his friends after being tipped off by the sparrows about the fall of the abbey.

Cluny, in the meanwhile, has been attempting a number of unsuccessful strategies to gain entrance to the Abbey. He has had to deal with traitors such as Sela the vixen and her son Chickenhound, who kills Methusaleh, and had also been seriously injured from a fall. When all else fails, he captures a family of dormice and forces Plumpen, the head of that family, to open one of the gates or his family will be killed. Plumpen complies but he is knocked unconscious by Cluny. However, his victory is short-lived; soon after he takes over the Abbey, Matthias returns. Matthias, his new allies, and the assembled Redwall population turn on their captors; Matthias himself takes on Cluny, and defeats him by crushing him under the Abbey's bell, called the Joseph bell. However, a great deal of damage is done and there are many casualties. Abbot Mortimer, who was inflicted by Cluny's poisoned barb, dies after proclaiming Matthias Warrior of Redwall and Brother Alf the new Abbot of Redwall.

The novel closes with an epilogue. Matthias has married a fieldmouse named Cornflower and she has given birth to their son, Mattimeo, an abbreviated version of his full name: Matthias Methuselah Mortimer. Also, Brother Alf is now known as Abbot Mordalfus. John Churchmouse, a resident of the Abbey, is now the Abbey recorder.

Characters in "Redwall"


As Redwall was the first book set in the Redwall world, many of the defining traits of the world had not yet been hammered out, and are different than in all subsequent books in the series:

The World

  • Redwall appeared to take place in the real world. Cluny was referred to as a Portuguese water rat at one point. Additionally, Methuselah claimed that one of the accounts of Cluny came from a town dog. The horse present in the early chapters was the size of a normal horse, and the wagon it pulled was scaled to the same size - an entire army of rats was able to ride in it. Also there was a mention of cows that trampled through a village. However, Brian Jacques did not expect the book to be published, and excluded references to humans and many larger animals in later books.
  • The St. Ninian's Church is the only reference to any kind of religion in any of the Redwall series, meaning at one point that the residents practiced Christianity. Cluny and his soldiers also remark to Satan ("by Satan's nose" or "Hell's teeth"), referring a belief in Hell. No other religious mentionings have happened in any of the later books.

Species Discrepancy

  • Redwall is the only book in the entire series that makes any mention of domesticated animals. Animals mentioned in this book - but never again in the series - include horse, dog, cow, and pig. Additionally, the Abbot mentions a "village where the dog and pigs reside", perhaps implying human habitation. In the books following this, the world of Redwall is inhabited only by wild fauna.
  • Various kinds of milks and cheeses are consumed by the inhabitants of Redwall, but no direct description of such farming or manufacture is ever made.
  • The beaver in Redwall is the only one to appear in the entire series. Its species has not been mentioned since.
  • Bees can communicate in Redwall, indicated by a statement at the end of the book where the Guerilla Shrews learned to speak the bee language so they could trade and argue. This was not noted in other books.
  • Foxes are indicated in Redwall as not inherently evil. It is mentioned that Abbot Mortimer used to trade tomes with "wandering healer foxes". Sela The Vixen's brood of foxes was referred to as a bad lot, indicating that they were an exception and not the norm. In all later books in the series there has never been reference to good foxes.

Size Discrepancy

  • Matthias was able to land in the mouth of a cat, indicating that the cat/mouse sizes were the same as in real life.
  • A horse was big enough to draw a cart that carried an entire army of rats.
  • Constance the badger was described as far bigger than the mice and rats repeatedly, able to carry a fish in her mouth that the mice couldn't move. She also lifted a table, and was able to outfight rats while unarmed.
  • Asmodeus the adder was big enough to swallow rats whole. A beaver was described as being similarly big, and a snowy owl was big enough to catch and eat mice.
  • While the horse and other characters in the novel are much larger than the mice and rats, the trees in the novel remain the same relative size as they would be to humans. The top of an elm tree only just reaches above the Abbey walls, and Cluny can easily climb its branches.

Redwall Discrepancies

  • Redwall Abbey was described as being home only to the Order, which was apparently comprised only of mice. Other species were invited inside the Abbey walls for protection when Cluny invaded, but they did not live there. In all subsequent books, however, Redwall is home to all species that in the Redwall universe are considered good, and some who are not mice even become Redwall Brothers and Sisters.
  • John Churchmouse, in particular, lived with his family in St. Ninian's Church. Reference was made to their poverty. In later books, there are some who dwell in Mossflower Woods, but most live in Redwall.
  • In Redwall, Guosim was a character, a member of the Guerilla Shrews. In later books, the shrews themselves were referred to as the Guosim, and no mention of the character Guosim was made, even in Mattimeo. The Shrews did not rename themselves after her, either, indicated by the fact that they were referred to as Guosim in books chronologically earlier than Redwall. Furthermore, while the shrews appear in Redwall as an independent tribe with no alliance with the other "good" creatures, in books chronologically earlier they are shown as frequent allies. Log-a-Log, in addition, is always shown as their chief, while he is a mere ferry-shrew in Redwall.
  • Before Mortimer's passing, he declared that the sword of Martin the Warrior would be known as Ratdeath. However, since the ending of Redwall, no one has referred to the sword as anything other than simply Martin's sword.
  • The story of Martin the Warrior's arrival in Mossflower, as told to Matthias by Abbot Mortimer in chapter 1, took place shortly after Redwall was built. However, this was invalidated by the plot of the next book, Mossflower, in which Martin arrives before the Abbey's construction. Indeed, in that book his courage is the ultimate reason for its coming into existence.
  • Brother Methuselah mentions that it was Martin who gave the first Foremole his title; however, in Mossflower, Foremole is already known as such before Martin's arrival.

Awards and nominations


  • Lancashire Libraries Children's Book of the Year Award
  • Western Australian Young Readers' Award


Book Divisions (English)

  • Book 1: The Wall
  • Book 2: The Quest
  • Book 3: The Warrior


  • (Dutch) De Roodburcht
    • De Aanval
    • De Zoektocht
    • De Krijger
  • (Finnish) Soturi Matiaksen Miekka
  • (French) Rougemuraille: Cluny le fléau
    • Tome 1 : Le Seigneur de la guerre
    • Tome 2 : L'Épée légendaire
    • Tome 3 : La Vipère géante
  • (German) Redwall: Der Sturm auf die Abtei
    • Die Mauer
    • Die Suche
    • Der Krieger
  • (Italian)
  • (Lithuanian) Raudonmüris
  • (Polish) Bitwa o Redwall
  • (Swedish) Cluny Gisslaren
  • (Russian) old version - Рздволл, new version -Воин Рэдволла

Publication history

Select print publications:

  • 1986, UK, Hutchinson Children's Books Ltd., ISBN 0-09-165090-9, Pub. Date: October 1986, Hardback
  • 1987, USA, Philomel Books, ISBN 0-399-21424-0, Pub. Date: August 1987, Hardback
  • 1987, UK, Red Fox, ISBN 0-09-951200-9, Pub. Date: September 1987, Paperback
  • 1990, USA, Avon Books, ISBN 0-380-70827-2, Pub. Date: March 1990, Paperback
  • 1997, USA, G P Putnam's Sons, ISBN 0-399-23160-9, Pub. Date: September 1997, Hardback
  • 1998, USA, Ace, ISBN 0-441-00548-9, Pub. Date: June 1998, Paperback
  • 2002, USA, Thorndike Press, ISBN 0-7862-3858-5, Pub. Date: February 2002, Hardback
  • 2002, UK, Penguin Putnam Books, ISBN 0-14-230237-6, Pub. Date: September 2002, Paperback

Adaptation as a graphic novel

Redwall has been adapted into a graphic novel titled Redwall: The Graphic Novel.


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