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Redwall Warfare - Is it Realistic?
Warfare is a large part of Redwall. Every book has some type of battle in it, from the rebels on Terramort, to Cluny's siege of Redwall, to the spectacular battle of Boar at Salamandastron. Quick! Name two locations in Mossflower Country! I bet you named Redwall and Salamandastron. One's a fortress, and the other becomes one so often, it's a little confusing why they don't just keep a militia. What does the G in GUOSIM stand for? Guerrilla, of course, describing their lifestyle, if not their tactics.
While Jacques tells an exciting battle, he doesn't tell a good one. Strategy is nonexistent in the Redwall universe, as there are no "wars", only battles. This means tactics. For those of you who are a little confused, strategy is the over all campaign in a war, whereas tactics are the plans used in individual battles. If you're a soldier, you want your commanding officers to be good tacticians, but you want your general to be a good strategist. Get it? Good. The generals in Jacques' stories are never very imaginative in their tactics, though. Pincer movements, while very reliable, are not exactly genius material. They usually only work when your opponent has a much smaller force, or they're not much bigger than you, and they're already committed their reserves. When they do work, however, they're deadly. There's no cavalry in Redwall, due to the lack of riding beasts, but even when you're flanked by infantry, they can smash your army to bits.
Ah, the infantry, yes. The world of Redwall not only lacks good tacticians, but also it lack good discipline. Take, for instance, attack formations. The phalanx shaped warfare in Europe until the invention of gunpowder. That's over seventeen hundred years! The phalanx, again for those who don't know these things, was a block of men walking very close together, armed with pikes facing out, and large shields. Redwall, however, seems to exist in a vacuum, with no future and no past, meaning they didn't have Macedonian hares marching in 16 by 16 blocks. Still, it's rather hard to imagine why some one in Redwall never thought this up. There's no cavalry to come charging in on the side, one of the phalanx's few weaknesses. Most battles tend to take place on open fields, which is perfect terrain for a phalanx. The hares have both the discipline and the weapons to make it work. Yet the armies in Redwall tend to be hordes charging at each other.
Let us remember, however, that the goodbeasts are usually besieged by the vermin. When they're not, they're usually a small, unequipped force attacking a fortress. The goodbeasts, being what they are, never lay siege to the fortresses, because the vermin(not to mention their goodbeast slaves) inside would starve, incapable as they are of growing food. The vermin, like I said, use siege warfare a lot. There are only two books where siege warfare is carried out properly, Salamandastron and Redwall. Cluny uses various types of siege engines, including a tower, battering ram, ladders, and even tunneling. None of them work, of course, but these are among the most effective way to attack a fortified enemy. Ferago employees a poisoner to starve out the hares of Salamandastron. Since Salamandastron is a mountain, there is very little else he can do. Nobody else used anything approaching proper siege tactics, although the fire-slingers used by Redtooth were pretty good. Brian Jacques is a great author, but not exactly a military mind. He ignores logistics, weapons development, and proven tactics. However, I think his stories may be the better for this. What fun would Redwall be if we had to read about the problems of feeding a thousand rats bivouacked (sp?) in an old churchyard? Granted, some description of tactics, evidence of a clever enemy or friend, would be welcome, but it might be difficult to do that without bogging the story down. The Redwall series is good, and I certainly couldn't do better. This article was merely written to inform the reader about omissions and inconsistencies in the books. If you happen to be a fan of war stories, and would like to read a few books where the tactics and strategy are described without detracting from the story, then here are a few authors and series you might like:
The Renshai Chronicles
The Battletech series