Terrouge E-zine Archives
Erin's Editorial - Finding the Tradition
"The only right way to draw your Redwall character is the way the cover artists draw them!" You’ve heard it before. It’s the war cry of many so-called Redwall ‘purists.’ Many members of the ROC firmly believe it, and will not hesitate to soundly rip apart your character and denounce you as a heathen, one who is not keeping with Brian Jacques’ true image of a Redwaller.
I think they’re wrong. First of all, I have yet to see anyone calmly, patiently, and openmindedly put this viewpoint forward. I’ve had people calmly, patiently, and viciously tell me why I am wrong, and they are right… I’ve seen people on message boards or in articles generalize that everyone who doesn’t think the way they do is stupid. But in the main, people are so cruel about being ‘the way Brian wants us all to be’ that you really have to wonder why they think Brian wants his readers to start hate wars.
And secondly, their base is nowhere near as strong as they think it is.
One of the main ‘unRedwall’ actions is to give your character hair… otherwise known, much more accurately, as headfur. To many, headfur is ‘impossible’ and has ‘no basis in the books.’
Let us start with ‘impossible.’ You have hair. You also have fur. No, I do not refer to your character. Go into a room with bright light and put your face very close to the mirror. If you examine yourself very closely, you will find that your entire face is covered with tiny, near-invisible hairs. The same thing is true of the underside of your arms and your torso. Hair is merely fur that has grown longer than that on the rest of our body.
Alright, so what? We’re humans, we walk upright, it makes sense to have hair to insulate our head. After all, 90% of the heat escapes from the top of our head. If we didn’t have thicker hair how would we survive winters? What do we have to do with animals? Those Redwall animals don’t need hair. They only walk upright, causing heat, which rises, to escape from the top of their head. And they don’t hibernate during the winter, unlike most natural animals and more like human be—oh… er… That is… Well, maybe you have a point, but Brian Jacques makes no reference whatsoever to headfur in The Books!
Really? But I’m sure you all remember Cornflower’s headband… Did she use it to keep her forehead from falling off? I always thought of Cornflower as a fairly well-balanced mouse-gel, with few fears of appendages suddenly going missing. So the only reasonable assumption is that she had let the fur on her head grow longer, and needed to keep it out of her eyes. Brian Jacques does not draw his book covers. Judging only from the evidence given from the books, long headfur is not only a possibility, but a probability.
Many members of the ROC feel that Redwallers must be drawn strictly like animals standing on their hind legs. It is a common misperception that Brian Jacques intended that his characters be exactly like animals. In actuality, his characters are a cross between human beings and whatever species he draws them from. Where do I get this conclusion from? There are too many instances to count, so I’ll cite you a few specific instances.
1. The eyes of a mouse cannot sense red or green. Now, the mice are pretty trusting, but I doubt they’d name their abbey Redwall just because someone told them it was red. Can you imagine the weasels off in the forest sniggering at the mice in the grey abbey, who happen to be wandering around in bright red habits? I doubt Brian meant for that to stay true to life.
2. Humans are one of the few creatures with opposable thumbs. This means most, if not all, of the animals in the series would not be able to pick up or wield the weapons, if they were true to life. If you believe this is the case, Laterose, Russa, and all of the dead villains would love to have a chat with you about it.
3. Hares and rabbits have short forelegs. To run, these forelegs hit the ground first and their hind legs swing forward, hit the ground in front of them, and push off to send them into the next leap. Hares cannot be proportioned anything like real hares, other than having long hind legs. Their weak, short, forearms have consistently dealt powerful blows and wielded heavy weapons. There is considerable evidence to support the idea that they march and walk upright. To achieve this, their legs would have to be jointed differently. Probably more like human legs. Considering the idea that nearly all creatures in the series walk(bar the toads and seals), you could expand this to include the others.
The making the feminine characters "busty" is something I can find no evidence for or against in the books. You could logically take it or leave it, depending which aspects of humanity you think the species has taken on.
The way you describe your character is entirely up to you. You can do pretty much anything you want, as long as you can give it a logical basis. Making a bright pink mouse is a pretty newbie action. Makeup is a silly idea as well, because your character has fur, not skin, and there isn’t even any real way to apply it. But if you have a rat character who is descended from an escapee of Ungatt Trunn’s Blue Horde, you could logically have them dye their fur blue(Although I’m not sure why you’d want to…). If your character is a scout or assassin, you could have them dye their fur in patterns to blend in. You have a lot of liberties you can take, but the closer you stick to Redwall, the more you’ll find people respecting you.
If you come across someone who doesn’t agree with the way you do your character, or makes their character too "human" or too "beast" to really be believable from your standpoint, you can tell them what you think. But how likely are you to change their mind? And why does it really matter? The important thing is to keep the spirit of Redwall alive, and you’re not going to do that by arguing about an extra finger or inch of headfur. Live and let live.