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Canon Vs. the ROC
By: DanielleRead any number of Redwall fanfics, visit any number of Redwall roleplaying clubs on the Redwall Online Community (ROC). Chances are that two out of three will not mesh with canon Redwall, with the Redwall world as Brian Jacques presents it. Why is this? Why have fans taken the world as shown in Jacques’ novels and added to it, altered it, blurred the sides of black and white into a predominant gray?
In the ROC’s beginning, the Redwall depicted on the ROC and the Redwall in the novels were essentially the same. There were perhaps a few more good vermin than in canon, and an occasional evil woodlander, but for the most part, canon and fandom meshed seamlessly. Fanfics and roleplay remained within known Redwall places; almost everyone played canon species; and the majority of the fandom adhered to canon Redwall culture.
Over the years, though, the fans grew older, and their views changed with age and experience. Those views were reflected in their writings, in their roleplaying and fanfics, in the ROC as a whole. At the present time, the world of Redwall depicted on the ROC is quite a different creature than that depicted in the novels. Fans have filled in the gaps in canon, explored themes that Jacques would never touch, and changed the black-and-white Redwall world to better reflect the world of grays that fans live in.
So what are the differences between canon Redwall and fandom Redwall?
First, a review of canon Redwall. It is a medieval world where goodbeasts (mostly small herbivorous mammals, with an occasional omnivore or bird) defend against vermin (mostly smaller carnivorous mammals, as well as some reptiles and birds). Goodbeast species are always good, and vermin species are almost always evil, no matter how they’re raised. The central focus is Redwall Abbey, a peaceful place with a rich history, where Martin the Warrior’s ghost provides occasional advice or quests. The abbey is set in Mossflower Woods, a sprawling forest. Other places of note are Salamandastron, the fire mountain ruled by a badger and populated by warrior hares; the far northern mountains, overrun mostly by vermin; and the coastline, with its raiding searats. Vermin constantly attempt to kill, conquer, or enslave goodbeasts, who fight back valiantly and with honor, and in the end the goodbeasts are victorious.
Canonically, there is no religion in Redwall. Jacques himself has attested to that. Good always wins. There is little to no technology. There is no mention of sex. There are no urban cities, only scattered forts and castles and abbeys and the occasional tiny village. There are allusions to spirits and to an afterlife—Dark Forest, hellgates—but the true nature of these is unclear. There are allusions to otherworldly powers, as some creatures have visions or speak prophecy, and some creatures style themselves as seers. These are the parameters and constants of canon Redwall.
The fandom version of the Redwall world, however, is quite a bit different. Sometimes there is religion, generally in certain fanfics and some character histories. Two of the top thirty applications for Questors Bold 4 involved religion, for example. Fandom Redwall is far more gray in terms of character alignment and good versus evil than canon Redwall. Check any Redwall club, read any Redwall fanfic, and there will probably be a large amount of good vermin and some evil goodbeasts, as well as those who don’t quite fit the mold—characters that have good intentions but use dishonorable or even despicable methods; characters that have evil purposes but are otherwise honorable, even likable and sympathetic; characters that can’t be categorized as good or evil, but walk the line somewhere in between the two. Some writers explore the elements Jacques doesn’t touch, filling in the holes in canon Redwall’s world, even looking at themes such as psychological torture and sex.
Fandom Redwall is a larger world than canon Redwall, as well. Fanfics and roleplays take place off the canonic map, venturing onto other continents. Some roleplaying games take place in the far future, such as Fur Future, with technology galore. Other games and stories step sideways into fantasy, with mouse sorcerers and vulpine psychics. An occasional story or game will turn back the wheel of time into prehistoric Redwall. Some will align Redwall more accurately to the true middle ages, with all its feudalism and atrocity.
Goodbeasts and vermin behave differently in the Redwall fandom than they do in canon Redwall. Fans have written stories where goodbeasts become tyrants, such as in Highwing’s “Requiem for the Last Rat”. Some Redwall stories parallel real life, as with Mitya’s “The Skies of Mossflower”. Others are so far from Redwall canon that one wonders if the story should even be classified as a Redwall fanfic, such as in Jason’s “Bennegaris”.
The ROC itself has drifted from discussion of Redwall. Many members of the ROC hardly read the books anymore, and few are as avid of Redwall fans as they once were. The ROC has become a collection of like-minded people rather than a collection of avid fans. The version of Redwall depicted in fandom is almost a world unto its own, a setting for people to play in and converse in. In the year 2005, the Redwall Online Community is populated more by writers, roleplayers, and people who just enjoy a good debate or random conversation more than by hardcore Redwall fans. The fans have grown up, or are in the process of doing so, their interests changing with their years, and the community reflects that with changes of its own.