When I was in sixth grade, my cousin introduced me to a book series that changed my life. Walking into the library of Phoenix Middle School, I would make a beeline to the bookshelves that lined the wall on the left. Second bookshelf in, second shelf down. I was more familiar with this area than any other and I’m pretty sure I checked those books out more than anyone else.
Redwall by Brian Jacques. The first website I ever created housed my Redwall fanfiction and fanart. I had a page of Redwall quotes and book reviews. That artwork and that “Redwall Story” I wrote were the first things I ever posted online. The first forum I ever took part in was in the ROC (Redwall Online Community) and the very first character I ever RP’d was Mara Treeflyer – a squirrel maiden that lived within the walls of Redwall Abbey.
While the site and fanart and fanfiction dwindled after I went to college, I never stopped reading every book Brian Jacques came out with. The Sable Queen came out last year and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve stayed up to date with his books since 1997. There is nothing better than curling up with a big blanket, and a dog, and a Redwall book on a rainy afternoon and losing myself to the stories of Martin the Warrior and Constance the Badger and the great hares of Salamandastron.
So when I heard the news yesterday, that one of greatest and most inspirational children’s author that ever walked this earth had passed away, I was dumbfounded. Of any author (other than, perhaps, Tolkien), he has made the biggest impact on my life. That first story, that first artwork, the very first WEBSITE (!) I ever showed anyone other than my family were all based on Redwall. My best friend? I met because of a forum where I posted Redwall-inspired artwork. I most likely wouldn’t be where I am now, a writer and illustrator and web designer, if I hadn’t read the Redwall series and been inspired to take part in the ROC.
I won’t lie. When I heard the news I cried. I felt like a dear, old friend had passed away. His voice lulled me to sleep many times while I listened to my Redwall tapes. No on in the world could speak Mole speech like he could. I remember road trips with my dad while we both listened to the story of Cluny the Scourage. When I was in high school, I took home my first First Place Ribbon in 4N6 with a fun reading of Cluny and Basil Stag Hare. Redwall is entwined in my life.
Brian Jacques, thank you for every word you ever wrote down. Thank you for Cornflower and Jess Squirrel and Gonff. Thank you for Samkin, Triss, Basil and Constance. Thank you for Salamandastron and Mossflower and Loamhedge and, most importantly, for Redwall Abbey, where all the stories are told. And thank you for Benn and Denmark, too. I wish there had been more stories about those two. Thank you for introducing me to some amazing friends who have changed my life and who have made me a better artist and writer. Thank you for the amazing life you shared with us.
“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”
Images from my favorite Redwall illustrator Christopher Denise.