Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In Memory of Brian Jacques

My sister just informed me that Brian Jacques has passed away. For those of you not familiar with him, Brian Jacques was the author of the Redwall series. It is about mice, squirrels, badgers and hares fighting off rats, weasels, foxes and ferrets with all the blood and gore my child self could have ever asked for. The series now consists of over twenty novels, most of them bad, consisting of telling the same story over and over again, but the first six novels were truly inspired. Beyond those first novels (the only ones I recognize much as I only recognize the original Star Wars films) I owe a debt of gratitude to Jacques for, along with my mother and my grade school teacher Mrs. Kristine Coyne, helping to make me a reader. The Redwall series was my Harry Potter (and to all those people upset with Rowling for not writing more books, I ask you to look at Redwall and ask yourself if you would really want twenty Potter novels).

The Redwall books were not just a personal thing to me, but a beloved series within my family. My older brother was the first to come to them. I first learned about them after he spent an entire Sabbath reading the first novel, Redwall, coming down and drafting me for a role playing game. He would play the hero Matthias the mouse and I was to play Cluny the Scourge with   his whip-like tail. This was a variation of his usual game of him playing Beowulf and me Grendel. You can say this for my brother, he beat me up in good literary taste. Soon after this Brian Jacques came to Columbus for a book signing and my mother took my brother and the rest of us kids along. So I got to meet Brian Jacques, probably the first author I ever met, and he introduced us to starfruit, which he was eating. With such inspiration, it was only natural that I would make a go at the books, despite the fact that I was only in second grade and Redwall was by far the longest book I had read up to that point. (Long before Rowling, Jacques was breaking the unofficial 350 page limit for children's books.) It took me awhile, and by the time I got through it my older sister had also taken an interest.

At this point the series consisted of only three books, Redwall, Mossflower and Mattimeo. We had to wait for the fourth book, Mariel of Redwall to be published in the United States. When our copy finally came in by some agreement I can no longer recall, the reading order was my sister, me and then my older brother. The next morning I got up early snuck into my sister's room and nicked the book while she was sleeping in order to get a harmless jump start on the book. My parents disagreed and as a punishment, my brother got to go ahead of me. Thankfully for me, both my siblings finished within a few days.

Farewell Brian Jacques warrior of Redwall. May you find peace in the Dark Forest.       

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