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- Author Note: This essay originally appeared in the April 2007 edition of the Myth's Magazine.
One of the most important aspects of a Brian Jacques Redwall novel are the names he chooses for the characters and places.
Believe it or not, Jacques is very picky when it comes to titling various figures and often it appears he tends to use native British history as an influence for these characters and their attributes.
In the very first book, Redwall, we meet a cellar keeper named Ambrose Spike. Seems innocent enough, until it is revealed that that the brewmaster also happens to be a skilled magician. In the fifth century AD, Ambrosius Aurelianus was a Roman-British warrior who led many battles, and oddly was alleged to be talented at magic. While Redwall was under siege by Cluny the Scourge, Ambrose Spike too was positioned as a commander for the Abbey.
Ambrosius Aurelianus may seem like a comma in the centuries of British history for Mr. Jacques to allude to, however some historians like to believe Aurelianus went by either one of two more well-known names, King Arthur or Uther Pendragon.
But Mr. Jacques doesn't stop the word games with British lore, he has to involve the Greeks as well. According to ancient Greek mythology, Ambrosia is said to be the nectar of the gods, a beverage if you will.
What a clever guy.
Rakkety Tam: a "northern" kilt-wearing squirrel with a goofy-looking hat. Robert Burns is perhaps Scotland's most reknowned poet. In 1790, one of his most famous works was published, "Tam O'Shanter". While the Jacques' character has really nothing to do with Burns' (Burns' poem is about a man who rides home from the pub, encounters witches in an old church, and barely escapes them), Rakkety just so happens to wear the bonnet named for Burns' character, and speaks with what one might identify as a Scottish accent. Coincidence? Unlikely.
Next time you read a Redwall novel, pay close attention to the names. There's really much more than it would appear.