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Brian Jacques' seventeenth entry into the Redwall series, entitled Loamhedge, is not among the most popular. It has been derided for many reasons: having a weak main villain in Raga Bol, a rather shallow protagonist in Lonna Bowstripe, an utterly implausible and cheesy plot twist with Martha Braebuck suddenly regaining the ability to walk, and not living up to its title and providing more significant background information about Loamhedge Abbey - which, after all, is a Redwall Abbey precursor, the old home of Abbess Germaine and important for Redwall history. I'm sure I wasn't the only one expecting a story that actually took place in Loamhedge Abbey, rather than its ruins. So I'll agree that Loamhedge is not among Jacques' best entries.
But there's one character, one sly little stoat that not only utterly saves this book for me, but would actually be my favorite Redwall character of all time, if it wasn't for the fact that he's a bit underdeveloped (crying shame!). I refer, of course, to none other than my Redwall Wiki namesake: that singing Irish silvertongued crafty old rogue Flinky. Seriously, I love this guy. He's pure awesome, easily Brian Jacques' most likeable villain (up there with swashbucklers like Tramun Clogg and Plugg Firetail), never short for words, always slipping in a witty little comment or funny song here or there. Loamhedge seriously lights up whenever this stoat gets page time. And if BJ ever decides to detail what happened to him when he and his ragtag little gang escaped from the clutches of Raga Bol, well, I won't be able to thank him enough. I've done it in an awful little fanfic, my first, written long ago (4 years or so). In that sixteen-page tale, I had Flinky and company return to Redwall Abbey, help defend it from an invading vermin gang under the command of Badredd and his father Reddblade, and become Abbeybeasts (with some internal argument between Flinky and Slipback to spice things up). Now it may seem a bit farfetched for a vermin gang to want to return to a place where they managed to plunder nothing but hotroot pepper, but if you scour Loamhedge carefully, you will actually find evidence that Flinky has the potential to be good. Well, maybe not Martin the Warrior good, but at least Romsca good, a grey character. And this essay, dear Redwallers, will present that evidence to you. Because honestly, I would go to the flippin' grave defending Flinky the Stoat. He actually had me wanting a pet stoat for a while...
Well, let's dive right in with the evidence. All page numbers refer to the ACE paperback, ever my favorite form of Redwall novel. The quote is in italics, any further arguments by me are in regular font, with the major point or deduction being in bold. Should be simple enough, wot?
- p. 43 Flinky looked at the pair in astonishment. "I've heard of ye, Bragoon an' Saro. Two mighty warriors!"...Flinky bowed politely. "Anythin', yer honour, sure we're in no position to be arguin' wid ye." Flinky's politeness here might be put down to his knack for reading a situation well and then saying whatever gets him out of trouble, but there's no hiding the fact that he shows genuine respect for goodbeast warriors.
- p. 58-59 Although Flinky was the instigator, Redd was the unlucky one whose voice Skrodd identified. With a savage kick, Skrodd sent the small fox sprawling...Realizing that he had gone too far, Flinky tried to remedy the situation..."Ah, come on now, sure he's only a tired young whelp. No sense in slayin' one of yore own mates." Flinky's a troublemaker, undoubtedly, but how many vermin know, or care, when they've gone too far? Flinky's feeling remorse here, most definitely not an evil trait.
- p. 66 Flinky supports Badredd's claim to Chieftainship because he knows the fox is easy to manipulate. The stoat first reveals a wish of his that will become important later on: "...This Mossflower territory's a good soft place to stay, plenty of everythin'...we'll live the good life from now on. Badredd'll do like I tell 'im.". One of Flinky's biggest motives is to find a peaceful place with plentiful food to settle down in. So Flinky has a lack of ambition or desire to conquer, as well as an affinity for peace and willingness to live a simple life. The former separates him from Badredd, Skrodd and all the other leaders of the band, while the latter is pure Redwall at heart. More on Flinky's peace-loving later...
- p. 110 His mate, Crinktail, was the next to speak. "Which way d'ye want these woodpigeon eggs boilin'?" Flinky replied, "Keep 'em nice'n'soft, me ould darlin'. A very significant point here - Flinky loves his mate/wife/girlfriend/whatever. I mean, HOW many vermin couples are there that genuinely get along, let alone love each other? Urgan Nagru and Silvamord, perhaps, Swartt Sixclaw and Bluefen, or else Riggu Felis and Lady Kaltag? No, no, and no. Name me a single other instance of a successful and happy vermin pairing. Later (p. 185), Crinktail [winks] fondly at her mate - more evidence that the two really do like each other. Indeed, one could make a case that Crinktail, too, is "decent" inside.
- p. 179 As Flinky saw the cutlass begin to rise, he stepped in and stayed his crew leader's paw. "Ah, now, leave him alone, Chief. The pore ould rat's not in his right mind at all. How d'ye feel, matey, better now?" This is similar to the example on p. 58-59, both involve Flinky standing up to the Chief and stopping him picking on another beast. In this case - especially in the last sentence, aimed at Halfchop - we can see another of our stoat's inherently "decent" traits shining through: concern for his companions. Badredd is impatient with Halfchop's constant Kachunk-ing, but Flinky sees that Halfchop can't help it, identifies the unfairness in Badredd's irritation, intervenes and stops Badredd from punishing the rat. Nice guy!
- p. 182 There was an uneasy silence. Then Flinky called out in a wheedling voice. "Ah, look now, friends, why don't ye just throw the ould magic sword to us an' we'll be on our way, I promise!" This occurs right after Abbot Carrul refuses to hand Badredd Martin's sword and, even though this may seem to be a characteristically persuasive Flinky comment, it shows one thing: Flinky wants nothing to do with conquering Redwall Abbey. He wants to get away from the place as quickly as possible, and sees that Badredd is too stubborn to go empty-handed; therefore, he tries to get the quickest possible solution from the Abbeydwellers (though his request is, of course, unheeded). Indeed, Flinky tries to talk Badredd into delaying the assault. This ties indirectly with Flinky's wish for peace...more on that later.
- p. 283 "...Tomorrer we'll 'ead south, where nobeast will ever find us agin. Sure, we'll find a comfy spot where there's plenny o' vittles growin', clean water an' grand weather. That'll do fer us, a good plan, eh?"' Having rescued his gang from Raga Bol and his searats, Flinky is now leader of the band, and does he lead them off somewhere to attack somebody, or to raid some innocent homes? NO! Flinky is a lover of the simple, peaceful life. That's been established before, and now that he's the leader, it is strengthened. Listen to this, one of the last sentences we hear Flinky utter in the entire book, on the same page: "...Wot more could a body want than layin' round in the sun all day, fillin' yore stummick wid vittles an' never an argument twixt the lot of us anymore. After wot we bin through, I reckon we deserves a taste o' the good life, mates!". This is my trump card, this is the main reason why I think Flinky isn't evil at all. He's a rogue, a flatterer and quite a fibber, that's for sure, but he doesn't actually want anything more than to live peacefully, simply and happily with a few companions and his mate.
Two more general points that could be seen to support Flinky's greyness:
- Flinky understands music. Most villain songs in BJ's Redwall universe are simplistic, violent war chants or the like. Flinky's little songs, poems and ditties are genuinely clever, funny and remind me quite a lot of the friendly banter that goes around amongst goodbeasts, say, the otters and shrews. In fact, somehow I can easily imagine Flinky getting along with otters.
- Flinky consistently refers to the other gangmembers as "mateys" or the like. That's uncommon among vermin, unless they're good friends like Lousewort and Sneezewort from The Long Patrol, or Dingeye and Thura from Salamandastron. This shows Flinky's affection for those around him - especially his mate Crinktail, as I pointed out above.
Now, just to provide the antithesis, Flinky can simply be described as a cowardly opportunist of the worst kind, always looking for somebody to manipulate, always slipping around with flattery and lies, never giving you a straight answer, always staying out of trouble. His wish for a simple, peaceful life can be interpreted as mere laziness, and it is plausible I suppose that the peaceful spot he was looking for meant raiding some innocent woodlander home and installing the gang there instead. Based on an earlier scene in the book where Flinky expresses a desire to stay beside a pond with lots of woodpigeon nests, though, I assume that Flinky really did want to find some secluded spot for him and his gang, though.
Unfortunately, there is no denying that Flinky commits at least two acts that could be interpreted as evil. Firstly, his plot (together with Slipback) to assassinate Badredd in his sleep; secondly, his plan to run off with Crinktail and start a new life together (thwarted by Raga Bol). But keep in mind that Flinky is described as having been around vermin and gangs for all his life - he knew Burrad's father, for example. What we have here, I believe, is a potential Romsca. Flinky shows on several occasions that there is a persistent spark of decency within him, which more often than not overrides his villainous upbringing and causes him to, for example, protect his fellow gangmembers when they are picked on by Badredd or Skrodd. Romsca, as a Corsair captain, surely killed many innocents in her time and caused many others to be killed upon her orders - far more than Flinky could possibly have. And yet, that flicker of goodness shines through in the end. Flinky's goodness is much stronger than Romsca's, as it manifests itself quite well without the influence of a kindly father figure such as Abbot Durral for Romsca.
Whatever happened to that garrulous stoat and his band, I wish him well. I hope he, Crinktail and the rest found their peaceful spot in the south, lived long, happy and carefree lives, and died old, fat and completely content. If you ask me, it's no less than this stoat deserves.
Whew! I talk almost as much as the stoat himself. If you disagree and think Flinky is PURE EVIL!!!!, or would like to comment, please feel free. I love talking about Flinky. He's one of BJ's most unique and fun characters - only Killconey and Yoofus Lightpaw come close to being as rascally and, well, Oirish. Easily the best thing about Loamhedge.
Ah sure, an' 'tis time t'give the ould fingers a rest an' let ye read this liddle lot, eh?
FlinkyTheStoat 20:19, May 10, 2010 (UTC), signing out.