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Essay: On Villain Dynamics in the Redwall Series

This is an "essay" - more of just a listing - in which I have analyzed the patterns of dynamics between the various antagonists and vermin leaders in Brian Jacques' Redwall series. So, starting right out:

The First Three

Jacques is finding his ground here, so there aren't any discernible patterns...yet.

  • with Redwall. There's really only one bad guy of any significance in this one: Cluny the Scourge. The first Redwall book is unique in several ways, one of which is the way [i]everything[/i] revolves around its central villain. There are some minor villain subplots, mostly involving Cluny's captains duking it out for second-in-command (Cheesethief, Redtooth, Darkclaw, Fangburn, [[Scragg] etc.), but compared to what's going to come later, they're trivial. Asmodeus [i]could[/i] also be considered a major antagonist due to the way his death is dramatically described ("He struck for..." etc.).
  • Being the only "true" sequel in the series (with over half the characters carryovers from Redwall), Mattimeo is also the only book to feature a recurring villain, though Slagar the Cruel plays a far bigger role here than in Redwall, of course. Mattimeo has a unique villain dynamic in that its main leader commands only a pitiful force, while minor villains Stonefleck, Nadaz and Malkariss lead far greater numbers. Slagar is able to manipulate these forces to his own ends, however, and that's why he's the main villain of Mattimeo. Again as with Mossflower, a secondary villain leader with completely independent motives and horde exists too: General Ironbeak and his flock. The theme of "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain" is revisited several times later in the series.

The Quintfecta

The next five Redwall books fall into a rut of sorts: they run the gamut of typical vermin species, with a rat, weasel, stoat, fox and ferret leader. Each of these has a secondary of the same species - often a relative - and the relations between the two range, even within the book, from allied to strained to downright hostile.

  • In Mariel of Redwall, our major villain is Gabool the Wild, a searat. His original first mate, the searat Greypatch, deserts him and sails to Redwall, trying to take it. Mariel therefore fits both the Quintfecta and the "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain" patterns.
  • Salamandastron has the series' [i]only[/i] major weasel leader to date (that's weird!): Ferahgo the Assassin. Following the Quintfecta pattern, there is an odd dynamic between Ferahgo and his son Klitch: the latter is considered the former's second-in-command, but relations are pretty strained between the two - Ferahgo seems to fear his son becoming too ambitious or smart, the latter resents his father holding power from him. Salamandastron is also a return to Redwall's "single battle" format - the Abbey is never really threatened (come on, Dingeye and Thura don't count!).
  • Martin the Warrior features two of the three stoat leaders who roam the Redwall Universe during this approximate time: Badrang the Tyrant and his nemesis Cap'n Tramun Clogg. The two sign several truces, alliances and agreements throughout the book, but neither ever trusts the other and in the end, Badrang enslaves Clogg.
  • The Bellmaker foils main leader Urgan Nagru with a sly, bickering, always-disagreeing mate, Silvamord. One wonders why the two ever got married, because they never agree on [i]anything[/i] and are constantly on the lookout from each other. This is the third book in the "single battle" pattern as Blaggut effectively stops Slipp doing anything evil in the Abbey.
  • Outcast of Redwall is the king of dysfunctional vermin families: Swartt Sixclaw and his son, kinda-sorta-maybe-good-but-really-evil Veil Sixclaw. The two don't know each other long, with Veil dying soon after, but boy does Jacques pack a lot of disagreeing and arguing and fighting and bad blood into those few pages. While the focus is really on the two Sixclaws, there are some notable minor villains: Nightshade, Bowfleg, Balefur and Zigu to name a few. This book arguably follows the "single battle" pattern too, though there are really two major battles - Swartt trying to get to Redwall Abbey and Swartt trying to take Salamandastron.

The Rest

For the rest, BJ doesn't follow any discernible pattern, often experimenting with odd species leaders or even books without any major villain. He does stick to a few established and recurring patterns, though.

  • Pearls of Lutra introduces a pine marten leader, Ublaz Mad Eyes, and a fairly significant lizard secondary leader in Lask Frildur - a good example of BJ fanning out, species-wise. Lutra is arguably an example of "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain", though the Abbey is never really besieged by Lask and Romsca. Rasconza too plays a major role, giving Lutra a higher-than-usual number of major villains.
  • The Long Patrol is a return to the simplest from of "single battle", almost as simple as Redwall, and the leader is too a rat: Damug Warfang. There aren't really any minor or significant other villains here, disregarding the rebellious Borumm and Vendace or the thick rats Sneezewort and Lousewort.
  • Marlfox has a very unique villain dynamic in that power is shared among [i]eight[/i] characters. Well, Mokkan does take a pretty obvious lead and is the last to die, but still, the double-dealing and subterfuge between them is atypically thick (kind of a beefed-up version of the Quintfecta pattern). Marlfox follows the "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain" pattern with Gelltor and Vannan attacking the Abbey while Abbess Songbreeze Swifteye and co. follow Mokkan. Besides The Sable Quean and arguably Doomwyte, Marlfox is the only book to be named after the antagonist.
  • The Legend of Luke parts 1 and 3 feature no major villains (being more extended epilogues than anything else), and part 2 is too short to really include anything but the stoat Vilu Daskar, so we are again given a "single battle" treatment with no minor villains whatsoever. Actually, there's barely even a battle to speak of...
  • Lord Brocktree sees our second cat villain so far, Ungatt Trunn. Like Long Patrol and Redwall, there are few other villains who play significant roles - Brocktree, too, is in "single battle" format.
  • Taggerung is completely unique in that [i]there is no major villain[/i] whatsoever. As many as five characters (Sawney Rath, Gruven, Eefera, Vallug Bowbeast and Ruggan Bor) can be seen as taking the major role at various stages throughout the book. These five characters are spread out over the species, with only the rat not being represented (making up, perhaps, for its commonness in earlier books?).
  • Triss is relatively straightforward, following the "single battle" format. However, there are definite hints of the Quintfecta in the interactions between central antagonist Princess Kurda and the fox Plugg Firetail (despite their not sharing a species).
  • Loamhedge is a variant of the "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain" pattern - the heroes (including Bragoon and Sarobando do leave, though it's not to chase Raga Bol. The Abbey is attacked by Badredd and his vermin crew, but later comes under full siege from Raga Bol. So Loamhedge is the only book that can be said to fit both "HCMV, AAbMV" and the "single battle" format.
  • Rakkety Tam, too, follows the "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain" rut, though in this case the minor villains (Zerig and Freeta) are offshoots of the major villain (Gulo the Savage). Pretty straightforward.
  • High Rhulain is the third book in a row to follow "heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain", and in this case the boundaries are clear-cut: Riggu Felis is the major villain, Groffgut is the completely independant minor one who assaults Redwall (though whether he's to be taken seriously is another matter...). Quintfecta clearly rears its head in the form of Pitru.
  • I haven't read Doomwyte or The Sable Quean. When I do (which I plan on doing very, very soon!) I'll finish the essay. It seems that BJ continues to experiment with new species as leaders - birds and sables.


The "quintfecta" from Mariel to Outcast is the only period of Redwall time where Jacques is strict in following a pattern: he systematically goes through each species for the villain leaders, and the way each is saddled with a secondary, kinda-sorta-allied member of the same species is remarkably similar from book to book. Quintfecta patterns are seen outside of these five books, too, especially in Marlfox and High Rhulain.

Other than that, two discernible patterns repeat themselves throughout the books. This is because Jacques has two "forms" of Redwall novel: the quest and the war. Elements of both forms appear in all novels, of course, but some novels (Redwall, Mossflower, Outcast, The Long Patrol) focus more on the war against a single villain, while others (Mattimeo, Loamhedge, High Rhulain) focus on a few heroes going on an epic quest. The war books tend to be straightforward, with the "single battle" format ruling the day. The quest books tend to have multiple villains, usually at least one to hinder the questors, and another to attack the Abbey that has been left behind ("heroes chase major villain, Abbey attacked by minor villain").

Species Listings

One villain per book (except Taggerung, which I disregarded for the purposes of this tally) - what species are the major villains? (This time I included Doomwyte and The Sable Quean)

  • 4 Rats in Redwall, Mariel, Long Patrol and Loamhedge.
  • 4 Foxes in Mattimeo, The Bellmaker, Marlfox and Eulalia!.
  • 3 Cats in Mossflower, Lord Brocktree and High Rhulain.
  • 2 Ferrets in Outcast of Redwall and Triss.
  • 2 Stoats in Martin the Warrior and The Legend of Luke.
  • 1 Weasel in Salamandastron.
  • 1 Pine Marten in Pearls of Lutra
  • 1 Wolverine in Rakkety Tam
  • 1 Bird in Doomwyte
  • 1 Sable in The Sable Quean

Rats are BJ's stock villain, while foxes make natural leaders - even in minor roles they are seen to be cunning and good fighters. This explains the heaviness on that end. It seems odd to me that Jacques hasn't had a second weasel leader yet. Even odder is that there are so many cats. I suppose that plays off the primal fear mice must have of cats (mice being BJ's stock good guys), but cats are so rare in the books that High Rhulain was the first time we saw cats that weren't leaders (Gingivere's family aside).

So I'm guessing that we'll be seeing a Redwall book with a weasel leader sometime in the near future.

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