Brian Jacques on heroes and villains
A couple of years ago we found a little book titled Redwall Friend & Foe which gives a brief intro to key characters in the series as well as a poster of the heroes. The booklet opens with a brief piece by Jacques in which he describes his approach to heroes and villains. I have included a lengthy quote which I think highlights two key strengths of the series.
“I like my baddies to be totally wicked and my goodies to be heroically on the side of right! From the very first villain, Cluny the Scourge, I have imbued my wicked baddies with certain characteristics. … An arch villain always lusts after power, wants to conquer everything and rule all. He, or she, has no sympathy for any living creature that stands in the way of their malicious ambitions.”
He goes on to note that his typical bad guys are “repellent, ugly and usually insane.” However, he has deviated from this pattern a few times with sly, handsome villains “to illustrate to my young readers that somebody bad is not necessarily an ugly … person; evil has some very personable faces.”
“Martin the Warrior is the role model for all my Redwall Abbey goodies- he is the ultimate hero. … Like Martin, my heroes and heroines are all young creatures, the same as the young people who read my books. The lesson is this: you must learn to be a warrior. This does not mean being a martial arts expert or a Hollywood movie star. The warrior is someone whom others look to. One who tells the truth, defends
the weak and is trustworthy and courageous. In short someone who is true to his or her friends and family.”
He says later that his warriors do not gain that status “through any magic tricks. No, my warriors gain heroic stature by their own determination”
“There is no such thing as wickedness or evil in a hero. Goodies are GOOD!”
Books written from this view will almost certainly be good! Jacques writes in a clear moral universe where the heroes are intended to be pictures of virtue and villains are clearly bad. Sadly such an approach is becoming less and less common in general. Clarity between good and evil is a central piece in moral formation. And, Jacques is clearly aware that his stories are instructing his young readers, as he shows in these quotes. I want an author who knows that his stories will instruct (because they will whether you realize it or not) and then seeks to take that responsibility seriously.
So, “Go Redwaaaalll!”