It might have been 1987, perhaps a shade before, but I will stick to “when I was eleven years old” (and that is quite a stretch in memory) when I first saw Cluny the Scourge. On my oldest friend’s bookshelf, (she is still around and sharing books with me) sat a paperback copy of Redwall. A 1986 copy to be exact, with the original British cover illustrated by Pete Lyon. She was quite excited when she purchased it, as she had been reading her cousin’s copy on the weekends when visiting, and now she had one of her own. I was promised a loan of this marvelous book as soon as she had finished, and I was certainly intrigued, as she had filled me with tales of Abbeys and Mice and dastardly Sea Rats. I was convinced I had never read anything like it before and therefore it must be the greatest book written since any of my Enid Blytons. And then there was the superb illustration of Cluny on the cover, and surely he must be the greatest villain any mouse had to overcome.
I was indeed correct.
I was plunged into a vast woodland world beyond the walls of a great Abbey filled with monastic mice and other marvelous creatures, tales of great bravery, of intellect, of old lore and warriors, and of the smallest mouse who can change the world.
I was ever so sorry to leave.
The first Redwall book was published in 1986. But Brian Jacques was not done yet, not nearly so.
I read her copies of Mossflower and Mattimeo, but as I was growing up Brian Jacques was passing me by.
I knew some later books had been published, and I read a few here and there, but I had moved onto my world of adult fantasy, while the creatures of the Abbey patiently waited for me to return. They reminded me many years later that life in Mossflower country flourished.
I was book shopping with Craig, in an op-shop in Sydney when I found a large collection of Redwall books. There was at least a dozen, mostly paperbacks and a couple of hardcovers. I picked them up one by one, studying the cover art, carefully leafing through the pages, and slowly I was transported back in time, some seventeen or eighteen years, to when all the world was Redwall.
It was a strange stroke of fate that weekend, I had been staying in Sydney for a couple of weeks with Craig and Mel decided to visit one of her friends that weekend and fly back to Melbourne with me (and promised to split her baggage weight with me as I has some 30 kilos of books I had found) Redwall found me and my oldest comrade in Mossflower country that week.
I proceeded to read them in publication order (although the actual chronological order is different), some seventeen books in a row while frantically trying to collect them (original British covers thank you) to make sure I had enough to go on with. That took maybe 18 months or so as I was reading things in between, but in the last couple of years I haven’t read another. Mel has since started reading them.
I had purchased a couple of first editions here and there, including a beautiful limited and numbered re-issue of book one signed by Brian, but I had not begun a dedicated pursuit.
So, as we have moved into our first house recently, all of my books were in boxes. I found all of my Redwall books sitting in one box and a slight nostalgic feeling was nagging at me. I unpacked my hardcovers and put them on the small shelf in my bedroom, and decided it was a pitifully small collection. Always supportive of my quests, Craig bought me a first edition of book one for my birthday recently.
And so the great Redwall hunt begins again. I have decided to try and collect the hardcovers in order. I do have the first four books so far, but there are another eighteen, so it should be no easy task, but it will be yet another adventure with Redwall.