Culture Trips

Redwall is coming to Netflix: where to start for kids (and adults) | Books

If, like me, you are a fan of Brian Jacques, then the news that Netflix is working on an adaptation of Redwall will have you setting the abbey bells a-ringing in joy. Jacques’ bestselling stories of talking mice, squirrels and otters (the goodies) and rats, foxes and wildcats (the baddies) gave me so much happiness as a child. The first novel, 1986’s Redwall, was my introduction to fantasy: Matthias, a young orphan mouse, seeks a lost sword to see off an evil rat army led by Cluny the Scourge. (“Cluny was a God of War! Cluny was coming nearer!”) Heroism and sacrifice, comedy and evil – all of life is contained in Jacques’ anthropomorphic world.

After Redwall, Jacques told the story of how Redwall Abbey came to be, in the sequel Mossflower, as Martin the Warrior (another mouse, of course) arrives to save the creatures of the forest from the grip of the wildcats (Tsarmina Greeneyes is a particularly wonderful villain). Mattimeo continued the saga, following Matthias’s son as he is kidnapped by the slaver fox Slagar the Cruel (another excellent baddie; Jacques does villainous animals very well).

Born in 1939, Jacques’ books were informed by the second world war, and his memories of rationing. Even the word “feast” transports me to his depictions of groaning tables laden with deeper’n’ever pies, Goody Stickle’s new yellow cheese, “bulrush and water-shrimp soup provided by the otters; a large flagon of Skipper’s famous hot root punch”.

The whole saga continues for some two dozen books; for my money, the first three are the best, and Redwall is definitely one for kids who love the talking animals of Dick King-Smith. There is darkness in Jacques’ world, but it is less terrifying – and far less adult – than Watership Down. There is humour, but less wordiness than The Wind in the Willows. This is something for children to read alone and have fun with, chunky slices of adventure they can lose themselves in. It has been a delight to see my daughters enjoying the books as I did, weeping inconsolably at the deaths of Methuselah and Warbeak, as I did. “Finally!” the eldest just told me, at the news of the forthcoming adaptation.

Patrick McHale, creator of the Netflix animation Over the Garden Wall, will be writing the feature film, which will be based on the first book in the series, Variety reports. This will be the first time a feature film of any of Jacques’ works has been made, although there was a cartoon series in the late 90s. Netflix is also developing a series based on Martin the Warrior.

“Brian often travelled the globe to tell his Redwall stories to young audiences, more often than not at their schools,” Alan Ingram, representative of the Redwall Abbey Company, which has owned Jacques’ intellectual property since his death in 2011, told Deadline. “Brian would have been very happy to see that Netflix shares his joy and desire to bring his stories to life as a new universe of films, series and potentially much more for audiences of all ages to enjoy.”

Redwaaaaaall! Eulalia! Logalogalogalooog!

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