If you’ve never heard of Redwall, Netflix’s latest project could sound baffling. A feature film and TV series to tell the story of talking mice living in a big church, adapted from a children’s author? On the face of it, it’s not exactly The Witcher.
But as a fan of the Redwall books, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong – oh, so wrong. Those talking, mice, hares and vaguely West Country-accented moles are about to become some of your favourite characters – assuming Netflix can actually turn Brian Jacques’ weird and wonderful world into television. So far I’m optimistic.
For the uninitiated, the Tales of Redwall were a series of 22 books by the late great Brian Jacques, which followed different groups of talking, anthropomorphised animals linked (sometimes tenuously) to the titular Redwall Abbey.
In the first book (simply called Redwall), the peaceful and notably non-religious Abbey comes under attack from a horde of rats, and a long siege inspires a young mouse called Matthias to take on the mantle of the Abbey’s mythical founder, Martin the Warrior, find a legendary sword and defend his home.
Later books then jumped back in time to tell the real Martin’s story, then the inhabitants of Redwall in the years after Matthias, and then started to flit around the timeline and map even more to explore the Badger Lords of Salamandastron, the Squirrel, Otter and Shrew Tribes scattered across the unnamed world and even meet creatures from the lands across the sea.
Across 22 books implied to take place over centuries Jacques told his stories, which attracted legions of fans around the world who were drawn to the author’s descriptive powers, compelling action scenes and near legendary passages detailing various pescatarian feasts enjoyed by the characters.
Big news! The creator of Over The Garden Wall is working on a Redwall adaptation for Netflix! I'm already preparing myself for the feast scenes. pic.twitter.com/6bie3CwpqI— NX (@NXOnNetflix) February 10, 2021
Stories featured pirate kidnappings, prodigal sons, treasure hunts across the ages, legendary champions finding peace, peaceful monks taking up the sword, disease, mysteries, slavery, pitched battles, siege warfare, a surprising amount of singing and much more, all told through Jacques’ PG lens. Think JRR Tolkien but cuddlier.
They’re great books, but they’re an odd property. While not qualifying as Young Adult literature they’re not exactly children’s books either, featuring plenty of violence, death (albeit not gory death) and trauma, and with few returning characters (beyond a handful of books that revisit the likes of Martin and Matthias) they make for an unusually disparate franchise.
And really, this may be why Netflix seems to have landed on the perfect way to tell this story. Redwall (the original book) is written like a movie, and works as a standalone story – but following it up with the “backstory” of the iconic Martin spread over a TV series (which is the streamer’s intended plan) closely mimics the experience of jumping around the different novels, which weren’t released in chronological order.
If Netflix pulls a Dark Crystal and doesn’t make more beyond this first run, it’d be a shame – but at least we’d have these two self-sufficient stories already told. And if they do want to keep exploring Redwall, there’s an endless parade of great books (I’m waiting for The Long Patrol or The Taggerung, personally) to draw from.
Will the mood of Jacques’ tales transfer to a scripted drama? I’m hopeful. The fact that Netflix are unusually going down the animated route (rather than some sort of hybrid live-action) for both the Redwall standalone and the Martin the Warrior series bodes well for me, as does the hiring of writer Patrick McHale to spearhead the series. Based on his social media posts, he definitely knows the source material.
…i - am that is… pic.twitter.com/Aau3o8bKHu— Patrick McHale (@Patrick_McHale) February 10, 2021
And frankly, I’d just like to be transported back to the world of Redwall one last time, if only to enjoy the sight of Deeper’n’Ever Turnip’n’Tater’n’Beetroot Pie in glorious HD. Eulalia!
Redwall will stream on Netflix. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.