THE LONG PATROL Still Captures the Imagination

Sometimes a story just sticks with you. The words pass from the page through your eyes and are spun into vivid images in your mind. Occasionally, those images linger somewhere within you. Their presence may not always be obvious, but their echoes reverberate in quiet moments, reminders of those fleeting images.

This is what the Redwall series by Brian Jacques feels like to me. I finished The Long Patrol on Friday, a novel in this children’s fantasy world that stuck out to me as a favorite among the 16 novels from the series I still own. (There are 22 total.)

After many years away from these beloved stories, it was truly a delight to pick up The Long Patrol once more.

Jacques’s tales are full of colorful language, beautiful imagery of Mossflower Woods and the surrounding country — and Redwall Abbey’s legendary food — and lovable characters.

The Long Patrol follows a young hare named Tammo as he runs off from home to join the legendary Long Patrol hares, who defend the mountain fortress Salamandastron from vermin hordes. Tammo is a young rogue who develops into a true hero — an archetype for which I believe Jacques had a particular fondness.

But the novel also follows a unique and potentially dangerous development at Redwall Abbey. The south wall has crumbled, and Abbess Tansy and some of her fellow abbey-dwellers must uncover the reason why.

Jacques uses such very personal and localized character arcs to tell a much wider story. Within this single novel we are given references to other figures of Redwall lore, like Martin the Warrior, Matthias, Sunflash the Mace, and Lord Brocktree. To be reminded of these stories has only stoked my desire to revisit this world.

Some of the narrative descriptions and character flourishes can feel on-the-nose. But these are children’s stories meant to portray heroism, courage, and compassion.

As a former romantic turned pragmatist, reading through the final chapters brought me right back to an idealized version of myself, when the line between good and evil was as distinct as the mannerisms between a mouse and a weasel.

Simpler times.

I will refrain from diving straight into another Redwall novel, if only because there are more pressing matters on my TBR list. But I cannot wait to continue revisiting this series.

Steve D

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