It’s been some time since I finished reading the entire Redwall series but I’m not done with it yet. It’s time to take a look at the best characters in the saga and narrowing down the potentials to just ten was not easy. The classic figures cut include such heroes as Methuselah, Dandin, Sunflash the Mace and Mattimeo, heroines like Constance, Cornflower and Lady Cregga Rose Eyes and the villainous Badrang, Ublaz, Asmodeus and Slagar the Cruel. With characters like those left out you know the top ten will be made up of legends.
10. Luke the Warrior
Martin’s father, a figure of some mystery in the series for a long time finally made an appearance in The Legend of Luke, one of the darkest books in the series. His world is a bleak one of desperate survival and when his tribe is attacked by Vilu Daskar and his crew of pirates his wife and many of his friends are murdered. His goal is revenge, something he pursues with rage and determination. As a very wronged character his story is very stirring but his place on the list is secured by the moment he gets his revenge, probably the best moment in the entire series.
The heroine of Martin the Warrior and Martin’s tentative love interest, the mousemaid called Laterose is the greatest example of grace and decency in the saga. She’s strong-willed resourceful and upbeat and possesses a beautiful singing voice, something she puts to surprisingly cunning use when trying to rescue her brother Brome from Badrang. Rose is most memorable for the effect she has on Martin and subsequently how her story turns out.
The star character of two books, Mariel of Redwall and The Bellmaker, Mariel is the series best leading lady. After surviving being cast into a stormy ocean and washing up on the shores near Mossflower Country minus her memory she defends herself from attacking gulls with one of the series’ most iconic weapons, a length of knotted rope she calls Gullwhacker. Mariel is brave, strong and tenacious, one of the toughest ladies in the canon and earns her place with her heroism and boldness.
7. Silent Sam
Most Redwall books have a handful of amusing youngsters, or Dibbuns but the first of them is the most likeable. Sam is an infant squirrel who helps Matthias in Redwall and earns his name by merit of the fact that he never talks. Despite this he’s a resourceful little fellow, an expert climber and sure enough of himself to wander around in the woods alone. He’s massively appealing even in Mattimeo when he finds his voice.
The villain of Mossflower and Martin’s most memorable antagonist, Tsarmina is a wildcat, the daughter of Verdauga Greeneyes whom she promptly offs, blaming his murder on her brother Gingevere. She’s powerful, controlling and extremely angry most of the time and, once the Corim put into action their plan to flood Kotir, goes absolutely loopy. There aren’t many female villains in the series but Tsarmina really leaves an impression.
As the hero of the first and best book in the series, Redwall itself, it would have been extremely difficult not to include him. He begins as a bumbling young novice always tripping over his sandals but his journey in Redwall turns him into a champion and he only grows as a hero in Mattimeo as he searches restlessly for his kidnapped son.
The character Brian Jacques based on himself as a young man, Gonff the Mousethief is the clown to Martin’s straight man. Appearing in both Mossflower and The Legend of Luke, Gonff acts as constant companion to the hero and regular source of amusement for the reader. He’s the kind of indomitable, resourceful character that makes the books he features in a breeze.
3. Basil Stag Hare
There are many repeating character archetypes in the series but few can claim to be as reliably amusing as the hares and that tradition started with Basil Stag Hare in the very first book. With his posh, upper-class accent and military background Basil is a hoot to read about. He’s a tough fighter and an impressive athlete, skills he uses to great effect during the rescue mission at St Ninian’s when he memorably gives Cluny’s horde the run-around.
2. Martin the Warrior
Although he doesn’t feature as a proper character in Redwall, his presence is felt immeasurably. As a legendary figure of the distant past his effect on Matthias and the saga is a whole is massive. His own books, three of them are among the best in the series and he fills the role of the hero more convincingly than anyone. A pillar of bravery, strength and heroism, he is the heart and soul of the saga. But he’s not quite the most memorable characters.
1. Cluny the Scourge
Redwall books are driven by the nefarious doings of their villains and Cluny the Scourge set the blueprint in Redwall. A massive one-eyes bilge rat who uses his tail as a whip, Cluny’s impact on the book is towering. Picking up a copy he is the first thing you see on the cover and he’s a memorable sight to behold and within the pages he does not disappoint, the story opening with ominous descriptions of his gradual approach to Redwall. Cluny threats his followers as badly as his enemies and asserts his dominance with irresistible force. Next to the peaceful Redwallers he seems like an unstoppable force, an enemy of brute strength, and unwavering will driven by pure, unfettered evil. His descent into madness only heightens the threat he poses throughout the book and his cunning drives the various episodes and memorable moments in the story. He is nearly everything that Redwall is and described most of what the series would become, other villains in the series arrive as variations on his theme, mere imitators. Without question he is the late Brian Jacques’ greatest creation.