Frere Jacques

Posted on February 14, 2011 by

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A literary junkie eulogizes the recently deceased author responsible for her passion.

By Rachael Lander

With the sad announcement of author Brian Jacques’ sudden death on Feb. 5, I want to take a moment to thank Mr. Jacques for all he’s done for me. I know, maybe it’s a little corny but as an English major and aspiring authoress in possession of a vivid imagination since age two, I can’t help it.

Brian Jacques, author of 21 Redwall books, was 71 when he passed away on Feb. 5.

Jacques, author of the famed Redwall series, was my first real introduction to the fantasy genre. His books came out around the time my dad started reading The Hobbit to me every night before I went to bed. I like to think these two things are the reason I even had an imagination as a kid at all, but maybe that’s just me being dramatic.

Redwall, the tale of the creatures that inhabit Mossflower woods, was really the first book I ever remember creating my own stories with. Luckily, I have a best friend who also became absorbed in the series when I did, so through joint efforts we were able to bring Basil Stag Hare, Martin the Warrior, and Constance the Badger to life. I remember spending hours making up new adventures for our favorite characters in what can only be described as a child’s version of fan fiction.

Now, this borderline embarrassing retelling of my wacky (but supremely real) childhood is meant to do more than make my friends realize why I now sport of a Lord of the Rings-inspired tattoo. My purpose is so much greater—just as Jacques’ Redwall series was so much more than a simple story. What Jacques did for me, and I’m sure for countless others, was provide something to be passionate about at a very young age: reading. It’s simple really, but it’s something I’m afraid is becoming lost in favor of television (though that, in its own way, is also an important medium to consume).

My best friend and I used this very Beanie Baby to depict Basil Stag Hare. Wot wot?

As a kid, I was lucky enough to have parents who would read to me every night before I went to bed — a tradition that I think shaped my interests greatly and led me down the path I’m on now. We read everything from Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings and Beverly Cleary to Roald Dahl. If I’m remembering correctly, Jacques’ novels were some of the first ones I read on my own (after The Baby-sitters Club but before Little House on the Prairie), and ultimately that series is one that has stuck with me for years — maybe because it was imprinted so vividly in my mind.

I’ve sometimes come off as a book snob because I can’t help but be taken aback by people who say they hate literature. I just don’t understand it — I grew up an avid reader. Stories are the foundation for everything and books have the ability to give people something to disappear into for a while.

Jacques' seminal novel "Redwall."

I like to think that even without Jacques I would have dedicated years to books, but I think my world was so much richer with his stories in it. Jacques created this place with mice and badgers and rabbits conquering evil and fighting for the good of animalkind and created a product that was almost a child’s version of Lord of the Rings, a story so powerful in its own right that it affected each and every person who read it. Whether that effect was teaching some readers that the fantasy genre wasn’t their thing or whether it was like what happened to me — exposure to a genre that I could connect to, recreate, and tell my own stories with.

Brian Jacques taught me so much about what it takes to create compelling literature — lessons I didn’t realize as a child but lessons that I hold onto now and will continue to hold onto for years to come, regardless of if he’s no longer creating works of fiction.

I can only hope that just because we lost a literary master doesn’t mean we’re going to lose the influence his books had on readers. I hope that if you read Jacques as a child, you’ll realize the importance of his work and pass it down to any adolescent you know. The most important thing for kids in this ever-changing world of technology and television is that they get to keep their imaginations.

Brian Jacques will make sure that happens.

– Rachael Lander

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Posted in: BookSTALK