Redwall Themes and Symbols

Genres, Themes, and Symbols in Redwall by Brian Jacques.

Themes in Redwall

This story has the classic theme of Good vs Evil.

Redwall Theme Good vs Evil

The peaceful creatures of Redwall obviously represent good. They toil diligently to share the earth's bounty with each other and the needy.

And Cluny's horde is the epitome of evil: selfish, cruel, attacking and enslaving.


There are a few sub-themes within the story as well.

No Loyalty Among Tyrants

: There is no love shared between the enemies of Redwall. They despise each other as much as they do others. Jealousy, cruelty, and indifference mark their relationships.

This is seen when Cluny ignores the dying plea of Shadow. Numerous other examples follow.

Sela and Chickenhound also demonstrate the lack of loyalty among the selfish. They aren't hateful like Cluny's company; but neither are they trusthworthy or good.

Cooperation between the Good-hearted

In contrast to Cluny's army of rats, the peaceful monastery exhibits the collaboration of non-competitive creatures. They serve each other and accept the leadership of others without jealousy.

Symbols in Redwall

Sword and Shield

Redwall Martin's Sword and Shield

The sword and shield of Martin represent the safety and defense of Redwall. Matthias must find and wield the sword before his home and loved ones are safe.

Late Rose

Redwall Summer of the Late Rose Symbol

Throughout the story the year is referred to as the "Summer of the Late Rose." On the death of Abbott Mortimer it is revealed that the rose represents the sacrifice of those who gave their lives defending the abbey.

Redwall followers can rejoice that the following year is named "The Year of the Talking Squirrel." Good news for fans of little Silent Sam.

The Abbey

Redwall Abbey Symbol

The abbey stands for the peaceful life of its non-carnivorous creatures.

While Redwall Abbey is patterned after the monastery of the Middle Ages, it is not distinctly religious. There is no direct mention of God or prayer. The blessings they say before meals mirror giving thanks to God, but the reference is indirect.

The Name Matthias

In the book Matthias is informed that his name unscrambled is "I Am That Is." This could be considered an encryption of the name "I Am," The God of the Old and New Testament.

Genres of Redwall

Animal Fable

Redwall is a classic animal fable with a society of talking animals in a world that mimics human society. (Monastery, farms, ships, quarry, army.)

Quest Literature

It also contains a quest: the quest of Matthias' to find the sword of Martin the Warrior.

In fact, the second part of the book is entitled "The Quest."

As such, it contains the major elements of quest literature:
  1. A hero: Martin (or Matthias)
  2. A desired treasure: Martin’s Sword
  3. A journey: To find and claim the sword
  4. Multiple obstacles on the journey: The second part of the book and Matthias' battles

Coming of Age

This can also be considered a "coming of age" story. The young orphan Matthias begins the tale as a bumbling novice in the order. At the end he finds his identify as the warrior in the mantle of Martin who leads and saves Redwall.

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Unit Study Information

Redwall Unit Study
The Redwall Unit Study
provides chapter by chapter activities for all 58 chapters. It can be used for students in 5th to 8th grade.

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