I’ll step up and admit this at the start. I’m 42, and the Redwall books still make me cry. Tales of perilous hares, brave battle badgers, warrior mice, fearless and funny otters, and other woodland critters who have to learn to be heroes will get me every time.
It’s not just the mice or Brian Jacques’ fabulous ability to create a setting (or describe food!) – – it’s any book that encourages us to be better than we are, even while dealing with the consequences of what could happen.
We need heroes. We need to be encouraged to dream. To be brave. Even if something horrible could happen. Even if it’s likely that something horrible will happen, not to let that stop us from doing the right thing.
A lot of people ask why I’m writing “kids’ books.”
Why I don’t want to write something more serious, more grown up, more “literary.” I guess there’s two answers.
First. I’m not sure if there’s anything more serious than shaping our dreams. And I believe that what we read, what we watch for recreation, what we allow into our lives and our minds affects how we live, how we think.
Second. Right now we could all use a little bolstering up of the good in our lives. If you read a dozen novels about being brave, standing up for what’s right, friendship and love, and good winning over evil – even if there’s been a terrible sacrifice – does it make it any easier to look tomorrow in the eye, and say “yes, I can deal with you?”
I don’t know. I hope so. I believe that creating, visiting, and loving worlds filled with honor and courage lends us just a little bit of those characteristics.
Rather like a dress rehearsal of the hero’s journey, over and over again. We need to see it, to read it, to live it vicariously, so when situations come up in our real lives, we can think: “What would Martin the Warrior do? What’s the right thing, the kind thing, the brave thing to do now?”
In a different time, in a different forest, Christopher Robin* said it best:
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
And in today’s world, that’s a message we all need to hear more often.
*Yes, I know – that’s from the movie, not the books. But it’s still true.