Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homage to Brian Jacques and Redwall

Question(s): What do you think was the saddest character death or best/most satisfying character death (or both!) from a book?

My Answer:

I've had to contemplate a lot of character deaths recently as my class just finished the first book of the children's fantasy series Redwall. The author, Brian Jacques, passed away this year and in fitting tribute to him, we held a memorial service for the dead characters. Rats with magnificent names like Cheesethief (my favorite), Redtooth, Darkclaw, and Mangefur have all bitten the dust along with weasel Scragg and ferret Killconey. With that in mind, the deaths of all the adversaries in this book are particularly satisfying. Cheesethief is mistakenly shot with an arrow while posturing in the clothes of the Rat Chief, Cluny the Scourge. The death of Enemy Number One, Cluny himself, is a resounding example of poetic justice, as the bell which features in his dreams, is cut down by the mouse hero Matthias to crush him. Jacques writes these brilliant death scenes in varied manners that I know bring delight to the heart of little boys and girls. There are also a few sad and affecting deaths on the side of the good Redwall Abbey mice.

However, the saddest death I have encountered in literature remains the death of the dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows. I defy anyone without a heart of stone to read it and not cry. There's something about animals, but particularly dogs, dying, that arouses my (and I think many other people's) sense of injustice to a greater degree than human death does. Human death is more acceptable, because humans can comprehend death and its meaning, as animals cannot. The same applies for children, I suppose. Keep in mind also that I mostly read fiction. I'm sure I'd be more upset by true tales of gruesome and untimely death, but I don't tend to read the types of books that contain that.

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