Where do Brian Jacques' ideas come from?
You may wonder how Brian Jacques comes up with so many great ideas for his adventures. Well, for inspiration, he takes his dog "Teddy" (a West Highland White Terrier), out for a walk in his childhood neighbourhood. There, amid the "red walls" of Stanley Park in Kirkdale, amongst the green trees, the ideas come to him. Sometimes, ideas even come to him in his dreams at night. Mainly, his stories are based on adventures that he or his friends have actually lived. Many of his relatives went to sea, or worked on the docks, as he did. And many have had tales to tell.
Born on the eve of World War II, he has been greatly influenced by the effects of the war. During the Battle of Britain, bombs fell on Liverpool daily, in even greater numbers around the dock area where he grew up. And who was it that saved the day then? Why those reckless, yet fearless young chaps of the RAF, upon whom the hares of the Redwall series are patterned. The shrews are Liverpool's dockworkers, who toiled on in great danger, to keep the port open. And, as for the moles, with their fascinating speech, they are the people of Somerset, just across the Bristol Channel from Cardiff.
And the great feasts? Well, during the war, there was always a shortage of food, especially the more exotic varieties (like bananas, which young Brian craved until he actually had one after the war's end). So great feasts play an integral part of his yarns. Food, even truly exotic foods, like dandelion salad and sweetmeadow custard, are described in such detail that it will make your mouth water.
The themes of all his adventures are unchanging: courage and decency win respect. When someone comes to take your homeland and hurt your loved ones, you have no choice but to stand and fight! These themes are firmly rooted in the memories of his childhood, of enemy bombers that darkened the sky, of ships that never returned, and of soldiers who died to keep him free.
But, what about the characters? How does he dream them up? Well, he doesn't! He confesses that the characters in his stories are based on people he has encountered. Then who is he? Why, of course, he's Gonff, Prince of Mousethieves! Or at least he was, when he was a tough little kid hanging around the docks of the great seaport of Liverpool. Constance is his grandmother. Mariel is his granddaughter. The other characters are a combination of many of the people he has met in his travels.
And as for the villains, Mr. Jacques has encountered a few of those in his travels, too. The sea rats are those he sailed with in the merchant marine.
Many characters are drawn from his fans from around the world. Samkim is Samantha Kim. Arula is Laura, a fan who sent in a whole list of reasons why she would make a great character. But why did he choose to make draw upon mice for all his principal characters?
Mice are my heroes because, like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits.