When I was younger, I managed to read most of the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. If you haven’t read them, imagine rodents and other small mammals living around an abbey, fighting wars against vermin. When I think back, I remember a few of the plots pretty well, and the series definitely have some memorable villains, heroes, and hare-oines.
But what I remember most… is the food.
It seems like every book, almost without fail, had a feast scene. Those scenes are what I remember most.
To describe the books events as feast ‘scenes’ would be a disservice, though. Not only was there a feast that probably lasted an entire chapter, there were chapters that demonstrated buildup and preparation for the feast, among the other plot threads. Overall, a great amount of time was spent making sure that the reader understood what life was like in the feasting halls of Redwall/Salamandastron.
Firstly, there were the descriptions of food. Wines and roasted nuts paired with cheeses and scones of all types, with fruits and fish and bowls of soup that held the aroma of tomatoes and spices, the list went on and on. As I read I grew hungrier and hungrier, despite my dislike for tomatoes, nuts, and flavored drinks (I was a picky child). I didn’t even know what scones were! Still, these books made me hungry.
Secondly, there were the jovial interactions of minor characters, the songs, the dancing, the recitations and entertainment that had been rehearsed for chapters (in detail). It all came off beautifully in its own climax, depicting an evening of food and fun, detached from the danger that the plot provided.
I suppose the reason that I made this post is that, even today, I’m musing over those scenes. Why were they in the book at all?
The feasts rarely added to the plot. No real character development was had among the banter, and the food porn that enticed me also served no purpose but to be eaten by mice, squirrels, and shrews. The whole scene always seemed pointless, but if the author hadn’t included it, I feel like the book would be missing a key element. What purpose can a scene of frivolity have, with no plot progression or character development?
I don’t know, but I have a guess:
These feasts were included to raise the stakes.
In every book it seems that Redwall is in danger. Perhaps it will be taken over, by pirates or land-roving thugs, by warlords or bands of thieves. The main characters are off doing their quest. Why should we, the reader, care about the abbey?
The feasts show us why. The food is enticing, the merriment is enjoyable, and if the abbey falls, there will be no more feasting in the halls. Despite the lack of development, the enjoyment attaches us to the fate of even the minor characters. That is my guess as to the purpose of this scene.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when determining scenes. Every scene must have a purpose, but great authors can consider more than character development and plot progression. Consider the reader. Think outside of the box. There are many ways to write a good story.
See you around!