Redwall Abbey Community Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Pages: [1]   New

Author Topic: Why Vermin Seem Dumb  (Read 143 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Captain Tammo

  • Global Moderator
  • Redwall Carpenter
  • *****
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 1890
  • Enjoy the Fall Extravaganza!
    • View Profile
Why Vermin Seem Dumb
« on: November 01, 2017, 10:05:35 PM »

Why do vermin in the Redwall series always seem to be, well... dumb? I mean, unless we're discussing a warlord or some kind of outlier in the vermin community, chances are that the vermin in question is not as smart as, say, an abbey dweller or a hare from Salamandastron. So why is that?

This is a question that I've seen discussed before. Some of the answers people had involved:
  • Many vermin come from the North. Perhaps the dumber vermin get forced into Mossflower when smarter vermin come in and take over?
  • Do a lot of vermin get hurt in the head or something? Is there inbreeding or some other factor that could be happening?
  • Malnourishment may be prevalent in their home areas. Maybe this is why they're always on the move for a new place?

That last bullet point stuck out to me the most. Not the malnourishment part, the part about vermin always being on the move. Here's my theory: if it's true that most vermin live nomadic lives - always on the move and of a hunter-gatherer kind of lifestyle, then they won't be as educated as the kind of woodlanders who live in sedentary societies.

Back when I was in middle school, I distinctly remember learning about the 5 key characteristics of a civilization. If a society held these 5 characteristics, in most every case that I recall learning about - these civilizations did significantly better than societies that stuck to wandering.

The first characteristic of a civilization was a centralized government. Redwall and Salamandastron: check (abbot / abbess and badger lord). Vermin bands: also check (every band has a leader, however short their reign may be)

The second characteristic of a civilization was organized religion. Brian Jacques has explicitly stated that religion is not a factor in his world of Redwall. So nobody can really prove this one - though one could say that the closest to religion we see is in the form of Martin's ghost and visions the badger lords witness. Vermin, on the other paw, seem to have none of that (most seers are fakes!)

The third characteristic of a civilization was job specialization and social classes. Redwall and Salamandastron: check (abbot, abbess, foremole, skipper, celler keeper, etc... ranks in the Long Patrol)! Everyone seems to have something they're supposed to do every day. Vermin bands: not check! Tasks and jobs are normally assigned by the band's leader. Nobody is the cook, the scout, the head gatherer or anything. It's still a fend-for-yourself society.

Number four characteristic of a civilization is art, architecture and infrastructure: Redwall and Salamandastron get a check there because, well... they're structures! And they have a layout to them that is planned carefully, as well as pieces of art like the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, or the many weapons the badger lord forges in the forge room. Vermin bands may have a base of operations, but that's usually something they find and take for themselves. I've never heard of a vermin making pottery or a painting, let alone an architect.

Finally, we have writing: something that obviously exists at Redwall, and also exists in Salamandastron, considering how many letters go back and forth between the two locations. I have yet to see a vermin in a band write anything down...

Now you may be asking "well what about Sampetra, Terramort, Green Isle, or the Gorleech?! Those were all sedentary!" Well, you're right! Minus the religion - which we've already discussed is something that doesn't exist in this world - these are all examples of vermin civilizations. And you'll also be able to note that they did significantly better than a wandering group of vermin did (and had smarter vermin than your hordesbeast in Cluny or Damug Warfang's armies did). In a way, this just goes to show that the smarter vermin tend to be in sedentary societies - civilizations!

So what can be concluded from this overwritten argument? Whether Jacques' intention or not, the Redwall series seems to favor sedentary creatures over nomadic ones when it comes to smarts. Vermin, more often than not, are the wandering type. So it should make sense that they always come off as a bit dumber than your average abbey dweller or Long Patrol hare!

« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 09:38:15 PM by Captain Tammo »
Logged
"Cowards die a thousand times, a warrior only dies once. The spirits of all you have slain are watching you, Vilu Daskar, and they will rest in peace now that your time has come. You must die as you have lived, a coward to the last!" -Luke the warrior
 

Ashleg

  • Season Namer
  • Abbey Cellarbeast
  • *****
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 4945
  • Cellars President
    • View Profile
    • Emperor Ashleg for Cellar President
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2017, 10:51:34 PM »

Entry, but we can have a conversation, right?))

Correction--vermin do most certainly have social classes, especially pirates and corsairs. And they are wandering as they sleep for the ship is constantly on the move.

There have been multiple cases of vermin cooks, captains (not exactly ship captains but appointed captains, as a rank under the chief, like deputy.) There have also been scouts. The only one I can't think of is a head gatherer.

As for art:
Maybe not pottery or painting or architecture (although we don't know that all the buildings were made by slaves) but Blaggut, a seemingly "dumb" rat, was good at making ships. Vermin also seem to have a knack for making outfits made out of their enemies' fur.

There have also been the few randoms who can sing well or play instruments.
Logged
"Time for my highly elaborate and college-educated plan!"
-Sheldon Plankton

DO WE HAVE AN ACCORD?
 

Captain Tammo

  • Global Moderator
  • Redwall Carpenter
  • *****
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 1890
  • Enjoy the Fall Extravaganza!
    • View Profile
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2017, 11:55:45 PM »

Yeah conversation is absolutely encouraged!

These are some pretty good points. So here's my reply to those counterpoints. Feel free to poke holes in them if you spot any opportunities:

Being a good singer or making a fur pelt isn't necessarily art and I would argue that that alone isn't enough to make a nomadic group a civilization. And a vermin like Blaggut who builds ships doesn't sound too dumb to me. I'd say he's an exception to the trend. As I recall it, I think Blaggut was always somewhat smart but his captain (I forget the name) was putting him down so much that he kept a timid sort of personality.

Cooks and captains on a ship makes sense. Ships can effectively be civilizations themselves as I say above. Though this raises the question about the dummer searats you see floating out on the blue. One could ask where it is they were from originally. Had they grown up a nomad? Or perhaps as the offspring to some nomads?

The trouble with the army on the move is that sometimes you do have smarter creatures in the army itself. I think the better question to ask there could then be "where are the smarter vermin coming from?". If they've been in the army for a while, then I guess that could be an exception to the trend. Though you'll note that there isn't much infrastructure (aside from, maybe, tents) in a marching group, so long-time members may find themselves slipping into the "dumb-trend".

Logged
"Cowards die a thousand times, a warrior only dies once. The spirits of all you have slain are watching you, Vilu Daskar, and they will rest in peace now that your time has come. You must die as you have lived, a coward to the last!" -Luke the warrior
 

The Skarzs

  • Redwall Recorder
  • *****
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 8754
  • Iron and steel
    • View Profile
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2017, 12:21:32 AM »

Good points, Tammo, but I don't think their lack of education is the problem. Vermin in the series suffer from a lack of mental capacity. There is a difference between ignorance and stupidity.

Often they are slow to understand things. When a smarter vermin is using big words and they don't know, even after it being explained in a way they can comprehend, vermin take some time to fully understand what is said.
Lack of education also does not account for their haphazard nature, walking straight into traps or taking bait that is almost obviously staged, like when Basil led them around a merry chase as Matthias released the prisoners Cluny had.

As to where smart vermin come from in a world of dumb vermin, that is quite a mystery. It appears that the ratio of outright dumb people to average intelligence in the real world is the same for vermin and their smart individuals: low.
What causes this? Who knows.
All of this can just be written off as their nature, of course, but it must have an explanation!

In a way, my theory on the dumb vermin being forced out of the northlands goes paw in paw with the theory of malnourishment. The lands of ice and snow are harsh, so we're told, and food is scarce. So what better way in a society of creatures with a divide in intelligence than to force the weak-minded out so the smart may survive?
This may also play into inbreeding. With fewer numbers left in the north, the likelihood of inbreeding increases, and with it the potential for. . . Mental disability.
Logged
Cave of Skarzs

Join the forum contest! First prize is a small replica of Martin's sword, so don't miss out!
 
The following users thanked this post: Ashleg, Rosie Willowwater, a crumb

Sanddunes

  • Redwall Novice
  • *
  • Posts: 63
    • View Profile
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 06:24:09 AM »

The leaders usually kill the smart ones because they are a threat to them
Logged
 

Captain Tammo

  • Global Moderator
  • Redwall Carpenter
  • *****
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 1890
  • Enjoy the Fall Extravaganza!
    • View Profile
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2017, 11:31:51 PM »

@The Skarzs as far as the ignorance vs. stupidity, that's a pretty solid point. Many of these baddies have things explained to them but can't say it back a few seconds later. It's as if all of them are the worst kinds of students to have in school. The thing I don't understand here then is that, if rats in the real world are relatively smart for animals, what else could make them so stupid here?

I suppose an issue with the northlands could stand up. People only seem to come from there, never go there. But what about all the vermin who come from elsewhere?

The leaders usually kill the smart ones because they are a threat to them

That's also a good point. A kind of survival of the fittest and let everyone else be kept far away from any position of power.
Logged
"Cowards die a thousand times, a warrior only dies once. The spirits of all you have slain are watching you, Vilu Daskar, and they will rest in peace now that your time has come. You must die as you have lived, a coward to the last!" -Luke the warrior
 

a crumb

  • Redwall Novice
  • *
  • Gender: Female
  • Posts: 97
  • Status: not currently sentient
    • View Profile
Re: Why Vermin Seem Dumb [Extravaganza Entry]
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2017, 12:00:28 AM »

An interesting observation. Of course, rats are also very brotherly. They risk their lives to rescue their fellow rats in real life. Jacques always based his character archetypes off of the popular custom or folk legend, though, and that makes rats cruel, selfish, scheming and dirty. Is intelligence popularly linked to rats? I guess it is, but usually when thinking of an individual among others.


Just going to start spitballing here, because what are these forums for? Despite most of the vermin leaders being smart, I'm not sure intelligence is the major separating part between leader and follower. I wonder if fear is the best way of thinking of inter-vermin relations. In other words, fear is the driving dynamic behind how vermin civilization works. Smart vermin are good at using fear. Although, not every Redwall villain is smart. Gulo epitomizes that. He isn't smart, but no one would ever dare challenge him, unless they want to get torn apart and munched. It's usually the physically strong that dominate hordes, through fear. A reasonably sadistic villain could do just as well, even if they are physically weaker. They just need a deterrent against any treachery. Cue displays of forcing your rebellious underlings to literally eat a bird uncooked in front of their fellow hordesbeasts, used as target practice, or some other absurd and traumatizing punishment.

Provoking fear also explains why so many villains like to have terrifying beasts. The Gloomer, Skrabblag, Ublaz's snake, and others I can't think of. They aren't necessarily efficient. But they are scary. And as I recall, as likely to be used against fellow vermin as any goodbeasts.

All of which is making me wonder who vermin spend more time fighting. Themselves or goodbeasts?

In any case, the fear is ultimately always ended by the courage of the book's hero(es). The fact that so many vermin leaders start losing their control and fortitude once they encounter an opponent that doesn't cower demonstrates that rather well.
Logged
 
The following users thanked this post: Jetthebinturong, Wylder Treejumper, Rosie Willowwater
Pages: [1]   New