I Am That Is Matthias

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Books are more than just words on paper. They are friends for lonely children. They are windows into the very hearts of their authors. No matter the genre, no matter the style, books are written legacies that readers can enjoy years after their creators have stopped writing. When I was only eight years old, I learned that books by the most overlooked authors about even the smallest of heroes can change lives.

From the time I learned how to read, I loved to write. I was enchanted by the idea that my stories, previously only daydreams, could be shared. I wrote about everything, but I never wanted to read about anything. Books from school were boring; from home, temporary. Of course I was a good student, able to read any length of words placed before me, but it was always a chore. Nothing I read had any lasting effect on me. I was a reader for sport, slaying any book that crossed my path and leaving its corpse for the flies. I thought myself a noble victor, but I was only a murderous villain.

One day in the third grade, in my search for another hardcover to conquer at my school’s library, I came across the novel Redwall by Brian Jacques. It was, to my young eyes, massive – a staggering 351 pages – and far superior to any book I had ever read. I checked it out, ready to begin my attack on the lengthy chapters of my opponent, but I soon realized that I would leave that battle unscathed. I became immersed in the tale of Matthias, a courageous mouse destined to defend the peaceful Redwall Abbey from a vicious, one-eyed rat named Cluny the Scourge. I lost myself in each of Brian Jacques’s novels, never stopping to notice the disapproval of my classmates. I ignored other kids, instead choosing to find friendship with the creatures I met between the covers of my books. Their taunting was trivial compared with the dangers I faced when I read, the enemies that awaited me on the pages. I escaped slavery with Martin the Warrior, defended my fortress with the hares of the Long Patrol, found my destiny with the badger Lord Brocktree, sailed the seas with Skipper the otter. No amount of teasing from my classmates could force me to abandon them.

Age, however, has a way of changing people for the worst. I became ashamed of my love for my books. I hid them. I became aware of the humiliation that my choice of books caused. I denied having read them. I was the target of my classmates’ jokes, my books perched like an apple atop my head. Suddenly, I was more concerned with being accepted than with being happy. I started reading more popular books, books about people and romance and society. I settled for a life without adventure or chivalry. It seemed I had outgrown the childish stories that I had once cherished. Forgetting the colossal battles I had fought for years, I turned to the petty problems of an average teenager. Still, I longed to return to the words that had shaped me into the young reader I had become.

On February 5th, 2011, Brian Jacques passed away at the age of seventy-one. He had written and published thirty-nine books and had left one incomplete. I cried when I heard of his death. I had spent years rejecting both him and his work, and then he was gone. His stories would never be completed, and I would never have the opportunity to tell him how much his writing had changed me. In my own tribute to him, I decided that I would not care what other people thought of me. I read whichever books I pleased. The Redwall series welcomed me back with open pages, and I once again followed my favorite characters into battle. I promised myself that I would never be ashamed of something that brought me so much joy, of the book that taught me to love all others. All that my favorite author has given me I hope to someday give to one of my readers. Everything I am and everything I have yet to become I owe to Brian Jacques and brave Matthias, the mouse that started it all.





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