So, I'm writing a fanfiction; I don't know if this is a shunned topic here, but I'm asking anyway. In this fanfiction, a human finds himself in the Redwall universe, equipped only with a duffel bag containing an undefined set of "survival supplies and small valuables", salvaged from his car after it was submerged. He meets a tribe of semi-nomadic shrews, oppressed by more developed societies, and enacts a movement to take back their native land, using some of his tech know-how from our world in his effort. My grand plan involves him, over the course of his remaining lifetime, bringing about such an enormous burst of technological development that the continent where he introduces these changes is cordoned off by pseudo-divine powers-that-be blah blah blah.

You didn't come here to read that; you came for the question. I've read a few answers here and articles elsewhere that provide some moderately helpful answers, but all of them rely on the world being ours. The problem with Redwall's universe is in the inherent differences between a single, united human species and a whole host of competing species of varying intelligence. Without the presence of work animals such as horses and bulls, agriculture would not develop anywhere near how it developed in our world; without any sort of consistency between soldiers, the military situation would look like a medieval version of the Jenkinsverse. Originally, I wondered whether it would be possible for someone from modern-day Earth, equipped only with a duffel bag of necessities, to fast-track a civilization from nomadic foragers into an industrial age; now, my only question is, could he get anywhere at all?

EDIT: According to the comments, I haven't done enough to define the setting. The world is populated by a variety of different creatures, mostly rodents and mustelids. For the most part, carnivorous species are painted as villainous and herbivores and insectivores as good; this is broken in the cases of badgers and otters who are universally good creatures in the setting. Very few, if any, of the creatures shown are actually carnivorous; they may be cannibalistic, but this is treated with the same stigma as in the real world, and doesn't actually seem to be necessary. The technology level of the setting varies between hunter-gatherer and Iron Age; a few castles and fortresses exist in various locations, but they are easily outnumbered by various nomadic groups. An abandoned lumber mill is shown in one episode of the TV show, one character makes a passing mention of a 'machine' in a metaphorical sense, and another character is inexplicably able to build ballistae. Other than these instances, the setting is generally in a perpetual medieval stasis (are TVTropes links allowed?). The only technological "development" shown is a ship in the most recent book that is outfitted with cart wheels, so that it is allowed to sail on land. Little consideration is given as to the ramifications of this, especially since the wheels don't appear to have any sort of suspension.

You might be able to get more out of the wiki, but not much. I'm only linking the Places page because I get the impression that architecture may give the best picture of the technology level, out of the pages available.

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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, there are some larger creatures in the Redwall universe. If I'm remembering correctly, Cluny used a horse-drawn wagon in the first book when he arrived in the area around Redwall Abbey. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Feb 7, 2016 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ Could you include a link or something that talks about Rewall? You 're just making me think of a wall painted red, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who hasn't heard of this universe. You may be confusing /turning away people who might decide to answer your question. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ It's been a long time since I read any of that series. ​ A brief search on google books turned up mention of a "metal drinking cup", but the majority of references to metal seem to be for weapons. ​ Do they have saws? $\endgroup$
    – user3576
    Feb 7, 2016 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any indication of why the lumber mill was abandoned? ​ ​ $\endgroup$
    – user3576
    Feb 8, 2016 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately I know nothing of Redwall apart from what I've just read on Wikipedia so I'm going to have to run with generic medieaval.

If your arbitrary person just happened to be an experienced blacksmith, steam engine hobbyist and part time shipwright, taking his tools to a world that already had a reasonable knowledge of mining for ore and coal, then yes, he could encourage some progress at a local level. Possibly even to the point of triggering an industrial revolution if he's really good. Okay he's an extreme case but it's just a hint of what would be required to have an effect.

If your arbitrary person is just an ordinary Joe, then you're hiding to nothing. He's going to struggle just to survive.

The vast majority of modern people have a completely useless set of skills for such a world, and not enough knowledge of basic machinery or metallurgy to reproduce anything.

To go into a world like that you start by needing one of the major mobile skills of the period, Stonemason or Blacksmith, or something completely unexpected such as plumbing.

Can you imagine a plumber in a medieaval world? Fitting running water and central heating to a castle could change the world, even if you had to power the pumps with peasants.

These are the skills that will allow you to get a foothold to work from within the world. Everyone needs tools, (everyone needs weapons?) everyone needs horseshoes (normally), everyone needs kitchen knives, pots and pans. The blacksmith is the heart of a village. Kings and lords need houses and castles, but the work has to be done in the place the castle is wanted, the allows stonemasons (the original Freemasons) to move around much more freely than normal peasants (especially serfs).

A blacksmith with the knowledge to build a steam engine is the one man who can change a medieaval world most effectively. It's going to be pretty hard for anyone else.


The presence of different races does not actually make a large change to things. It's not really any different to human societies where some people are stronger, some people better educated, some people have access to wealth and privilege, etc.

It's the same differences but exaggerated, and they will have the same effects on people but exaggerated.

If you can come up with a viable way for a human to do what you are suggesting in a human medieval society then you can take the same techniques to this world and the only thing that will change is the flavour.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not so sure about that. The concept holds true when referring to societal relationships, but the actual physical constraints are still a major blockade. $\endgroup$ Feb 22, 2016 at 11:05

Joe might well get started by selling the contents of his pack, but he is in trouble after that if he doesn't start adapting. He may want to change the world, but a few things need to be there before he can.

Your average Joe, needs a decent grounding in history, and a huge backlog of trivial knowledge to make a significant impact. Anyone in a first world country is likely to have gone through enough schooling to meet the basics and will be better educated than the vast majority of the people (they are sentient animals, so they are people) he is likely to meet. He is also going to need powers of persuasion in addition to any other skills he may be granted due to the power of narrative convenience.

How does this help? If Average Joe was a little bit of a history buff, he might use some of his knowledge of history to see where the tech level is and then lay plans for the next step. Are the peasants grinding stuff by hand? Maybe help them develop a simple water wheel powered mill. or even a wind mill. Harsh winters? get with the smith to start making some Franklin pot bellied stoves. Keeping your community warm and fed gains trust and then you can get into...Plumbing, and other concepts. Three field crop rotation, if it isn't already there. Fertilizers and such.

You will note that I am not even touching on weapons. There is a reason for this. Who are you going to trust the judgement of, the guy who claims to make a better sword, or the guy who can help you keep your house warm in a harsh winter? This is why persuasive skills are necessary, you need to get your fellow townspeople to try your crazy ideas.

Make your guy enough of an off-the-grid-living kind of guy he can even get into things like rocket stove design and high thermal mass heaters.

If your Average Joe can start alleviating some of the survival pressures on his community, he will leave the smith with time to make better metals, for other types to be able to get creative in their own areas of expertise. It's a long term solution that will take longer than joe will survive.

The second part, as Joe gets older, he may want to start teaching the young of the community. Paper may be hard to come by, but a slate and some chalk can go a long way. Teach the kids some math, some history, and teach them the value of the scientific method.


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