Elmstripe, later known as Russano, was the son of Skystripe and Woodrose. He was born in his family's ancestral home, a Southsward Cave. When his parents' friend, Syan Brushtail, warned of passing vermin, Elmstripe's parents decided to send him to Mayflower, his old grandmother.

Mayflower decided to head out of Southsward into Mossflower country. Helped by Skipper Dannriver and his otter crew, they made it into Mossflower, only to be ambushed by a pack of vermin, led by a Rapscallion, Rinkul. Mayflower was killed, but Elmstripe was saved by a hare and a squirrel called Russa.

A massive hare then looked after Elmstripe during a long trek to Redwall Abbey. He was named Russano, for Russa Nodrey saved his life. When he was of about 15 seasons' age, Russano went with the Long Patrol to Salamandastron, the mountain he was destined to rule.