Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Watership Down" author, Richard Adams, dead at 96

I just learned that author Richard Adams passed away today at 96.

Lee Gambin 3/23/16
Before cable, a lot of special cartoon films and animations would be on regular TV channels. It's how I got to see a lot of these stories before they were put on VHS and later migrated to cable companies' channels. When I was about six or seven, I caught "Watership Down" one evening. With its Genesis-like 'In the beginning'-type introduction, I was immediately pulled into the very brutal story about a group of rabbits leaving their warren to journey where there would be plenty of food, space, and resources where they could breed and live in peace.

These rabbits had a society, they had culture - their oral history was expansive - and they had spiritual beliefs - the sun was Lord to them - and they had lore and legends - Elahrairah was their Adam and the one that made them fall from grace. However, he was still revered and considered responsible for giving the rabbit race their cunning, skills, and physical capabilities.


Early in the animation, it got quite violent and visceral, with Fiver, the runt of the group but also a prophet, experiencing horrific visions that compelled the small group of protagonists on their quest. One of my siblings, I am the youngest, came into the living room and asked in horror what kind of bloody cartoon was I watching. I begged them not to change the channel and for the rest of the program, my belly on the rug, twirling my feet in the air, I was enraptured.

When I learned "Watership Down" was a book, I kept in mind I would read it when I had a chance. That chance came when I was in community college and usually hung out in the English department, chatting with my Creative Writing professor and some of the other faculty that knew me. One day, while wandering in the department's lobby, I chanced on a table of books. An office worker said I could take as many as I wanted. She explained that every couple of months, faculty members will cull through their office libraries and bring their findings to the lobby for anyone popping up to take what they could. Lo, there was a copy of "Watership Down"! I immediately looked at how many pages (it's a hefty novel) and grabbed it. When I got home, I couldn't put the story down. It had, of course, more details and subplots that the film could not include. It was still as brutal but with the psychological impact of the reader's imagination. To use a cliche', it 'fired my imagination'. I had already decided I wanted to write fantasy when in high school after getting the "Death Gate" trilogy from my sister as a Xmas gift. Reading 'Watership' validated for me to continue to write in the Furry genre!

RIP Richard Adams. We will miss you but your characters, Elahrairah, the Black Rabbit of Elil, Hazel-Rah, Fiver, and Bigwig will continue to live on as will you, in our hearts. :(

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