’s Life Essay, Research Paper
Watership Down, by Richard Adams, is a tale of adventure and sorrow through the eyes of rabbits as they seek their own place in the animal world. The Sandleford warren rabbits used their natural instinct and fled the intrusion of man and destruction. This decision takes them through the remainder of the book, which enriched by Adams s vivid imagination, tells of their dangerous travels over the green fields and meadows of early England. The group barely survives vicious predators and other hostile warrens. Yet, in
the end, as the animals instincts kick in, they settle down in a place known as Watership Down, only wanting to create the perfect warren.
The author of this book, Richard George Adams was born in 1920 in Berkshire,England. Married to Elizabeth Adams, and boasting a degree in modern history, he is known for his verse and fiction for children. Most of his books are set in the world of animals, such as rabbits or dogs. Watership Down was his first children s novel, but it became an instant bestseller when adult and adolescent audiences all across the world fell in love with it. Some of his other novels include Shardik, which is about a man s belief in a supernatural bear- god, The Plague Dogs, which is about two badly injured who escape
from an animal experimentation laboratory, The Girl in a Swing, which is about the marriage of a quiet English man to a mysterious and beautiful German women, and, Maia,which is about the heroic adventures of a poor girl sold to a rich nobleman. His autobiography, Day Gone By, is currently out of print.
Watership Down was originally developed from stories Adams told to amuse his two daughters on long road trips. At this point, he was working as a civil servant in Great Britain s Department of Environment, but, at their insistence, he began to write the novel that was finished two years later. After many rejections, he finally found a publisher who agreed to print a small number of copies. The book became an immediate success with juvenile and adult audiences when it was first printed in 1972, by Rex Collings Ltd., with
many subsequent publishings. The first American publication was in 1975 by Avon Books in New York. This book was reviewed well and it received the Guardian Award and Carnegie Medal for Watership Down. Critics praised him because he successfully entered the world of rabbits without destroying the rabbit way of life; Adams had recreated the rabbits language, culture, and mythology. One critic, Janet Smith, praised Adams for the action of the novel and making it not only the journey of a group of rabbits but a movement of creatures who are no less part of nature than we are, and whose humble
disasters and migrations have a claim to the attention of men, for all the greater scale of theirs (Smith in Lesniak, p. 3).
R.M. Lockley s The Private Life of the Rabbit was Adams s primary source in writing Watership Down. This nonfiction book provided such things as information about rabbit sicknesses, their leisure activities, and the various actions of the does in the warren. Adams modeled his characters upon the detailed descriptions given in Lockley s book. Some of the traits and interactions between the rabbits in the novel seem to have been drawn from the behavior that Lockley observed in his rabbit test subjects. Some examples to support this would be the confrontation between Threarah and General Woundwort. This type of violence between two leaders was clearly expressed in Lockley s study. His research also said that the stronger male would get more food and the majority of the does, while the weaker male rabbits could not collect food or obtain does easily. However, one major difference between Watership Down and Lockley s book is that in Watership Down, the male rabbits that left the Sandleford Warren were able to coexist peacefully with one another throughout the journey and even throughout the establishment of the Watership Warren. This is contradictory to Lockley s study because,
in reality, a large group of male rabbits would not live together for such a long period of time without occasional quarreling. Apart from this, Adams s portrayal of the rabbits is consistent with Lockley s descriptions of the basic behaviors of rabbits.
Adams also drew on much of his personal experience that he gained through his job with Great Britain s Department of Environment. Rabbits, which have always been numerous in England, are believed to have arrived in England in the eleventh century when the Normans brought them. Richard Adams mentioned various places in the novel that are all real and still exist today. The Hampshire/ Berkenshire region is located a bit
west of London and north of Southampton. This land is owned by Andrew Lloyd
Webber, who has become famous for the musical Cats and Phantom of the Opera .
All in all, Watership Down, by Richard George Adams, was an extremely touching story of rabbits that risked survival in order to listen to their natural instincts, which eventually saved them from the evils of mankind. It clearly shows how destructive man and society can be upon nature. Richard Adams was also an excellent writer who thoroughly researched and knew his subject of rabbits. This made Watership Down all the more enjoyable to read, and the generations to come will also read and reread this book
many times before passing in on once again.
1. Adams, Richard. Tales from Watership Down. New York: Avon, 1996.
2. Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York: Avon, 1972.
3. Bowker, R.R. The Young Reader s Companion. New Providence: Reed Reference
Publishing Company, 1993.
4. Geren, Wendy. Home, Sweet Hutch. Christian Science Monitor 21 May 1999: 22
5. Lesniak, James G. Contemporary Authors New Revision Series. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale
6. Lockley, R.M. The Private Life of the Rabbit. New York: October House, 1966.
7. Sinha, Gunjan and Stover, Dawn. Pump it Up. Popular Science Vol 253. New York. 18
8. Watership Down. Detroit: The Gale Group, 1999. EBSCO. Online. PDQ. 17 Oct.1999.
9. A Stressful Life in the Rabbit Warren. New Scientist. Volume 136. New York. PDQ.
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