Richard Adams known best for his first novel, Watership Down, passed away Dec. 24 at the age of 96. Adams was born in 1920 and grew up in England where he attended school and later continued his education to college. In 1940, two years after graduating college, Adams joined the British Army in the Royal Army Service Corps where he was selected to be a liaison for that division. After six years in the army, Adams was released in 1946 where he continued his education for an additional two years, yet in the years following college he was a part of the British Civil Service where he was promoted to the position of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, an organization formed after World War II. This is the time frame in which Adams started to write fiction.
Watership Down began as a narrated tale to pass time in a car ride and bedtime stories shared by Adams and his two daughters. Adams recalled that “[he] had been put on the spot and [he] started off ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.” And [he] just took it on from there.” A narration that began in a car ride turned into what critics refer to as a “redefining anthropomorphic” tale which has won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and has sold more than 50 million copies. Other notable works of Adams include Shardik, The Plague Dogs, and The Girl in a Swing, unfortunately none of those earned any awards.
Watership Down follows Hazel, Fiver, and a small group of bunnies as they embark on an endeavor to reach safety, after a foreseen danger in their warren. Adams was praised with the ability to portray the rabbits in a natural way and places them into a heavily developed culture with their own language and belief system. While Watership Down won an award for children’s fiction, it discusses dark topics such as fear, politics, violence, and humanity. Even Adams weighed in on critiques of this kind, saying that “maybe [he] made it too dark.” Adams also described his next novel, Shardik as “rather difficult” and a “savage novel.” He says he only wishes he had started writing earlier, had he known how “frighteningly well” he could do it.
On Dec. 27 there was a post on Adam’s official website which read; “Richard’s much loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.” The brief statement was followed by a quote from Watership Down: ‘It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses. “You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be alright - and thousands like them.”’