Watership Down

watership-down

This was the first ‘proper’ book I ever read. I was about ten years old and my mother won it in a game of bingo on a trip to Scarborough or Bridlington, or one of those old seaside town on the east Yorkshire coast. Up to that point I’d only really read comics and preferred the meld of words and pictures to just pure prose, but there as something about this book, something about a fully realised world of animals with its own social structures and even its own religion, that caught my imagination. Every morning before school I would read ten pages or so. It had an unusual quality about it, on the surface it was a typical British children’s adventure story full of anthropomorphosized creatures but there was also something strangely dreamlike about it and it did not shy away from depicting the darkness of life. From the outset there was a real presence of threat and foreboding. Bad things happened. Favourite characters died. And through it all there was the sense of a fateful purpose at work, one that was indifferent to those it affected. Adams worried in his later years that he’d made the book “too dark” but I’d argue it would not have had the same impact had he Disneyfied it. All of the mystery and darkness of the book was captured brilliantly in the animated film version, which introduced an entire generation of children to the idea of death. I’m still amazed that all of this came from a story Adams had made up to entertain his daughters on long car journeys.

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