Richard Adams

So many today are focused on the death of Carrie Fisher and rightly so. Her role as Princess Leia and in other movies were groundbreaking in many ways and her loss is another one of those far too frequent losses that we have seen recently.

I don’t have much to add to what has been said about Carrie Fisher but I noticed today in the newspaper another rather lengthy obituary which I need to recognize. I read today of the death of Richard Adams, author of one of my favorite books: Watership Down.

I haven’t read the book in years but it’s time to go back and read it again. It is a story about rabbits, their joys, their struggles, their lives and their deaths. But, in so many ways, it is a story about human beings as well.

While I haven’t read the book for many years, there is one quotation which has stuck with me since I read it for the first time so many years ago. I have used it in classes and in other settings as I think it reflects something so important in our lives.

Here is the quotation in its entirety, from the very end of Watership Down. It describes  Hazel, one of the central characters of the book:

One chilly, blustery morning in March, I cannot tell exactly how many springs later, Hazel was dozing and waking in his burrow. He had spent a good deal of time there lately, for he felt the cold and could not seem to smell or run so well as in days go by. He had been dreaming in a confused way-something about rain and elder bloom- when he woke to realize that there was a rabbit lying quietly beside him- no doubt some young buck who had come to ask his advice. The sentry in the run outside should not really have let him in without asking first. Never mind, thought Hazel. He raised his head and said: “Do you want to talk to me?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve come for,” replied the other, “You know me, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger’s ears were shining with a faint silver light. “Yes, my Lord”, he said. “Yes, I know you”.

“You’ve been feeling tired,” said the stranger, “but I can do something about that. I’ve come to ask whether you’d care to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you and you’ll enjoy it. If you’re ready, we might go along now.”

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. The sun was shining and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay, keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. 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 sense.

“You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be all right- and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.”

He reached the top of the bank in a single powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom. 

These paragraphs have stayed with me since I first read them. They are not only an example of exquisite writing but a hopeful vision of our common destination.

I have never forgotten them and pray I never will.


One thought on “Richard Adams

  1. Renee

    One of my favorite stories ever, for many of the same reasons you like it, I’ll bet. Even though I read it as a young person, I could see that it was really about all of us, the good and the not so good. A great message for all of us, young and not so young.

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