Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, Dead at 96

 

The family of Richard Adams reports that he died Christmas Eve at the age of 96. Adams is the author of Watership Down, his first book, published at the age of 52. He wrote a small number of novels including The Plague Dogs, of which that and Watership Down were made into animated features. The announcement of his passing included a quote from the end of his most well-known work:

“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.”’

Personally, I remember reading this book when I was in the fifth grade, and it has stayed with me ever since. There are few works of fiction that have held such a place as I’ve grown. He will be missed. He has had a full life.

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There are 26 comments.

  1. Seawriter Member

    2016 well and purely stinks.

    Seawriter

    • #1
    • December 27, 2016, at 12:36 PM PDT
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  2. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Seawriter:2016 well and purely stinks.

    Seawriter

    View comment in context.

    Much as this has been a rough year, I’m not going to begrudge this. 96 is impressive, and the man accomplished much. For many like me, he lives on in his wonderful work.

    • #2
    • December 27, 2016, at 12:38 PM PDT
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  3. Seawriter Member

    C. U. Douglas: Much as this has been a rough year, I’m not going to begrudge this. 92 is impressive, and the man accomplished much. For many like me, he lives on in his wonderful work.

    It is not him in isolation. It is the accumulation of names over this year. Astronomer Vera Rubin died on Christmas Day. She was the one who first discovered dark matter and the galaxy rotation problem. She was 88, so it was unsurprising, but it has been a bad year.

    Seawriter

    • #3
    • December 27, 2016, at 1:14 PM PDT
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  4. The Reticulator Member

    C. U. Douglas: For many like me, he lives on in his wonderful work.

    View comment in context.

    I read Watership Down aloud at least twice, maybe three times, when my children were at the age where I read to them at least an hour each night. I don’t remember how we came to find this one. I will have to ask them; maybe they remember. They picked some of the books. I had a rule that what I read to them had to be interesting to me, too. This was one of the most successful and memorable books. It made as much of an impression on me as it did on them.

    I hadn’t known the author was still with us until now, but the important thing is that we have his book.

    • #4
    • December 27, 2016, at 2:31 PM PDT
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  5. Tom Bombadil Member

    A terrific grade-school read that was more than the sum of its parts. As one with an over-active imagination, I completely bought in to the idea that rabbits talked and plotted war. Which in retrospect is somewhat surprising. The illusion was so complete that a glossary was needed to navigate the warren’s culture. Great stuff.

    • #5
    • December 27, 2016, at 2:59 PM PDT
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  6. SkipSul Moderator

    I too found the book captivating and haunting for long after I finished it.

    • #6
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:20 PM PDT
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  7. John Stanley Coolidge

    I enjoyed reading his novel “Traveller”. It is an very enjoyable telling of the life of Robert E. Lee’s main horse, Traveller. The story is told by the horses and other animals around the Army of Northern Virginia.

    • #7
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:26 PM PDT
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  8. kylez Member

    96.

    • #8
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:27 PM PDT
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  9. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    kylez:96.

    View comment in context.

    You are correct. My apologies. I think I got a few numbers crossed.

    • #9
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:36 PM PDT
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  10. Seawriter Member

    kylez: 96.

    View comment in context.

    He was a youngster. Beverley Cleary is still alive and will be 101 this April.

    Seawriter

    • #10
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:39 PM PDT
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  11. kylez Member

    Seawriter:

    kylez: 96.

    View comment in context.

    He was a youngster. Beverley Cleary is still alive and will be 101 this April.

    Seawriter

    View comment in context.

    Funny that you mentioned that because I just looked her up after I wrote that, remembering that she had been approaching 100 when I looked her up a few years ago.

    • #11
    • December 27, 2016, at 3:53 PM PDT
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  12. Seawriter Member

    kylez: I just looked her up after I wrote that, remembering that she had been approaching 100 when I looked her up a few years ago.

    View comment in context.

    As a kid I devoured her Henry Huggins stories. The girls in the class went for the Beezus and Ramona series. But when I was in the sixth grade I knew Henry Huggins was better. It was about boys like me.

    Seawriter

    • #12
    • December 27, 2016, at 4:10 PM PDT
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  13. Podkayne of Israel Member

    Henry was a more interesting character than Beezus. Ramona was also interesting.

    • #13
    • December 27, 2016, at 4:13 PM PDT
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  14. Lois Lane Coolidge

    I read Watership Down as a child and later. I think it is really a book for adults. I honestly did not know Adams was still alive either as I discovered his work so many decades ago. It will always be one of my favorite novels.

    • #14
    • December 27, 2016, at 4:39 PM PDT
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  15. Podkayne of Israel Member

    I read Watership Down when I was in 7th or 8th grade and it was on the bestseller list. I had read the reviews in Time and Newsweek, and I wanted to have actually read an adult book. It took me a long time to finish it, as I kept putting it down, and that was unusual for me, as I usually swallowed books in one gulp. I still remember things from it, but I never went back to read it again, as was my usual practice.

    The big thing was reading thick book from the NYT bestseller list, with which I was impressed at the time.

    • #15
    • December 27, 2016, at 10:24 PM PDT
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  16. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    You can have your Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. For my money, Watership Down is the ultimate fantasy epic. The movie, while imperfect, is an important work in adult animation and an antidote to Disney’s toxic levels of saccharine. Plague Dogs is even better, though I confess I have yet to read the book.

    The only other Adams’ novel I’ve read is Shardik, a fantasy about a hunter pursuing a giant bear which is said to possess mystical powers. I quite enjoyed it, though be aware it is extremely light on magic and other fantasy elements. His follow-up to his most famous work, Tales From Watership Down, may be worth another go, but I stopped part way through my first attempt. Didn’t feel the same magic.

    • #16
    • December 28, 2016, at 12:47 AM PDT
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  17. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    Forgot to mention Adams served in the British army during WWII. Truly a life lived to its fullest.

    • #17
    • December 28, 2016, at 1:40 AM PDT
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  18. Ansonia Member

    In my teens and twenties, I didn’t consider reading the book. (Talking Rabbits ? Really ?) But I watched the movie last night and thought it was so good that, today, I got the book and movie for a relative. I’ll also be reading the book.

    What an interesting man this Richard Adams was.

    • #18
    • December 28, 2016, at 5:33 PM PDT
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  19. Lois Lane Coolidge

    The novel is wonderful. Much better than the movie. I still think about the different societal constructs Adams created while contemplating the limits of security and the meaning of freedom….

    • #19
    • December 28, 2016, at 5:39 PM PDT
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  20. Amy Schley Moderator

    Lois Lane:The novel is wonderful. Much better than the movie. I still think about the different societal constructs Adams created while contemplating the limits of security and the meaning of freedom….

    View comment in context.

    I find it interesting that it suggests the only time women are interested in libertarian utopias is when they’re refugees from totalitarian dictatorships. :)

    • #20
    • December 28, 2016, at 7:08 PM PDT
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  21. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    Ansonia:In my teens and twenties, I didn’t consider reading the book. (Talking Rabbits ? Really ?) But I watched the movie last night and thought it was so good that, today, I got the book and movie for a relative. I’ll also be reading the book.

    Don’t be fooled by the presence of rabbits. The story doesn’t shy from violence and death, but isn’t sensationalistic. People claim to have been traumatized as children by it, especially the movie. That’s a bit dramatic, but caution is advisable when introducing children to the story. I think young people can benefit from fiction that features the harsh realities of life. Also, it’s a cracking good adventure.

    • #21
    • December 28, 2016, at 9:59 PM PDT
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  22. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    Amy Schley:

    Lois Lane:The novel is wonderful. Much better than the movie. I still think about the different societal constructs Adams created while contemplating the limits of security and the meaning of freedom….

    I find it interesting that it suggests the only time women are interested in libertarian utopias is when they’re refugees from totalitarian dictatorships. ?

    Wikipedia’s page has a section devoted to feminist gripes about the female characters (what doesn’t?). Note that some of the main characters are based on men Adams met in the military. Also, before it was a novel, Watership Down was stories he told his two daughters to whom the book is dedicated.

    • #22
    • December 28, 2016, at 10:19 PM PDT
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  23. Cat III, Nymphoid Barbarian Member

    One final thing to remember about Adams: he was 54 years old when Watership Down was published. It was his first novel and rejected so many times, he almost gave up trying. It has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.

    • #23
    • December 28, 2016, at 10:25 PM PDT
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  24. Podkayne of Israel Member

    They eat their droppings.

    • #24
    • January 1, 2017, at 1:18 AM PDT
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  25. Lois Lane Coolidge

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):
    They eat their droppings.

    So do chickens. And we eat them.

    • #25
    • January 3, 2017, at 5:31 AM PDT
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  26. Electric Beaver Member

    John Stanley (View Comment):
    I enjoyed reading his novel “Traveller”. It is an very enjoyable telling of the life of Robert E. Lee’s main horse, Traveller. The story is told by the horses and other animals around the Army of Northern Virginia.

    This book is in my library, and is one of my favorite tellings of the Civil War. Traveller’s understanding of Appomattox was flawed, but moving nonetheless. I had forgotten that ‘Watership Down’ and ‘Traveller’ were by the same author.

    Side note: Two other well written books using an animal’s POV are “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by G. Stein, and “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. B. Cameron.

    • #26
    • January 13, 2017, at 10:49 AM PDT
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