I have a fondness for rabbits. While I’m not a big collector themed items, if you were to stroll around my house you would find a few bunnies here and there:
I remember having a brown rabbit as a child. It was actually my sister’s rabbit. She always had a penchant for slightly untraditional pets. It spent most of its life in a raised pen in the back yard. I never liked that; felt like it should be able to roam about freely. But our cocker spaniel who also occupied the back yard made that freedom unlikely. Unlikely, but not impossible. One day the rabbit escaped its cage. Our dog did what most dogs would do, she chased the rabbit. We found him lying dead in the yard, untouched and unmarked by the dog. It literally died of fright.
It wasn’t long after the rabbit’s death that I read Watership Down by Richard Adams. I had no idea what the book was about other than the main characters were rabbits. It’s true what they say about not judging a book by its cover. I was incorrect in my assumption that Watership Down was a childrens book:
Watership Down is a classic heroic fantasy novel, written by English author Richard Adams, about a small group of rabbits. Although the animals in the story live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel recounts the rabbits’ odyssey as they escape the destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.
The novel takes its name from the rabbits’ destination, Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. The story is based on a collection of tales that Adams told to his young children to pass the time on trips to the countryside.
Published in 1972, Watership Down was Richard Adams’ first novel, and is by far his most successful to date.
There are some very violent passages within the pages of that book. I was probably too young to read it when I did, but also within the pages of this remarkable book I was able to follow along and imagine that our little brown bunny had escaped the dangers of suburbia and found a life of freedom. It also taught me that being small does not prevent you from doing big things and that brawn and bravery are not necessarily synonymous.
It also began my life long love of reading fiction. No matter how difficult my real life was (my parents divorced not long after the rabbit died), I could always find safety and adventure inside the pages of a well crafted story.
Which is why I suppose my love of wabbits and writing are forever linked. It’s also why it’s important that writers heed Stephen King’s advice: “Do not come lightly to the blank page.” Your words can create wonderful worlds where your readers can escape their lives, if only for a time.
Your words matter. Maybe more than you’ll ever know.
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“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”
― Richard Adams, Fiver’s Dream