May 8, 2020

From Homer to VE Day: Watership Down is many (cotton) tales in one

Richard Adams

I don’t think it’s entirely because I am trapped in lockdown with a free-range rabbit (favourite food: soft furnishings and important documents left lying around) that I have revived my interest in Watership Down, the greatest tale of plucky rabbits ever penned. There’s also an anniversary to celebrate. In fact, two. The author of this epic yarn, Richard Adams, would have been 100 this Saturday (he died in 2016). And before that, of course, we have the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The connection? Well, in his autobiography Adams revealed that he based the characters of two rabbits in Watership Down on soldiers with whom he had served in the Second World War, and particularly on their roles in the Battle of Arnhem. So is Watership Down really about the war? Here’s the extraordinary thing: Adams constructed the book so artfully that it lends itself to endless interpretations. So, as a 100th-birthday tribute to its creator, let’s deconstruct a book that has intrigued millions of adults as well as children since it appeared in 1972 — as well as being turned into a violent animated film and two TV versions.

Celebrating the centenary of Richard Adams’ birth, Richard Morrison discusses the enduring relevance and meaning of Watership Down.

You can read the full article on the Times website (paywall).