WATERSHIP DOWN Author Richard Adams Dead at 96

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Watership Down author, Richard Adams passed away on Christmas Eve at the aged of 96.

The British author was known for his classic children’s book, Watership Down, a lyrical and poignant story about a band of rabbits in search of a new home after the runt of the litter has a vision of their home covered with blood, a result of the lands development by people for “high class modern residences.” The rabbits travel to Watership Down, where they battle a totalitarian bunny before establishing a new, utopian habitat. The book became popular with both children and adults, selling millions of copies since its release in 1972 and has been made into a film.

Adams was born on May 9, 1920 in Berkshire, enrolling at Worcester College, Oxford until 1938, leaving school to join the Royal Army Service Corps during World War II, serving in Palestine, Europe and the far East. After the war, he returned home to complete his studies with a degree in modern history.

It was while he was working as a civil servant, raising his two daughters that Adams began telling them stories about the rabbits. He would tell them at bed time and on car trips, embellishing when driving the girls to school.

His daughter, Juliet, believes his oral storytelling was just the beginnings of his writing career, which began in 1966 at the age of 46. “It took him two or three years. He took a lot of trouble writing that book.”

The manuscript was rejected by publishers seven times before Rex Colling LTD saw the potential and agreed to a first run of 2,500 copies. Adams remembers many of the rejection letters complaining the book was too long and his characters were not the normal cuddly bunnies’ society thought of. They found the book too adult for children and too childish for adults. When it was finally published, it was done for both children and adults and received several awards right away, including The Guardian children’s fiction prize and the Carnegie Medal.

In this Oct. 18, 1978 file photo author Richard Adams, who wrote "Watership Down" in 1972, poses for a photograph. (PA Photo via AP)
In this Oct. 18, 1978 file photo author Richard Adams, who wrote “Watership Down” in 1972, poses for a photograph. (PA Photo via AP)

Adams left his career to become a full-time writer after the publication of his second novel, Shardik, which he often thought was a better book. He used his experiences as a civil worker and retired military man in his stories, drawing attention to different aspects of society and how they are effected.

He also began to focus on the beings he used as characters in his books: animals. His 1977 book, The Plague Dogs chronicled the escape of two dogs from an experimental lab. He later served a two-year term as the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, resigning in 1982 because the leaders “seemed to be more concerned with each other than with the animals.”

The BBC and Netflix have joined together to produces a new animated series of Watership Down which will air in 2017 with Sir Ben Kinsley, Olivia Colman, and John Boyega providing voices. This will be the second adaptation of the book which was made into a movie in 1978. The films theme song, “Bright Eyes,” sung by Art Garfunkel, topped the UK charts for six weeks,

Adams is survived by his wife, Elizabeth and his daughters Juliet and Rosamond.

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