Richard George Adams. (b. 1920) was born in Wash Common, Berkshire, England, the son of Evelyn George Adams, a surgeon, and his wife Lillian. His studies at university were interrupted by military service during World War II. After his discharge from the army, he returned to Worcester College where he earned his degrees in modern history. After graduation, Adams worked for the British Civil Service. He did not begin writing his first novel, Watership Down, until 1966. He referred to R. M. Lockley’s natural history The Private Life of the Rabbit in order to accurately depict the lives of his characters. Adams' other works include The Plague Dogs and Shardick.
The following is an excerpt from Watership Down, Chapter 22 “The Story of the Trial of El-ahrairah.”
Rabbits (says Mr. Lockley) are like human beings in many ways. One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past reaches of terror and loss. They have a certain quality, which it would not be accurate to describe as callousness of indifference. It is, rather, a blessedly circumscribed imagination and an intuitive feeling that Life is Now. A foraging wild creature, intent above all upon survival, is as strong as the grass.
Collectively, rabbits rest secure upon Frith’s promise to El-ahrairah. Hardly a full day had elapsed since Holly had come crawling in delirium to the foot of Watership Down. Yet already he was near recovery, while the more light-hearted Bluebell seemed even less the worse for the dreadful catastrophe that he had survived. Hazel and his companions had suffered extremes of grief and horror during the telling of Holly’s tale.
Yet, as with primitive humans, the very strength and vividness of their sympathy brought with it a true release. Their feelings were not false or assumed. While the story was being told, their heard it without any of the reserve or detachment that the kindest of civilized humans retains as he reads his newspaper. To themselves, they seemed to struggle in the poisoned runs and to blaze with rage for poor Pimpernel in the ditch. This was their way of honoring the dead.
The story over, the demands of their own hard, rough lives began to re-assert themselves in their hearts, in their nerves, their blood and appetites. Would that the dead were not dead! But there is grass that must be eaten, pellets that must be chewed, hraka that must be passed, holes that must be dug, sleep that must be slept. Odysseus brings not one man to shore with him. Yet he sleeps sound beside Calypso and when he wakes thinks only of Penelope.