Richard Adams has passed away aged 96 and I am so sad.
The author of Shardik. The Plague Dogs and Watership Down amongst many other titles, Adams stood for something quite distinct in the world of children’s literature. He stood for bigness; of stories that ache at the edge of the world and carve something else, a space of their very own. I talk a lot about space in children’s literature and of knowing who and what you want to be and what you want to say. It’s important, endlessly, because once you know what you want to be, and where you want your voice to sit and who you want it to talk to, then you can know how to get there. You read, endlessly, hungrily, and through that reading learn how to position yourself.
But then there are the big authors; the statues carved out of marble and wrapped in ivy, the authors who are so resolutely of something different and something wild and unknown and something that is so vividly, vividly theirs that you cannot imagine anybody else ever living there. This was, is, always will be Richard Adams. I came to him after Colin Dann and Joyce Stranger, strong and wonderful authors of their own, and the world split open. Rabbits. Dogs. Darkness thrown against the world and hope and anger and rage and joy and love.
(There is always love at the heart of the greatest works of children’s literature, there is always that. Characters fight, live, die, but there is always love, always love)
These were Adams’ books. They are his books, they are books of power and of primal and distinct power. These are novels where words become laden with symbolism and thick with meaning and of story; novels that feel like they’re not told but retold; a story that already exists out there simply finding new voice. These are wild and big books of otherness and they stand next to the greatest books out there and, in many cases, above them. Rabbits. The world caught in rabbits, and so effortlessly and so artfully done.
I am so very grateful that his books exist and that he was able to share them with us.
Thank you Richard Adams, thank you.
“I’ve come to ask if you’d like to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you, and I know you’d like it. You’ve been feeling tired, haven’t you? If you’re ready, we might go along now.”