[In celebration of National Novel Writing Month, each day this month I’m talking about a novel that has shaped my life in an important way. Each day I’m going to tell a brief story about a timeless book.]
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
I was eleven, I think, when I discovered this book about a heroic band of rabbits on a quest to find a new home.
Adams made their world so real. The rabbits had their own language, customs, stories, mythology, superstitions. An entire cosmos of imagination taking place in a few grassy acres, mostly unseen by the big blundering humans living nearby.
Each rabbit was a distinct character. Each had a personality, and valuable qualities and skills that the reluctant leader, Hazel, discovered he could put to use for the good of the group.
I became so utterly wrapped up in this book that I brought it to school to tell my friends about it. I suggested we form a club based on the novel, in which each of us would take the names of the rabbits in the story and … do what? I wasn’t sure. Have adventures, I supposed. The real fun was assigning a rabbit name to each of my friends, based on how their personalities matched those of the characters in the book. One of us would be Bigwig, another would be Dandelion, another Blackberry, and so on. I knew for sure I had to be the clever, self-effacing leader, Hazel.
My enthusiasm for the book was so great that I think I actually managed to convince this troop of rowdy boys to follow my lead and pretend they were rabbits. At least for one recess period. Until my band of rabbit brethren fell apart because the boys wanted to chase the girls, who were wondering why the boys weren't chasing them.