Richard Adam’s Death At 96, ‘Watership Down’ Author Wrote, ‘My Heart Has Joined The Thousand, For My Friend Stopped Running Today’

The year 2016 is the year of celebrity deaths. Just in this last week of 2016, the world has reeled from the news of George Michael’s death, and the equally unexpected death of Carrie Fisher. On December 27, the news broke that the author of the beloved children’s book, Watership Down, is one more on the list of celebrities who died in 2016.

According to the New York Times,Richard Adams was 96 years old when he died on Christmas Eve, and he’d lived a long, full, hugely successful life. His fans, friends, and family recognize that Adams was comfortable with his own death, but they mourn his passing and wish they could have celebrated one more Christmas with the iconic British author.

The Watership Down website posted a requiescate in pace (rest in peace) with Adam’s own words about death, taken from his classic book.

“It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

“‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be alright – and thousands like them.'”

Richard was nothing if not a realist. The BBC writes that as a little boy, the future Watership Down creator saw “a local man pushing a handcart full of dead rabbits down the street.” The sight shook his childish world, and took away forever all the “cuddly bunnies” of picture book imagination.

“It made me realise, in an instant, that rabbits were things and that it was only in a baby’s world that they were not.”

That image stayed with Adams through his education at English boarding school, his five years service in the army during the war, and his employment as a civil servant under Winston Churchill.

The Daily Mail reports that the Watership Down writer was responsible for the clean air program that was intended to reduce the heavy smog and pollution from the thousands of coal fires heating British homes in the 1950s.

Richard Adams death at 96, Adams fought for clear air in Britain
The smog caused thousands of deaths. [Image by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Adams lived through the devastation of the Great Smog of 1952, and according to his official biography in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Adams co-authored the Clean Air Act of 1968. Richard’s experiences battling the Great Smog, and witnessing the apocalyptic effect of the smog on Londoners influenced some of the darker aspects of Watership Down when he began writing it some years later.

Adams made the change from dry government writing to children’s stories after making up stories about rabbits to entertain his two young daughters, Juliet and Rosamund Adams. The family were on their way to watch Twelfth Night, and the little girls were getting bored and restless during the long drive. They asked Adams to tell them a story, and the tale of “a group of rabbits attempting to escape from their threatened warren” was born.

The tale grew as the Adams children asked for more stories, and eventually Richard “was persuaded to write it all down.” The writing was harder than the telling and took “more than two years,” to finish.

When it was finally complete, many publishers rejected Richard’s manuscript for being too long, and because it dealt with real life and death, and Richard’s Watership Down characters “did not fit the common perception of cuddly bunnies.”

“His rabbits were described with biological realism; they defecated, had sex and engaged in violent battles for dominance.”

R.I.P. Richard Adams. Adams’ death has fans remembering Richard’s words on death: “My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

[Featured Image by Tom Smith/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]