Richard Adams Writings Richard Adams was born in Newbury, England in May of 1920. He was the youngest of three children, a sister, Katherine, and a brother, John. (Richard had had another brother but he died at the age of three from influenza.) Richard was his father’s favorite. George Adams (his dad), spent most of his time with young Richard teaching him about all the nature in the area. Richard grew up a few miles from the town of Newbury on a three acre piece of land with a house named “Oakdene.” Richard’s father was a doctor at the local hospital in Newbury and his mother, Lilian Rose Adams, was a nurse. Richard spent most of his childhood at home and out wandering around Newbury, enjoying its beauty.
At about the age of 10, he was sent to the Horace Hill boarding school. After a few years, he was sent to another prep school, Bradfield, and at the age of 18, received a history scholarship to Oxford University. At the age of 21 he was enlisted in the British Army. Adams has produced a variety of different writings. Along with his numerous novels: Watership Down, Shardik, The Plague Dogs, The Girl in a Swing, Maia, and Traveller, Adams has also written books of short stories: The Iron Wolf and Other Stories, and The Unbroken Web.
As well, he has done picture books in verse: The Tyger Voyage, and The Ship’s Cat, and books on nature: Nature Through the Seasons, Nature Day and Night, and A Nature Diary. Adams’ first novel, Watership Down, is about a group of rabbits who leave their home because of disaster, and go out in search of a new home. On the way, they encounter two other groups of rabbits. One group lives life with a constant knowledge that they are just food for the neighboring farmer, neglecting their own culture. The other group lives so as to never be found by man and to protect itself from predators.
When, at last, a new home is found, the rabbits have to undertake a journey in order to find some females so that their colony will grow and prosper. Throughout the novel, Adams puts in various ideas and themes that are meant to make the reader think twice about their relationships with nature and themselves. This novel sets up the themes of freedom and survival, which are also found in two of his other novels, and the theme of the stupidity and cruelty of man to the earth and her creatures. The Plague Dogs, Adams’ third novel, is about two dogs who escape from an animal research station and try to fend for themselves in the hills of England. Rowf, a large, black, strong mongrel who has a mean temper and who has a deathly fear of water due to the experiments performed on him. Snitter, a fox terrier who has fits and has the power to see the future because of the brain surgery performed on him in the research station.
Together, they meet up with a tod (fox). The tod helps them survive while reporters follow the dogs and spread dangerous rumors of the plague, getting politics involved. The themes in this novel are similar to the ones in Watership Down: survival, freedom, and human cruelty, but added to this list is the theme of rights. In this case, the right of animals, but, in some of his other works the theme extends to those people who are less fortunate and are in awful situations. The Girl in a Swing, his fourth novel, talks about a young man, Alan Desland, who has devoted his life to the business of fine ceramics and who is completely swept off his feet by a young German woman, Kthe.
They get married, in Florida, after a very short courtship and return to England, where Alan returns to his business and Kthe holds spellbound his friends, family, and even him, with her beauty and charm. Inside Kthe, though, is a secret which Alan finds out about too late. The main theme in this novel is completely different from his other novels. Adams concentrates mostly on guilt – A guilt that Kthe held inside her and eventually caused her destruction. He also explains how guilt affects those around the guilty. Adams’ fifth novel, Maia, is a story about a young, beautiful girl who is thrown into slavery by her jealous mother. She makes friends with an exotic girl, Occula, who is sent on a mission from the gods to avenge her father’s death by murdering the queen.
Maia enters slavery, becomes a heroine by saving the Beklan army, falls in love, finds her long lost brother, and helps the rebels conquer Bekla, who then abolish slavery and establish equality throughout the empire. The themes in this novel are like those in Watership Down, and Plague Dogs. This novel, mostly because of its length (900+ pages), has many more themes than the other two novels. The main ones, though, are slavery and freedom, human dignity and rights, and survival against all odds. Freedom FREEDOM – that consuming goal above doubt or criticism, desired as moths desire the candle or emigrants the distant continent waiting to parch them in its deserts or drive them to madness in its bitter winters!..Unfurl your banner, Freedom, and call upon me with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut..and all kinds of music to fall down and worship you, and I will do so upon the instant,..For we are free–free to suffer every anguish of deliberation, of decisions which must be made upon suspect information and half-knowledge, every anguish of hindsight and regret, of failure, shame and responsibility for all that we have brought upon ourselves and others: free to struggle, to starve, to demand from all one last, supreme effort to reach where we longed to be.. Freedom is one of the strongest themes in three of Adams’ novels.
In these novels, his characters are striving for freedom in some way, and, though their struggles end in victory, they see others who have given up their search for freedom, or were never allowed the opportunity to even begin searching for freedom. In Adams’ life, he was continually searching for freedom from society and freedom from himself. Maia, (Maia) a girl aged only 14, was sold by her mother, Morca, into slavery. Maia was told, when she was bought, that she was going to the main province, Bekla, to model dresses for the wealthy. After a few nights she knew this to be a lie, and was told that she was to be sold to one of the wealthy citizens in Bekla for use as a bed-slave.
Her whole life’s goal, after being bought by the leader of the spy ring in Bekla, was to find a way to make herself free again. She watched girls in her same situation buy their freedom, and she watched girls thrown out because they were of no use any longer. She took an offer, with the promise of freedom, to risk her life as a spy and learn inside information by using her master. At his death (when he died, she became property that could be put up for auction), she was given another opportunity to gain her freedom by leaving behind what she knew her life to be and to go live with a man she did not know and report what she found out about him and his people to the Beklan army. After many months (and many deaths), she gained her “freedom” for a while and was considered a heroine of the Beklan army. Her struggles were not over. It took her seven more years to finally gain her complete freedom.
A group of rabbits (Watership Down) set out from their home, or warren, based on a vision that one of the rabbits has. He told the others that their warren would be destroyed. If they do not leave immediately, they never will. Nine male rabbits set off searching for the ideal place to build a new warren. On their, way they encounter two different groups of rabbits. Each group is in a different situation, but both are far from being free.
At the first warren they come across, they find a rather small number of large healthy rabbits living in a huge warren. The rabbits have food provided for them year-round by a farmer a walk-way away. On the outside, these new rabbits appear cheerful and happy, but they have a deep secret. They have adapted their lives and their culture to meet the needs of the farmer close by. The farmer provides food, and kills the rabbit’s enemies to make the rabbits want to stay where they are.
In turn, the rabbits have to travel to the place where the farmers puts the food they eat. When they do go eat, usually one or two of them gets caught in a snare. The rabbits get food and protection from their natural enemies. In return, the rabbits sacrifice their lives for the farmer. The second warren of rabbits that the travelers met were slaves.
They were not slaves to man as the previous warren had been, but they were slaves to their fear of man. The rabbits had allowed one strong rabbit to come and take over their warren. He created a dictatorship and set strict standards of living on the rabbits to “protect” them from their foes. The rabbits had no opportunity to eat when they wanted. Their eating was regulated.
They could never go outside the confines of the warren, for fear that a predator might follow their trail back to the warren and harm the others. The females were not allowed to mate with whom they chose; they were after all, a prize for the strong military leaders who earned it. The rabbits tolerated all of this and more because their leader had instilled in them a fear of humans–of predators. In all reality, the rabbits were more afraid of him and his power than they actually were of their predators. Rowf, and Snitter (The Plague Dogs) were at the mercy of the doctors at the Animal Research (Scientific and Experimental), also known as A.R.S.E.
Rowf was taken from his mother as a puppy and sold to the research station. Each day he was submerged into a tank of water until he drowned, then was revived. All of this was done to see if he would build up a kind of tolerance to the next drowning. Snitter, had belonged to a caring master whom he thought he had killed when he had run out into a busy intersection and his master tried to save him and got himself hit instead. Snitter was then sold to the research station by his master’s jealous sister and underwent brain surgery which left him confused and allowed him to see events before they happened. Even after the dogs escaped from the research center, they were never really free.
They were constantly at the whim of nature and her wrath. Even though they had escaped the research station and were on their own, Rowf and Snitter were still under the control of man. They depended on his sheep, chicken, and garbage to eat, and mines and barns to take shelter under. ..[they were] two creatures victimized by society, unable to live by its own rules but also unable to work out and live by their own outlaw code-.. Adams himself knew what it was like not to be free.
His life at two boarding schools over a period of eight years, because he was forced to believe ideas he did not follow and to follow adults he did not believe, helped him to understand what it must truly be like to live in a world where one is restricted at all times. Adams began to relate his ideas to his knowledge of animals and nature. He found that animals are not as free as people sometimes believe them to be. Their lives have been restricted due to the growth of human civilization, and the advancement of human technology. Some animals have even grown to depend on people as their only source of food and protection.
Many live in fear of humans, which, as many humans already know first-hand, allows the fear to control their lives because they become slave-like to their fear. Survival Overall, Adam’s work is a glorious paean to man’s (or rabbit’s) resilience, to the instinct for survival against all odds. Watership Down, The Plague Dogs, and Maia all offer the strong theme of survival to accompany the theme of freedom. In all of these novels, the main characters are fleeing some situation to find their freedom. In doing so, they all enter new and unfamiliar surroundings that are filled with danger, yet, their uncontrollable desire for freedom allows them to continue to struggle against all odds.
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 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 or 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. As the rabbits left their warren in search of a new one, they had to overcome many obstacles that were new to them.
Their surroundings was one obstacle. They left a home that was next to a field, and close to some woods that had a creek running through it. On their journey, they encountered heather, ground of chalk, man-made forests, a road, and a common of rocks. All of these surroundings were new and unfamiliar, but they pressed on to find their new home; they continued, most times very hungry, against all odds. Although humans know for a fact that animals have a strong instinct for survival, they tend to neglect the fact that they, also have such instincts.
Maia shows that humans do in fact have such instincts and use them more than they realize. Although Maia was sold into slavery, an institution that she so desperately hated, she had to make the most of it. If she hadn’t she would have surely been killed. Rowf and Snitter, throughout their journey, searching either for a master, or trying to succeed in becoming wild animals, struggled every day to stay alive. They had two fundamental problems to deal with.
One, all the humans in the area wanted them dead and were searching for them, and two, finding food was a very difficult task because they had absolutely no experience at doing so. They knew of nothing to live for, yet, their keen instincts encouraged them to go on and they ended up beating man, and nature, by surviving. Adams enjoys using this theme for both man and animal because he likes to show his readers that they are in fact animals themselves. What humans sometimes punish animals for is simply the fact that they are just following their instincts. Adams shows that, in separate situations, humans to …