Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rabbit Will Run

 Creative Commons Licence 2.0 / Andrew Smith
As this Iron and Wine song states, a rabbit will no doubt run when faced with danger. That's the main theme of Watership Down. The entire book is comprised of rabbits running from one place to another; always seeking stability and a place to call their own. In a very broad sense, Watership Down is no different than any other adventure story. There are protagonists and antagonists, conflicts and resolutions, victories and defeats. This story is unique because of the way it is depicted. Adams has a very interesting way of creating his characters that gives them a legitimacy and reality with far greater than characters that are merely used for plot development. Adams rabbits are not just small furry animals running up and down a green hillside, they are a civilization with rich historical background that could rival that of the Angelo Saxons and the Galls. They have a complex language that is all their own. They have their own myths and fairy tales. There is far more to these rabbits than most characters you've read about. How does Adams do it?

One of the main ways Adams's story is unique is his made up language. He uses certain words repetitively which ingrains them in the mind of the reader. The very sound of the words creates an imagery that adds meaning to the story.

“Silflay hraka, u embleer rah!” 

Here is a phrase used by one of the rabbits. Your first encounter with it makes it seem like non-sense, however the more time you spend with the book, the more these words add to the story. Silflay is a word which means to go above ground to eat in the open air rather than to eat below ground. The invention of this word gives a certain culture to the rabbits. They have these interesting social practices that make them appear more human like. Not only do they have these practices, they have words for them. By reading these words over and over, you become involved in the life of the rabbits. Watership Down becomes less of a fictional story and more of a historical chronicle. In your mind's eye, you can envision these adventures as actually happen. They are no less real than Julius Caesar or William the Conqueror, and all because of the imagery Adams is able to create with made up words!

Earlier I mentioned that Adams's makes us of the framework story. Similar to Carroll, Adams uses several side stories. These frame stories serve as a refreshing break for the reader. More importantly, though, they serve as a way to make the characters more real. Once again they give the characters historical background. As you read, you convince yourself that these rabbits weren't just made up 40 years ago by an English author, rather that they have existed for ages.

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I'm really curious to look at other elements and see what similarities Carroll and Adams share in terms of literary devices. More importantly, I want to look at these literary elements through a biographical lens to discover what these men were thinking about, or what was influencing them at the time they wrote what they wrote. What environmental factors played a role in Adams decision to invent a language or a historical background for his characters? Does the fact that both Carroll and Adams are Englishmen contribute to the abstract nature of there writing? If so, is all English writing abstract in nature? I'm very curious to find out.

1 comment:

  1. I love in the beginning how you brought in another artistic medium and tied it all in. My mind instantly went to the White Rabbit and how he says he's late for a specific purpose... but I wonder if he's late at very opportune moments in the light of slightly dangerous situations. (though I feel that 'dangerous' can be interpreted loosely...)