Apparently, I Like Anthropomorphism

I worked as a secretary for several months before I got a new coworker.  Janette shared the lobby area with me and came with a positive attitude and a big education.  I looked up to her, and eventually I met her husband.  He is a remarkable person, just like she is.  He towers some six feet five inches, loves books as much as I do (or more), and has Tourette’s syndrome.  I had never known anybody with Tourette’s before, but Josh was patient with my lack of understanding and answered all of my questions.

Soon our conversations revolved around books instead.  I always had a book with me, to read in the bus during my commute or to read during my lunch hour.  My coworker loved to read as well, and she suggested that I try Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.  It remains one of my favorite books.

The book that I remember her husband Josh recommending to me was Watership Down (1972), number 94 on the BBC book list.  I had never heard of it, but I trusted his opinion and I immediately found a copy.  As I began reading, I wasn’t sure I would like the book.  It was strange.  It was about animals.  Rabbits to be exact, and they talked to each other, behaved like human beings in many ways, and had their own civilization.  It took some getting used to.

watership down cover
Then the drama began.  These talking rabbits, strange to my view, suddenly faced great danger. Their warren was to be destroyed by “progress.”  The field they lived in would soon be developed and they would have nowhere to live, work, and play.  I began to empathize with the rabbits, and I worried for their safety.

The rest of the book is their journey to find a new place to live.  As they travel, they meet other rabbits, dangerous farmers and dogs, and ultimately deal with the difficulties one could expect on a long journey.  I was hooked and intrigued.  They met rabbits who were calm and seemingly domesticated.  From the perspective of these wild rabbits, something was terribly wrong, but they were not sure what.  Then they realized that these rabbits were accustomed to having the nearby farmer take them and kill them every so often.  They were rabbits raised for the slaughter.  The wild rabbits ran.

They find themselves in the company of controlling rabbits, and must even fight for freedom and autonomy.  This is another intense scene, one that reflects human interactions and greed for power.  Apparently, rabbit culture is susceptible to dictators as well.

Overall, it was a strange read to get used to, but once I suspended my disbelief, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  I have read it again since then, and I liked it just as much the second time.  There’s something about talking bunnies that apparently captivates me.  Richard Adams is a brilliant creator, one who thinks outside of the box and has found success writing about animals with a human frame on top.  It is anthropomorphism, and it’s delightful.  I’m glad to have had Josh recommend this book to me.  And ultimately, I am glad to have met Josh and Janette, for they introduced me to two books that I can’t imagine not having read.

In addition to reading voraciously, Josh always wrote his own books.  He planned to be an author someday.  That day is coming.  On May 2, his book, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, will be released.  Check it out on Amazon here.


37 thoughts on “Apparently, I Like Anthropomorphism

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  1. Here in the UK the hype about ‘Watership Down’ when it first came out was tremendous and I vowed I wouldn’t read it. I think I lasted about six months before I gave in; I had to know what was so special about it. And you are right; it is an extraordinary book with very many lessons for those of us who walk on two legs rather than hopping on four.

  2. I listened to the audio version, and there was something in the introduction about the author creating the story by telling it to his daughters. He supposed claimed he never meant it to reflect on human society, and I say no way! I’ve only “read” it recently and loved it as well. Those rabbits were tough!

  3. I’m shocked you hadn’t heard of “Watership Down”! It was required reading when I was in school. I think 8th grade English. I was fascinated with it. Maybe because I grew up on a farm, and was around both wild and domesticated rabbits. Also, because of it’s similarities to “1984”. It remains one of my favorites. I have two copies. If you like the subject and the anthropomorphism, check out “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Richards wrote a sequel, “Tales From Watership Down”. I haven’t read it though. There is also a movie. It’s pretty good for a book adaptation.

    1. I have heard of Animal Farm! 🙂 I prefer Orwell’s essays, but there is certainly something to be learned from animals and the allegories we tell through them. Yeah, I am not sure how I missed Watership Down for so long.

  4. I have never read the book but I have seen the film and it still remains to this day, one of the only films that I have ever cried in. I’m not sure I’d make it through the book in one piece!

  5. I’ve always enjoyed such books, too, being a big animal lover 🙂 You could check out Brian Jacques or David Clement-Davies. Jacques writes the Redwall series, and Davies has written The Sight, Fell, and Fire Bringer. They’re technically young adult books, but I found them a nice change of pace. And they’re very well-written.

  6. I’ll have to try that one, it sounds interesting. If you liked that you should try David Clement-Davies, Fire Bringer is about deer, and The Sight and Fell are about wolves. They’re all really good.

  7. Interesting! And as one of the fellows above mentioned, it sounds just like Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animal Farm was included in our Masters curriculum. I, somehow find this mode of writing bit predictable now, after those Aesop’s Fables, you know. Anyway, every writing comes with its own charms and does contain at least something to derive for our enlightenment. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Watership Down is a fantastic story and very thought provoking. I wonder if you’ve had the pleasure of reading The Wind in the Willows, also anthropomorphic. Who doesn’t love talking critters that have something to say. Your girls might like The Wind in the Willows also.

    1. The Wind in the Willows is sitting on my shelf right now, waiting for me to read it to my daughter! (It is also on the BBC list.) I just got it from the library a week or so ago and I’m so excited to get to it. I’m now even more excited since you’ve recommended it. It is one of those I’ve heard of and about, but I’ve never actually read it.

  9. Anthropomorphic animals allow a distance and simplicity that create a better lens for understanding humanity. Also, Watership Down is just a really good story.

  10. One of my sisters gave this book to me, but I’ve been hesitant to read it because of the animal focus. I perfer to read fantasy (occasionally with talking dragons) , but never stories with talking bunnies! Still, after this review I’m sure to give it a try. 🙂

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