Richard Adams, ‘Watership Down’ Author, Dies at 96

Novelist’s best-selling tale about rabbits was made into 1978 feature film

Last Updated: December 27, 2016 @ 3:52 PM

Richard Adams, the author of the beloved 1972 children’s book “Watership Down,” has died at the age of 96.

In a statement posted to the author’s website on Tuesday, Adams’ family announced that he had died on Christmas Eve.

“Richard’s much loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve,” the statement read.

Adams, born on May 9, 1920, began his career in the British Army, then the British Civil Service, transitioning to writing full time two years after “Watership Down” was published.

The book, about a group of rabbits who must flee their home when human settlement encroaches on their territory, was a smash hit upon its publication, selling over 1 million copies in record time in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It also won won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize the year it was published.

A 1978 animated version was directed by Martin Rosen and featured the voices of John Hurt, Ralph Richardson and others.

Adams’ other works include “Shardik,” “Maia,” “Tales From Watership Down,” “The Girl in a Swing” and “The Plague Dogs.”

The announcement of Adams’ passing also featured this passage from his most famous work, originally conceived as a story told to his two young daughters:

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.”