The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died at the age of 96, his daughter confirmed to the BBC.
Juliet Johnson told the publication that her father had been “ailing for some time” but “died peacefully” on Christmas Eve.
Watership Down is a classic children’s novel about a group of rabbits searching for a new home after theirs was destroyed. The book won the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in 1972 — the first year it was published, despite having first been rejected by four publishers and three writer’s agencies. It became a best-seller, with tens of millions of copies sold around the world while also earning Adams the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
Adams was born on May 9, 1920, and attended Horris Hill School before Bradfield College and Worcester College. In July 1940, he joined the British Army and was posted to the Royal Army Service Corps with the Airborne Company. During World War II, he served in Palestine, multiple countries in Europe, and the Far East but saw no direct action against either the Germans or the Japanese.
In 1974, he published his second successful novel, Shardik, at which time he became a full-time author following up the two books with The Plague Dogs and The Girl in a Swing.
Johnson told BBC 4 that she had a great discussion with her father before he passed.
“I assured him that he was much loved, that he had done great work, that many people loved his books,” she said.
She added that the upcoming adaptation of the book — which is due to air on the BBC and Netflix next year — gave Adams “great composure and comfort.”
Sir Ben Kingsley, Olivia Colman, and John Boyega have already been cast to lend their voices in the production. Watership Down was first made into a film in 1978 and enjoyed huge success — including its theme song Bright Eyes, which Art Garfunkel performed spent six weeks at the top of the UK charts. However, the movie was unable to land the same place in the hearts of audiences as it was frightening for young children, as its rabbit characters were killed in graphic scenes.
Until his death, he lived with his wife Elizabeth near his original birthplace. He is survived by daughters Juliet and Rosamond — to whom Adams first told the story, which became Watership Down on a long car ride.