It’s about 1:50 A.M. and I’m reading a HN thread about a BBC article, titled “Rabbit hole leads to 700-year-old Knights Templar cave”.
Several users point out that the title is a bit of nonsense – “The reference to a rabbit hole makes no sense unless it’s symbolic, since rabbits holes are about the size of a rabbit”. That gets me thinking about the rabbit holes that led into the seemingly huge warrens described in “Watership Down”.
Googling, “watership down rabbit facts” led me to this 2015 Guardian interview with author Richard Adams; I knew the book originated from a whimsical story Adams made up to keep his daughters entertained on a car trip. I didn’t realize that he had never written fiction before, or that he was so late in his life when he started:
Watership Down was one of the first of these stories. Adams was 52 and working for the civil service when his daughters began pleading with him to tell them a story on the drive to school. “I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there.” Extraordinarily, he had never written a word of fiction before, but once he’d seen the story through to the end, his daughters said it was “too good to waste, Daddy, you ought to write that down”.
He began writing in the evenings, and the result, an exquisitely written story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren, won him both the Carnegie medal and the Guardian children’s prize. “It was rather difficult to start with,” he says. “I was 52 when I discovered I could write. I wish I’d known a bit earlier. I never thought of myself as a writer until I became one.”