This lapine grim reaper still has the power to move me to tears. I was 4 when the original animated film adaptation of Richard Adam’s novel Watership Down was released and remember crying rather self-indulgently whenever it was played on Top of the Pops. I’m not actually sure if I saw the film at that age or whether my memories of it from that time are a patchwork of clips of worried looking rabbits, gory retellings of the terrifying General Woundwort from my older brother and his friends and Art Garfunkel making me cry. I’m still sure whether I’ve ever seen the film in full, but I'm familiar enough with it to know how beautifully it was made and I’ve definitely read the book. I don’t remember particularly enjoying it, because frankly, it’s so grim. And let’s face it, it’s a bit lacking in female role models. Glaring sexism aside, it’s basically a bunch of rabbits trying not to die framed as an adventure story. There are so many ways to peg it - being eaten, beaten, snared, squashed, shot, suffocated, gassed, lamped. The Black Rabbit eventually appears at the end to claim main bunny hero Hazel, who has died naturally lounging around in the warren. This is basically is the best you can hope for as a rabbit and probably nigh on impossible to achieve given the perils that beset you from birth, which I think is why Hazel’s death is so particularly heart wrenching. This beautiful still from the 1978 film was posted recently on Twitter by the fabulous artist Chloe Cumming, and it had a surprisingly emotional effect on me, hence my illustration.
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