Monday, October 28, 2002

Paper! Paper! Read all about it!

Nosing around on the This is Hampshire site's archive, I found an interesting piece from a year ago about Richard Adams. Among other things, it tells us that the famous car journey was made in 1966, not 1967, that Hazel is his favourite character and that Shardik is his favourite among his novels. Intriguingly, "he says he does not know if he will write another novel, but continues to make up stories for his six grandchildren" - I'd give a lot to know what those stories are! You can read the whole article here.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Is it a dream?

This is very unconfirmed, but it seems that there might be a cinema rerelease of Watership Down in 2003 to mark its 25th anniversary! From what I can gather, a UK release is the most likely, with a US (etc) one less so - unsurprising, as the film did best here (and Bright Eyes was number one for six weekds and sold 1.7 million copies in the UK, as opposed to about twelve in the States...). I have absolutely no knowledge beyond this, but here's where I got the info from:

Fingers crossed!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Batt Man!

I sent a quick email to Mike Batt a day or two ago, via the address he gives on his website, complimenting him on Run Like The Wind, and yesterday he answered! Not a long post - just a "glad you liked it" sort of thing - but it was a quick answer, it was polite, and it was from Mr Batt himself rather than a flunky. On the site he says: "Send us an email if you like - we reply to all of them"... and he means it!

Top man!

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I Will Sing, Sing My Song

By that man Art, that is, you know. Anyway, I only made that comment about singing Run Like The Wind at the Crixa as a throwaway line, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of actually doing it! Given as how the clocks go back this weekend, it's something for next year... but I really think I might do it, if I can only work out the trains and buses and find some spare time and money!

So, how would it work? Well, first off there'd be no trespassing, which means that certain sites - the roadless railway arch, for example, and of course the Honeycomb itself - would have to be missed out, though I'd get as close as I legally could. If you want to know what the "hidden" bits look like (well, what they looked like in the early 1980s), then Chris Boyce's fabulous site, The Real Watership Down, will show you everything you want and more. (He also shows on this page how the beech hanger looked by 1998, blocked off by a damn great fence :-( )

The three "song breaks" would be fairly easy: first, (When You're) Losing Your Way In The Rain at the edge of Newtown Common (which is criss-crossed by public footpaths, so no problem there). Then Bright Eyes, which presents more problems, as it could reasonably be either at (well, as near as possible to) the beech hanger or, if I can find the damn thing, at the infamous ditch where the "bloody hole" was. Finally, Run Like The Wind at the Near Hind Mark's side of Efrafa.

Yeah, all right, it's completely insane, and I reckon it might take two separate journeys. But I have a sneaking feeling that I might just go for it!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Run Like The Wind

Back to song titles, but for a very good reason. A lot of people don't know that the 1978 film of Watership Down was originally going to include three Mike Batt songs, rather than the one - Bright Eyes - that made it through. One of them was (When You're) Losing Your Way In The Rain, which eventually turned up, sung by Mr Garfunkel himself, on Watership Down: Original Soundtrack Music and Songs, which despite only being released in 2000, is already deleted! Annoying, as I haven't got it, and neither do Worcestershire Libraries... (they have got a copy of the 1978 soundtrack on cassette, though, which is something).

The other song, however, I know more about. It's called Run Like The Wind, and it was sung by Barbara Dickson. It's about thoughts of a break for freedom, so it's unsurprising that it was intended to be about Hyzenthlay. It's easily obtainable (in the UK at least) on The Best of Barbara Dickson. Having got hold of it myself for the first time today, I like it a great deal. It's simple, but memorable with a nice melody. I think it would have been perfect for Hyzenthlay's character, and it's a great pity it ended up in the bin. Now, all I need to do is to get a choir together to go and sing it at the Crixa...!

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Thereby hang some Tales

Right, enough of the song-title thing. To my shame, I don't actually own a copy of Tales From Watership Down, and - egad! - it seems to be out of print already! So 'twas off to the library today to get my hands on one - luckily, Worcestershire's libraries are stuffed to the gills with Mr Adams' novels, and judging by the datestamps in the front they're still much sought after (cheers cheers). Quite a while since I last read it, so I didn't really remember much. I'm currently up to the end of Part I, which consists of various stories, mostly (but not all) told by Dandelion. I have to say that I found the quality rather mixed - for example, El-ahrairah sings on a couple of occasions, which is surely reserved for Cowslip's lot... anyhow, over and out.

Friday, October 18, 2002

We could be lifted

A little snippet now, but that's what blogs are for, surely? Anyway... I can't be the only one, surely, who feels a great surge of emotion - almost pride - at getting to Part IV and seeing "Hazel-Rah" at the top of each page. It really does lift me up.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Where have all the posters gone?

Long time passing... well, three days, anyway. That's how long it is since anyone but me has posted to the Yahoo Group, which is odd. Maybe some virulent disease is attacking only Watership Down fans - it'd go some way to explaining this bloody cough...

Updates galore at Bits'n'Bob-stones itself. Most importantly, Unit 08 of the Lapine course is now up, explaining how to do possessives ("mine" etc) and some handy prepositions. No MP3s until my cough goes away, but in one of my healthier moments I managed to get the recording done for the Unit 10 story about Rooli Roo. I'll I've just listened to it, and actually it sounds rather impressive, even if I do say so myself. I should think it's easily the longest extant piece of Lapine - over 200 words, taking around 90 seconds at quite some pace.

The other new publication on the site is a piece I've called simply Why Watership Down?. It's on the reviews page, but it isn't really a review; more a personal exploration of what the book means to me - which is an awful lot. Except for correcting typos, I've left it completely in first-draft form, and it does get quite emotional at times, but that's what I wanted it to do. I very much doubt I'd ever publish it anywhere else, but I'm among friends at B'n'B.

Finally, I've succumbed to the Curse of Geocities Homepages, and stuck in the Obligatory Guestbook. Comments are of course welcomed in both English and Lapine :-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Amazon Grace

Maybe this song-title thing is getting a bit out of hand now... anyhow, this is just to tell those of you who hang on my every word (why?) that I have yet another copy of Watership Down on order from, to replace one I've just torn the cover off by accident! It's the basic Penguin edition, which you can see here - "Children's Books", aaarrghhh! Not the most inspired cover art you'll ever see, but actually that rabbit's expression is rather good - much better than it looks on screen. And at least these editions are based on the original Rex Collings one, so we get the full ending to ch. 11 ("Hard Going"), rather than the greatly condensed one poor American readers generally have to put up with - see here for what I'm talking about.

I really ought not to be doing this, I suppose, as I object to Amazon's doings on several counts, for example their anti-union policies and their weaselling out of our Data Protection Act by shipping the info over to the US. (Eg: if they were a British company, they would be required by law to make available all personal data they hold about customers. They refuse to do this. Not good enough.) But unfortunately they give such a damn good service that I can't be bothered to go elsewhere!

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Make like an Apeman

That title's there for no other reason than that I was listening to a Kinks CD yesterday and Apeman was the last track. It really is the most utterly ridiculous song ;-) Anyhow, maybe I was slightly over-the-top about the US blurb last night - it was half past three in the morning, after all. I still find "a glorious dream called home" horribly sickly-sweet, though. In other news, it seems that that Big Brother site I mentioned is no longer updated, as it's still at Day 9. Shame.
Dream a little dream of me

Might as well carry on with the musical theme ;-) Getting back to WD, is it just my cynical British viewpoint speaking here, or is the US blurb for the book unbelievably cringe-inducing? The bit I'm talking about is this:

It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership, and survival; an epic tale of a hardy band of Berkshire rabbits forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream called "home".

I don't know why, but "a glorious dream called home" strikes me as epitomising all that is worst about American publishers' sentimentalism - and the whole damn reason WD works so well is because it isn't sentimentalised (a subject on which I've got a bit more to say sometime). Frankly, that phrase makes me want to vomit.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Ring, ring (2)

Yup, I'm in. Good stuff :-) While I'm here, I'll just give a quick plug to an amazingly silly, but strangely addictive, site on the ring: Big Brother on Watership Down. Yes, exactly what it sounds like - 13 WD characters (in more or less human form) shut up in a house and having incredibly stupid rows. An example: "Hazel told Woundwort that he was wrong to tell Bigwig that he (Hazel) fancied Hyzenthlay. Woundwort retorted I do what I like pretty boy. Hazel told Woundwort that he hated him. Woundwort told Hazel, I'm the king of the house, shut up. Hazel stormed off in a strop. Hyzenthlay and Nelthilta went to comfort him. Hazel cried into his pillow that Woundwort was incredibly mean". Only on day 9 of 64 and I'm hooked already!

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Ring, ring

Nothing to do with ABBA (though I quite like them), but rather ye olde Watership Down Webring, which I've put in my application to join (for the companion site, not this blog). The webring gets a navigation rating of 94, dontcherknow! (That's good, by the way.) Some very interesting WD-related stuff in there - I hope I get the nod from The Management. We'll see.
The weekend quiz

Okay, so the weekend's half over already, but never mind. Ten tricky teasers for Watership Down fanatics (ie us lot) on the Yahoo Group, here (public archives). Note that Q9 is slightly wrong: the differing text is in two editions that I know of - the UK Rex Collings 2nd ed, and the US Avon paperback. (Cheers to Chris Paci for setting me straight on this!). Answers will be posted to the Yahoo Group on Monday - I'll link to the answers from here.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Review review

No, not another review from me, but rather a comment on the very variable quality of some of the reviews of the 1978 Watership Down animated Nepenthe film. Some of these pieces are excellent potted descriptions with just the right amount of prejudice to make them interesting, but others - well - you sometimes wonder if the reviewers got the whole thing from the video box! Anyhow, here's a guide to some of the reviews - I'm not going to comment on whether or not I agree with them (well, not much...), but rather on whether they're fair and accurate, plus I'll give them a grade (A to E; C is average, not useless!). Incidentally, I'm ignoring tech info such as DVD extras - all I'm interested in here is the film. So then:

Animated Lust - this site has one-para reviews from several people, obviously fans, which read together give a pretty decent idea of what to expect. One small mistake is the reference to Bigwig as "Thlayli" - that name is never used in the film - but that's minor stuff. B - a very unusual idea, this - reviewers are guided through a lengthy sequence of multiple-choice questions in order to build up an idea of the film's structure, plot etc. Sadly it doesn't really work for such an unusual film as this - for example, because rabbits don't wear clothes, the review gives "90-100% full-frontal nudity"!! The reviewer has tried hard, and obviously knows the story, but the format still doesn't work. I did have a go at seeing if I could do better for them myself, but discovered that they wanted exclusive rights. No thanks. D - actually, the reviewer here (Keith Simanton) is from the .com site, but that's not a problem. A two-para review, which dashes through most of the relevant points (yep, we get the "a-word" [allegories]), and sensibly mentions that it's not for young kids. Could have done with a bit more detail, but there are customer reviews here too, of course, some of which are even readable.B-

Film Freak Central - unacceptably slow to load, but once you do get there, the review itself is detailed and thoughtful, making the interesting point that its unsentimentality about death might in fact make it a good film for children. Reviewer Walter Chaw is not a fan of the animation ("shoddy"), but considers it "unusually thoughtful" for animation. The only real complaint about this well written piece is that nowhere are we told that the film is British! A- - another quite lengthy review here, and in general a very good effort, and I have only two quibbles, both cases of mistaken identity: one, we are told Kehaar notices the lack of does (it's Hazel); and two, the impression is given that Bigwig single-handedly thinks up the entire "escape from Efrafa" lark, which is a little bit hard on Blackberry. B+

Kayframe - this site has a similar setup to Animated Lust (above) - several short reviews on the same page. The bottom review (by "Athena"), which is otherwise good, complains about some of the "thick British accents" making the dialogue unclear, which is simply rubbish - the voices are some of the clearest you'll ever hear. There's the odd silly mistake caused by a lack of fact-checking (who's this "Ka-reel" character?), and UK readers will be annoyed by the constant "it earned its PG rating" comments (it's a U over here), but other than one or two completely pointless (and very short) efforts, the reviews here are worth a glance. B-

The Cavalcade of Schlock - what a URL! Sadly, a generally good review is ruined by a couple of horribly sloppy moments. For example, right at the beginning we're given a reference to Woundwort shaking a rabbit about in his jaws. What film was that in, then? Wasn't this one, that's for sure. Also, the blood is apparently orange - try cleaning your video, matey. Finally, we're told that the film "keeps that part where Bigwig tells Woundwort to eat shit and die". Quite apart from the fact that he doesn't quite say that even in the book (silflay hraka, u embleer rah means""go outside and eat shit, you stinking lord"), in the film this is reduced to one word: "Hraka!". Oh, and you can't find reference to WD in "The Stand"? Where do you think the word "tharn" comes from, eh? Overall, this would have got an A- with a bit more fact-checking; as it is I can only justify a C+

World Kids Network - a one-para effort here from Mario Rodgers, but not a bad one at all, though the phrase "the bleeding fields" might bring a smile to the face of some British readers! (Cor blimey guv'nor.) B

ninemsn - this ludicrously-monikered Aussie company (blame Murdoch, as per usual) has a small, TV preview-type review which doesn't tell us much, but what is there is correct (except that it's a 1978, not 1977, film). C

Laserdisc Movie Reviews - remember when these were the next big thing? Ah, nostalgia, eh? Anyhow, this review is really more concerned with the disc than the film on it, so we only get a bare-bones description of the movie itself. Reviewer Robert A. George obviously likes the film a lot, which makes the lack of detail all the more infuriating. D+

DVD Savant - aha! This is more like it, despite the presence of the dreaded "A-word" (see above). Glenn Erickson has gone into some detail here, with a thoughtful and interesting discussion of whether WD might not be better treated not as some latter-day Animal Farm, but merely ("merely"?) as the story of "nature and survival and life and death" that it is. Kehaar is Russian this time (another one for the collection!) - out of interest, Adams based him on a Norwegian, though I think he sounds Dutch - and the quote Erickson gives him is wrong, but you can at least imagine him saying it! One other quibble - "Only a few, if any, [Efrafan] rabbits are allowed to mate", fine, but: "with [Woundwort] siring many of the offspring"? Where's the evidence for that? There's also a quite detailed letter Erickson received from a correspondent which gives some interesting info about creative differences in production, though quickly becomes a (deserved, if you ask me) rant against The Plague Dogs. Still, the WD review itself is one of the best of the "non-fansite" version, and so I think I'll end on a high note by giving this an A-

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

When will I, will I be famous...?

Dunno, but I've appeared in a national newspaper already! Well, sort of. If you click this link, you'll find a discussion on the Guardian newspaper's talkboards. And guess what? It's about me! Or rather, about the companion site to this blog. Some of the language in the talkboard discussion is a bit strong, but if you can live with that I urge you to read it - basically it's a rant by someone who's seen my site but completely missed the point. In other words, they think I'm taking all this deadly seriously. Though I note that I can't win either way - if I say that it's a bit of fun, they'll also sneer at me for being a person who says "I'm a bit mad, me". It really did make my day, this - it's absolutely hilarious :-)

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

As for the radio serial...

The second half was considerably better in some ways. General Woundwort's military character worked pretty well - rather like a slightly less lunatic General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Forth, and Hazel's death scene, though changed somewhat from the book, was highly effective, and perhaps the only part of this version that could fairly be called moving. The actors were also much better at bringing out their characters' "rabbitalities", and the voices were, at last, distinguishable.

There are the usual complaints, though: Woundwort's "dogs aren't dangerous!" got the blue pencil, Bugloss was sentenced to death instead of merely losing his commission, Nelthilta was let in on the escape plan from the start, Hyzenthlay's second sight was virtually ignored and the Lapine was again pronounced very oddly (HyZANthlay??). The worst change by far, though, was the complete omission of Blackavar. Not only does his plight affect Bigwig quite deeply, but he's also involved in a classic confrontation to Bigwig which ends up with the party encountering the fox again - this scene is also left out.

Overall, then, this episode would get 6-7 out of 10, compared with the 5 of part one. So 6 seems a reasonable mark to give to the adaptation as a whole. Not something to be ashamed of, but neither was it any sort of landmark.
The train

Remember when the escaping embassy party to Efrafa is saved from their pursuers by a train? Well, I've been trying to find out what sort of train it was. The book certainly gives the impression of it being a steam train, and the film is explicit in this, but the Radio 4 series uses a rather feeble diesel horn effect. So, I went off to the fount of all knowledge (ie Usenet) and asked on uk.railway about it. And it turns out that the exact date is crucial. It's pretty much agreed that WD was conceived in the summer of 1967, and we know that the main action takes place between May and August. From uk.railway I've managed to establish that the last steam train through Overton was on the night of 8/9 July 1967. Now, a careful reading of the book will tell you that the scene in question is set in mid-summer, when the nights are very short - so it would seem that the train that did for Charlock was one of the very last steam ones to pass along that line.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Radio 4 again

Just caught the last few minutes of a prog on Radio 4 about how rabbits have been portrayed by humans over the 100 years since Peter Rabbit was published. Interesting stuff, including a comment from Richard Adams about how real rabbits might climb on kennels, but would never co-operate to free a fellow from a snare as the Watership Down crowd do for Bigwig - real rabbits just walk on by, so to speak. I also listened to the repeat of the first half of the radio adaptation of WD, and I stand by my earlier comment - it's acceptable, but no more.

Friday, October 04, 2002


That's right, folks, we're up to five units and beyond the reach of lapine counting. Which is a shame, as one of the new bits of Frithaes! is about exactly that. Other subjects include the future tense (easy), more complex ideas of time (not too difficult), a few simple words to describe rabbits (straightforward) and an important milestone - which you'll recognise when you get there!

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Fu hyao, e laynt meth "Frithrah!"

That translates as "after a day, he said 'Great Frith!'". Good, eh? Unit 02 of the Lapine course is now up at the companion site, and in this section you can learn how to form the past tense (very easy), and a whole slew of words relating to telling the time (which is rather less simple). Have fun!

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Lapine, Lapine everywhere!

I've reorganised the site a bit, so that the Lapine section stands on its own, and - more importantly - uploaded some MP3s of yours truly speaking (not very fluent) Lapine. The contents page (not that there is much in the way of content yet) is now here.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

More on the Lapine front

Last night's post got me thinking. I don't think I'm up to constructing a comprehensive grammar for Lapine, but I think I can have a reasonable stab at some of the easier parts of speech. Zoe Kealtan's version of the present tense is an inflected one, but - so my thinking went - what if Lapine, like Welsh, had a formal "literary" version (yes, I do know rabbits don't write, but you see what I mean) but also a more roundabout colloquial version? It would seem reasonable to assume that this everyday version would have a simple yet robust structure, and make considerable use of auxiliary verbs.

I've cobbled together a simple explanation of how to form the present tense in Lapine by using the auxiliary verb lay, "to be" in conjunction with some simple phrases. Words I've taken mostly from Watership Down itself, but a few are ZK's inventions and one or two are - gasp! - my own work! The structure is vaguely reminiscent of that of Welsh, simply because that's a language I have a little knowledge of. I don't pretend to be any sort of expert in this field, so I'm sure that there are huge glaring flaws in my work, but it might be of some small interest in any case. At the moment, I have only one page on the subject, here. Comments, as ever, are welcome - address on the right.
Lapine linguistics

I'm sure a lot of people enjoy the scattered words of Lapine dotted around Watership Down - especially Bigwig's wonderful curse: "Silflay hraka, u embleer rah"! But some people have gone even further. One such is Zoe Kealtan, who several years ago produced a few very interesting posts on the matter. Here is one such post, containing a Lapine translation of "El-ahrairah and the Pike", mentioned quite early on in WD. There's also a guide to pronunciation here, and an introductory grammar lesson here. Sadly attempts by others to expand Lapine have been dogged by bad feeling and politics, which I don't think it would serve any purpose to elaborate on, so for the moment this is as far as we get.