Watership Down Characters – FrithPosted: May 18, 2016
Richard Adams’ Watership Down is perhaps my favorite work of fiction, and is among my favorite authors. I find the book profound in its message of courage and transformation, and even salvation. It is far more than a novel about human politics. All quotes come from the Perennial Classics print of the book (2001).
I begin my discussion of the characters of Watership Down with Frith because Frith is Creator. Frith is both rabbit-like and sun-like. This dual character is seen in the creation narrative in the sixth chapter. It is relayed by Dandelion to the other rabbits the night they fled from the Sandleford warren.
Long ago, Frith made the world. He made all the stars, too, and the world is one of the stars. He made them by scattering his droppings of the sky and this is why the grass and the trees grow so thick on the world. Frith makes the rivers flow. They follow him as he goes through the sky, and when he leaves the sky they look for him all night. Frith made all the animals and birds, but when he first made them they were all the same…Because the world was new and Frith shone down bright and warm all day (p 27).
El-ahrairah addresses Frith as Lord, and rabbits pray to Frith, or at least address him for aid and guidance. We have this sample from Hazel when the rabbits arrive at Watership Down: “O Frith,” thought Hazel…”are you sending us to live among the clouds? If you spoke truly to Fiver, help me to trust him” (p. 128)
Rabbits believe that Frith provides for them and brings them deliverance. We read of Captain Holly’s account of intervention:
It’s going to be very hard to describe to you what happened next. Although all four of us were there, we don’t understand it ourselves. But what I’m going to say now is the cold truth. Lord Frith sent one of his great Messengers to save us from the Efrafan Owsla…It was full of fire and smoke and light and it roared and beat on the metal lines until the ground shook beneath it. It drove in between us and the Efrafans like a thousand thunderstorms with lightning (p. 242).
The cunicular (lapine, as Adams calls things of the rabbits) “religion” is mythological: their oral accounts of Frith, El-ahrairah, Prince Rainbow, and the Black Rabbit of Inle form their understanding of the world and how and why they exist, and gives them direction and purpose in the situations in which they find themselves. Their “religion” — as Adams frames it — I find to have Christian references and are representations of the Christian faith. Such Christian parallels will be noted in future postings about Watership Down.