IN honour of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the coming of the Easter Bunny, I shall post some inspiring lines from the holy texts of both humans and lapines. Now, I don’t think Mr. Adams wrote Watership Down to make a theological point, but I firmly believe that the Holy Ghost can reveal some small shards of truth through authors quite unaware of their inspiration. So do please indulge my ramblings.
I could say much about Watership Down and the Bible, such as the parallel of the whole of the novel to the epic of Exodus, or the process by which the “real” rabbits of the novel create their myths from their collective experiences. But I am too slothful to cover everything just now, and for the holiest day of the Church it seems fitting to speak of the holiest words of lapine religion: Frith’s charge to El-ahrairah after the Fall of Rabbit.
Thus spake the great Frith to his unruly vassal:
El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so.
Frith never seems to have said the rabbits would rule the world; that was more of a pretension of El-ahrairah’s princely head. Man, however, even after the Fall, retains his “dominion… over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1: 28). But while man may enjoy the topmost seat of the visible hierarchy, the biblical record suggests that in a subtler way Satan has a “dominion” of his own: Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 12: 31, 14: 30) and “the god of this world” (II Cor. 4: 4). And when the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, man and devil alike will know they cannot rule the world, for He will not have it so.
All the world will be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies…
This could almost have come from the pen of the Apostle John, an Apostle ever wont to declare the world hostile to Christian truth and those who dare profess it: “The world hateth you” (John 15: 19), he says; “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (I John 5: 19); “marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you”(I John 3: 13). Not “world” in the sense of the whole physical cosmos, of course, since “God so loved the world” (John 3: 16), but “world” in the sense of enmity with God, the created striving against the creator.
… and whenever they catch you, they will kill you.
The rabbit need only fear the elil’s jaws, but for the Christian there are two deaths. Most fearful is of course the spiritual death of damnation: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5: 8). But the metaphor is a powerful one precisely because there is a reality behind it leading to physical death. We know the peril of genuine lions. While our species as a whole commands the food chain, and we know our “dominion” need not fear supplantation by another, we have no guarantee than an individual human will not fall prey to a “lower” animal. A man in the belly of a lion is just as dead as a rabbit in the belly of a weasel. Even if man were impervious to other species, he remains quite dangerous to himself, and while lions make no distinction of creed the name of Christ is oft a shiny red target: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you… But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24: 9, 13). By suffering the lesser death, he escapes the greater.
But first, they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks…
Jesus tells us most marvelously of this cunning: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 19: 16).
… and your people shall never be destroyed.’
While Frith promises immortality to no rabbit — not even to El-ahrairah himself — he assures the race it will survive, so long as it keeps its cunning. Likewise for the Christian race: no member thereof can be saved by the Ark if he leap from her decks into the deluge, but the Ark herself will never sink. She has a pledge from her Master: that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16: 18). When the End comes, and the Church, whomever she may contain, is finally gathered in, then “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21: 4).
The thousand enemies of the universe will be defeated, and all creation will praise the Lord forever.