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Review: 'The Animals of Farthing Wood'

Edited by GreenReaper as of Sun 24 Jul 2011 - 17:08
Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (6 votes)

The Animals of Farthing Wood, 2006 editionThough first published in 1979, The Animals of Farthing Wood played a fairly substantial part in my childhood. I didn't read the book, but I eagerly awaited the animated series to follow the animals' journey, supplemented by the episodic magazine released in tandem. In my early teens, I picked up an abridged version of some of the sequels, but it was only recently that I managed to obtain the original novel by Colin Dann.

The book chronicles the journey of the animals of Farthing Wood – driven from their home by its destruction to make space for human development – to the fabled White Deer Park, a nature reserve across the country. The animals realise that they need to stick together to make the trip, and take an oath to help and protect each other; vital when your party consists of such varied woodland critters as voles and mice, through an adder, to foxes and birds of prey. The party is led by Toad, who was captured by humans, escaped and made his way through White Deer Park back to Farthing Wood.

While the book is easy to read and clearly aimed at children, it does not hold back and try to coddle them from reality. Over the course of the journey it brings across the animal's sadness at losing their home and the fear that many human encounters leave in them. Not all of the characters make it, and at times you marvel at those who did, overcoming shotgun-toting farmers, fields laced in pesticide, busy highways and the feared fox hunt.

Right from the start there is a clear environmental subtext. The book is highly critical of human actions that lead to the destruction of the natural world without consideration for other living creatures. In perhaps the most conspicuous example, we find the animals discussing the opposing views of the hunter and the naturalist, and the possibility that even the ideals of the naturalist will only be maintained as long as it is comfortable to do so:

For some reason Toad felt himself bound to defend the conception of Nature Reserves. 'I don't know why you bothered to join us,' he said in an aggrieved tone to Adder, 'if you have no faith in White Deer Park.'

'I didn't think my faith was in question,' the snake replied easily. 'The point I was making was what might occur if and when our human friends find they are short of land. I realize it's something that will only occur in the future. Nevertheless, you won't have to look far to find a good illustration of my point. The very reason we are here now is, in case you have forgotten, because land that was once left wild was seized, without compunction, by humans for their own purposes.'

Perhaps my strongest criticism of the book would be the lack of characterisation. Of the multitude of characters, most of the lesser ones have no real personality. That said, the story moves quickly and I never found this to be a major drawback. While I bonded with few characters, I did want the group to finish their journey safely and was annoyed with those whose stupid or selfish actions occasionally put the others in danger.

Overall I found it an enjoyable book and would recommend it. If you want a compelling plot, though, you won't find it here. The story is very linear with only one branch of note. Though furries perhaps will not need it, and the people who do will probably not read it in any case, it does remind you that there are other creatures in the world who our actions affect and who we must not forget to consider.


Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

The animated series was pretty good too, although some episodes felt padded with the typical schtick of some of the characters, which got old fast (Rabbit, Weasel). What really impressed me though was that it was the first television cartoon I'd seen that wasn't shy about death as a plot element. Characters died, sometimes suddenly, sometimes tragically, sometimes peacefully. And new characters would join the group as the story went on.

I think there were three seasons(?), but I only saw the first two. Season One is a long, dangerous trip cross-country to White Deer Park. Most episodes are heavy-handed with environmental messages. In Season Two, the animals have settled into the Park, but there's animosity from some of the animals who were already there, particularly a nasty family of Blue foxes. The Farthing Woods foxes and the Blue foxes have kits, and two of them secretly become friends while the parents are at war (shades of Romeo/Juliet or Hatfields/McCoys). There's also a side-story with one of the other Farthing Woods kits, who's at ends with his own father, and leaves the Park to strike out on his own. Now *that* was a sad story. I'll admit that for a kid's cartoon, it made my eyes get watery, a rare thing.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

I think I only saw the first season. I don't remember it too well because it was so long ago but I do wonder what I'd think of it if I watched it again today.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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About the author

Rakuen Growlitheread storiescontact (login required)

a scientist and Growlithe from South Africa, interested in science, writing, pokemon and gaming

I'm a South African fur, originally from Cape Town. I'm interested in science, writing, gaming, all sorts of furry stuff, Pokemon and some naughtier things too! I've dabbled in art before but prefer writing. You can find my fiction on SoFurry and non-fiction on Flayrah.