- The Animals of Farthing Wood
infobox Book |
name = The Animals of Farthing Wood
image_caption = Cover of 2006 paperback edition
illustrator = Jacqueline Tettmar
language = English
series = The Animals of Farthing Wood
genre = Children's,
release_date = 12 November
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 302 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0434934305 (first edition, hardback)
preceded_by = None
In the Grip of Winter
"The Animals of Farthing Wood" is the first book of the Animals of Farthing Wood book series. It was first published in 1979. An abridged version of 70 pages, by the same author, was published in 1993 to accompany the TV series.
The novel begins in the fictional Farthing Wood, which is being destroyed to make way for the building of human homes. The book follows the adventures of a group of animals who choose to leave their home in Farthing Wood and journey to White Deer Park, a fictional nature reserve. They are led by Fox and take an oath not to harm each other during the journey.
The humans have dug up the heath that surrounds
Farthing Wood, and have reduced the size of the wood itself to little more than a copse. When the pond is filled in leaving only a small trickle in the stream due to an ongoing drought, Badger and Fox take it upon themselves to call an Assembly of the wood's inhabitants in order to try to come up with a solution to their problem. They realise that there is little that they can do to stop the humans and are about to break up the meeting when Toad arrives. He explains that he had been captured in a jam jar and taken far away. He eventually managed to escape and followed his homing instinct to get back to Farthing Wood, passing through a nature reserve called White Deer Parkin the process. The animals decide to leave Farthing Wood and travel to the reserve in the hope that they will be safe from humans there.
Bound by the Oath of Mutual Protection, in which each animal resolves to put their natural differences and instincts aside in order to help each other, the animals set off on their journey with Fox as their leader and Toad as their guide. Problems soon arise due to each animal's different abilities, such as how fast they are or what they eat. After surviving a housing estate and a busy road, the animals take refuge in some marshland. It is here the lizards decide to stay due to finding the journey much too overwhelming. The animals are soon forced to flee when a forest fire, caused by a cigarette stub, occurs. The fate of the lizards is unknown.
Having survived the fire, the animals take shelter in an open barn, but are trapped inside by the farmer who thinks Fox is the fox who has been eating his chickens. However, while on watch the pheasants are shot. The animals manage to tunnel out and take shelter in a copse before arriving at a river. Whilst swimming across, the Rabbits panic and Fox goes back to help them. After saving the rabbits, Fox is too tired to swim, and is hit by some driftwood. Fearing that Fox is gone for good, Badger takes charge of the party and they continue with their journey.
Fox is very much alive and whilst trying to find his friends, he meets Vixen. He also discovers that they are in fox hunting territory. Vixen helps Fox to try and find the other Farthing Wood animals, but the two foxes soon attract the attention of The Hunt. Adder is able to help save them by biting the lead huntsman's horse, and Fox and Vixen are reunited with the group.
After surviving a quarry, a motorway and a poisoned field, a town is the last obstacle on the animals' trek.
Characters in The Animals of Farthing Wood
List of Animals of Farthing Wood characters
The Oath of Mutual Protection
The Oath plays a key role in the journey and in the books to follow. During the first Assembly in Farthing Wood, an Oath of Common Safety exists to protect the smaller animals, particularly from Adder. This idea was, according to Fox, introduced by Badger's father. However, when the plan is made to journey to White Deer Park, the smaller animals, fearful that they will be eaten by carnivores such as Fox or Adder, request that this oath be re-sworn. Badger then names the new oath "The Oath of Mutual Protection" and all the animals swear it. Although this was originally all that kept animals such as Adder from eating smaller animals like the Fieldmice, it is the Oath that brings the animals together, to be replaced by friendship and loyalty. As a result, they agree to continue to respect the Oath after arriving at White Deer Park.
Two books or one?
The book was originally published by John Goodchild Publishers in the first half of 1979 as two separate paperbacks, entitled "Escape from Danger" ISBN 0-903445-53-0 and "The Way to White Deer Park" ISBN 0-903445-55-7. They were only released in this separate form once, and have since been released as the single novel, "The Animals of Farthing Wood". The only remaining clue to the once split nature of this first story is the way the book is split into chapters, but also into two parts, 'Escape from Danger', and 'Journey to White Deer Park'.
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