Death, destruction and cute furry animals

A few weeks ago the theme tune for The Animals of Farthing Wood popped into my head out of nowhere. Reminded of the series, I looked for it on youtube (it’s all there – joy!) and was lucky enough to find (Aadisht did the actual finding) an omnibus edition of In the Grip of Winter, Fox’s Feud and The Fox Cub Bold at a secondhand book stall in Saket.
In my room at college (equipped with impressively speedy broadband) I have finished watching all three seasons of the TV show.
I cried when Bold died.

I cried at a lot of things, to be honest. The deaths of the hedgehogs. Many of the other deaths that seem to occur every other episode. Though not at Dreamer’s death, because somehow that is glossed over rather* – perhaps because the foxes are the animals we’re made to identify with the most during the series, and seeing Fox and Vixen reacting to the death of their cub might just be too much. But really, animals are dropping like flies throughout.

And one of the things I kept wondering as I watched was, how did I survive this series growing up? There’s violence and blood and death (and not the Tom and Jerry sort, where bodies magically reconstitute themselves, this is violence with emotional consequences) in every episode and I have always been the sort of person who cries at anything. In these degenerate times when a friend’s cousin only lets her child watch Bob the Builder, this amount of serious violence just feels startling. Were things really that different fifteen years ago?

I was also thinking what a wonderful series it was. Strong, nuanced characters, solid plotlines (for the first two seasons, at least). The books have some of this too, but the TV series really does add new layers to the animals’ characters. So you have Fox, who is excellent and heroic all through but is capable of becoming a snappy, old and conservative father where his own cubs are concerned; Badger who is nice but ineffectual (and knows it) and eventually senile; Bold, who does everything he can to escape his father’s reputation but ends up with a mate who married him “for your father, of course”. There are the weird emotionally abusive relationships within the family of blue foxes (and among the weasels in season three, but that was more about the series writers utterly losing the plot and trying unsuccessfully to be funny). And then there are the little things I would never have picked up on as a child – the male Vole’s trade unionism “we shmaller animalsh musht shtick together” (a lot of the time he has a point) and the moth-eaten rook in season three who spends his time running after owls while his mate sighs patiently and looks after him because that’s just the way he is.

I suspect I’m going to spend a lot of the next year or so watching things from my childhood online. Next week: Through the Dragon’s Eye, perhaps?

*Strangely, while arguing about their various parentages Charmer uses the deaths of various other Farthing Wood animals to justify Scar-hatred to Ranger, while somehow neglecting to mention her own sister.

5 Comments to “Death, destruction and cute furry animals”

  1. In these degenerate times when a friend’s cousin only lets her child watch Bob the Builder, this amount of serious violence just feels startling. Were things really that different fifteen years ago?

    No, I’d guess that children these days live in an equally emotionally complex world, even if that’s not being acknowledged for some reason; when it comes to approved media, these things ebb and flow. Children live in the same world as we all do, witnessing death, trauma, fear, bullying, struggles for power – my hunch is that a child’s version of the world is more savage than an adult’s, emotionally. Even if TV channels have relented, note how strongly religious parents will not hesitate to pass their faith’s most violent fantasies on to their children at an early age.

    I loved those books too – I still remember watching the TV series when it first aired, reading the books and getting ahead of it, then being snooty about any and all plot changes the TV writers had made.

  2. I remember growing up watching this too. I also remember watching “Wind in the Willows” whenever I remember “Animals of Farthing Wood” mostly because of the badgers in both the stories, I think. I took a fancy to that word and that animal as a kid. Badger.

  3. Thene – Heh, yes.
    I don’t think I even knew the books existed when I watched the series. You would have been snooty at me. :(

    FR – “badger” is a great word, isn’t it?

  4. Yes, I am sure I would. :)

    Something I just typed out for another purpose, but which I wanted to share with this thread – a paragraph from Artaud’s The Theatre And Its Double:

    ‘Thus all great Myths are dark and one cannot imagine the great Fables aside from a mood of slaughter, torture and bloodshed, telling the masses about the original division of the sexes and the slaughter of essences that came with creation. Theatre, like the plague, is made in the image of this slaughter, this essential division. It unravels conflicts, liberates powers, releases potential and if these and the powers are dark, this is not the fault of the plague or theatre, but life.’

  5. This would not be nice of you. Sniffle.

    And that is a great quote!

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