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Prequel Problems: The Animals of Farthing Wood

ShortsBelfast

Well-known member
Old enough to have read the Animals of Farthing Wood in the first edition in my last year at primary school.
En passant, don't let Henry Williamson's dreadful politics put you off reading him, apart from showing how an otherwise intelligent and observant person can become a fascist, the Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight are a detailed, closely observed portrayal of rural and semi-rural England 's transition from the situation so well portrayed in "Lark Rise to Candleford" (Flora Thompson) to the early modern period. And Tara the Otter and Salar the Salmon are superb "animal biographies".
The Oath of Protection, is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's truce of the water hole during the drought in the jungle book (and both are based on actual observed behavior by naturalists during drought and forest fires, when traditional predator/prey relationships are often suspended by the greater immediate peril).
 
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Thande

The loathsome Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares
Published by SLP
The Oath of Protection, is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's truce of the water hole during the drought in the jungle book (and both are based on actual observed behavior by naturalists during drought and forest fires, when traditional predator/prey relationships are often suspended by the greater immediate peril).
Ah, that's an interesting point - I keep meaning to read the original but haven't got around to it, though obviously familiar with (a version of) the story through adaptations. I think part of me was programmed by the Just So Stories into associating Kipling with short stories and it slightly puts me off reading his longer works.
 

OwenM

The patronising flippancy of youth
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One slight prequel error I would point to is that whilst I'm not sure it's explicit that there had been other Assemblies before, the way the one Badger's father chaired is referred to as the last Assembly and the Oath is considered traditional gave me a strong impression that whilst they were certainly unusual, it was a pre-existing concept and I thus found it weird when they have to invent it in the prequel.
Though this is possibly just rose tinting and everyone there having grown up aware of that one, I guess.
I've also never actually watched the TV series.
 

Thande

The loathsome Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares
Published by SLP
One slight prequel error I would point to is that whilst I'm not sure it's explicit that there had been other Assemblies before, the way the one Badger's father chaired is referred to as the last Assembly and the Oath is considered traditional gave me a strong impression that whilst they were certainly unusual, it was a pre-existing concept and I thus found it weird when they have to invent it in the prequel.
Though this is possibly just rose tinting and everyone there having grown up aware of that one, I guess.
Hmm, not sure, I'd have to re-read the bit in question to be certain.

I've also never actually watched the TV series.
This feels fairly "Owen-brand" in an indefinable way.
 

ShortsBelfast

Well-known member
Ah, that's an interesting point - I keep meaning to read the original but haven't got around to it, though obviously familiar with (a version of) the story through adaptations. I think part of me was programmed by the Just So Stories into associating Kipling with short stories and it slightly puts me off reading his longer works.
Kipling's best work was short stories and poetry, but as with Williamson's work don't let his politics put you off. Puck of Pook's Hill, Rewards and Fairies, Plain Tales from the Hills...The only thing he wasn't very good at was comedy. His funniest stories "the Potter Prince" and "The finances of the Gods" are both retelling of original Indian stories, with "The Sending of Danu Da" as the exception that proves the rule.
But "The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows" is still one of the best short vignettes of addiction in my opinion.
Oh, and by the way, it might have been the Second Jungle Book rather than the Jungle Books that had the Truce of the Drought, a while since I read either
 

Charles EP M.

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Published by SLP
I had the cassettes as a kid which manage to be an interquel as the animals - well, four for budget reasons - are telling the story of the first series to Fox's cubs, and then they were telling the story of the second series to Bold's son. Which not only fit the timeline well, they get around the limited cast by having the characters comment on the ones who aren't here (Owl sneers Mister Pheasant "was playing for sympathy" in his last moments) or do impressions of them (Toad desperately wants to do the farm dog, is allowed, does a terrible "My master wants you dead. Woof woof.") It's a great way of handling a small budget and cast.

How is the series so good at managing itself? I'm guessing part of it is that we're dealing with animals with short lives so logically there's something always happening to them and there's always new ones popping up and it's impossible to ignore the spectre of death.

(Now are we getting a prequel series for Robin Jarvis, the other "like this small cute animal THEY JUST DIED" guy of the 90s?)
 

FriendlyGhost

Trying to write more than my AH.com alter ego :-)
I'm too old (by more than a decade) to have watched the series and I never read the books either; given their publication dates, I might have read the first one, perhaps first two, if they'd appeared immediately in the library (and I'd found them), but by the time the later ones came out I would have been too old for them.
So I'm coming at this from a 'vaguely heard of them but know nothing about them' stance. (I think I'll need to find them for my children, though, as I like the fact that there's a bit of 'red in tooth and claw' about them. I'll see if I can run them to ground at my local charity bookshop.)

Good article; I did enjoy reading about how the prequel is/was very good from a prequel point of view, but not necessarily from a reading point of view. That leads to an interesting dichotomy: which is more important in a prequel (or even a sequel) - consistency or fun? That's the sort of thing which gets discussed a lot for AH, if you substitute 'plausibility' for 'consistency.' I can forgive a lot if the story's good.

On Kipling, I can't remember either where the Truce of the Drought appears (JB or 2JB), and I certainly never knew that it was based on real observed behaviour - fascinating!
 

OwenM

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Rereading it is specified that the Oath of Common Safety was introduced by Badger's father but Badger generally treats everything about Assemblies as an ancient hallowed tradition (and it's "only the second Assembly called in my lifetime", not "only the second ever"), and even Fox seems to treat it as something that's happened more than once before.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Good article; I did enjoy reading about how the prequel is/was very good from a prequel point of view, but not necessarily from a reading point of view. That leads to an interesting dichotomy: which is more important in a prequel (or even a sequel) - consistency or fun? That's the sort of thing which gets discussed a lot for AH, if you substitute 'plausibility' for 'consistency.' I can forgive a lot if the story's good.
This seems a trickier one than the fun-versus-plausibility because the promise of a prequel is "this is consistent" and "this is relevant to understanding the story/character", whereas the book @Skinny87 reviewed a while back where Teddy Roosevelt hunts down Jack the Ripper isn't promising to be plausible (and you probably don't want it to be, you want to see the Bull Moose diss snobby Brits and punch Jack out or something).
 

Gary Oswald

It was Vampire Unions that got us Vampire Weekend
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This seems a trickier one than the fun-versus-plausibility because the promise of a prequel is "this is consistent" and "this is relevant to understanding the story/character", whereas the book @Skinny87 reviewed a while back where Teddy Roosevelt hunts down Jack the Ripper isn't promising to be plausible (and you probably don't want it to be, you want to see the Bull Moose diss snobby Brits and punch Jack out or something).
I have read/seen prequels that were excellent stories but should have been their own thing and not tied to the pre existing property.

I've promised Thande I will write a guest article about one of them, actually (Jinx, which you might be familiar with). Though given my current schedule has 20 other articles by me of which only 7 are finished (10 africa, and 10 interviews) before there's next a gap in the prequal articles, it's not my priority.
 

Thande

The loathsome Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares
Published by SLP
I had the cassettes as a kid which manage to be an interquel as the animals - well, four for budget reasons - are telling the story of the first series to Fox's cubs, and then they were telling the story of the second series to Bold's son. Which not only fit the timeline well, they get around the limited cast by having the characters comment on the ones who aren't here (Owl sneers Mister Pheasant "was playing for sympathy" in his last moments) or do impressions of them (Toad desperately wants to do the farm dog, is allowed, does a terrible "My master wants you dead. Woof woof.") It's a great way of handling a small budget and cast.

How is the series so good at managing itself? I'm guessing part of it is that we're dealing with animals with short lives so logically there's something always happening to them and there's always new ones popping up and it's impossible to ignore the spectre of death.
That's fascinating - a good example of that period in the 90s where it felt like more labour-of-love effort was put into this sort of thing than at any time before or since, and it's hard to explain why or even define what I mean, but if you lived through that period you know what I'm talking about.
 

Lemon flavoured

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That's fascinating - a good example of that period in the 90s where it felt like more labour-of-love effort was put into this sort of thing than at any time before or since, and it's hard to explain why or even define what I mean, but if you lived through that period you know what I'm talking about.
This reminds me that as a kid I had or borrowed the whole Beatrix Potter series on audio cassette. It didn't have a cast, but was read by one person, although she did make some effort at different voices (and a somewhat poor Scottish accent for Mr and Mrs McGregor). Because of this, I remember random lines from some of the more obscure books, because they sounded silly on that audio book (I've mentioned the "One, two, three, fourrr, five, Siiiix leeetle rrrabbits!" from The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies, before, and also the "Gammon, A-ha!" thing from The Tale of the Pie and The Pattie Pan. But I'm also reminded semi-frequently of the line from The Tale of Mr Tod where the badger Tommy Brock "rolled him over and over like a log, out of the door", which i can't render the cadence of in text, but the way its said is mildly amusing to me).

To bring this somewhat back on topic (shocking, I know) i don't think I read the Farthing Wood prequel, but it does sound like one of the better ones based on the description. With regards to the series in general, I wouldnt say I was one of the kids who was traumatised by it, although that might be because I wasn't *that* young, and so had some idea about nature already.
 
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