Before I read Watership Down, I knew personally how utterly alien animals were, but I had no idea anyone else could quantify it. You know that moment when a friend voices an opinion you’ve been certain was uniquely and utterly your own and you leap out of your seat shrieking HOLY SHITSNACKS, ME TOO and startle the cat? It was that moment, in novel format.
I grew up in the woods a nerdy, semi-feral only child, and for most of my formative years my closest companions were animals. I understood how different their thought patterns were, their reactions to our shared world and how they navigated it. Animals were never just furry little people to me. They were inscrutable, weird, and utterly Other. A preschool “likes/dislikes” list of photographs clipped from magazines gets my opinion across pretty broadly: Comedians and dinosaurs were good, atomic mushroom clouds & cats dressed as people were bad. Something about the act of putting human clothes on an animal unsettled me to my five-year old core. it was an inversion of something better left alone, a violation, an act of cruel disrespect. It still kinda bugs me, honestly.