|The Animals of Farthing Wood|
Cover of the 2006 publication
|Publication date||12 November 1979|
|Succeeded by||In the Grip of Winter|
The Animals of Farthing Wood is the first book of The Animals of Farthing Wood book series by Colin Dann. The book was illustrated by Jacqueline Tettmar and first published on 12 November 1979. Colin Dann later wrote an abridged version of 70 pages, which was published in 1993 to accompany the TV series.
The book follows the Farthing Wood animals on their journey to White Deer Park. It was originally meant to be a stand alone book, with the animals reaching White Deer Park at the end. The success of the book led to a further six novels detailing the adventures of the animals once they reached White Deer Park, and a prequel showing how Farthing Wood came to be destroyed.
The book was originally published in the first half of 1979 as two separate paperbacks, entitled Escape from Danger and The Way to White Deer Park. They were only released in this separate form once before being combined into a single novel for subsequent publications. However, the combined novel is split into two parts called Escape from Danger and Journey to White Deer Park.
Escape from DangerEdit
There is a drought in Farthing Wood as the humans that are destroying the wood have filled in the pond. Fox and Badger decide to call an assembly of all the animals which will be held in Badger's set, and they head off to gather all the animals together. The following the night the assembly is held, but nobody has any clear ideas of what to do until Toad arrives and tells them about a nature reserve called White Deer Park which he has just travelled back from. The animals agree that Toad will lead them all to White Deer Park and Fox is chosen as their leader for their upcoming journey.
The animals set off the following night and arrive at a swimming pool where they drink before heading towards some army land. The animals cross a trunk road, but Toad is too tired to make it across and has to be saved from a human by Fox. The animals sleep on the army land and drink at a nearby marsh, where Mole digs underground for worms. The lizards decide that the journey will be too far for them and stay behind. A fire rages and Fox has to go back to rescue Toad, who is too slow and tired to escape from the flames on his own. The animals head for a causeway to escape the fire and Fox has to head back again to rescue Mole from the human firefighters.
A huge storm breaks and the animals head off towards some farmland. The animals discover an open storeroom in which they can rest and Pheasant keeps watch for the farmer. However he and Mrs Pheasant are shot by the farmer and the farmer's wife closes the storeroom door, trapping the animals inside. Tawny Owl suggests that they dig themselves out and Mole creates a tunnel which they are able to escape through, while Adder distracts the farmer's dog. The animals reach a copse where they rest for a few days, and Tawny Owl goes back to the farm to fetch Adder.
The animals leave the copse and head towards a river which they must all cross. Most of them make it across safely, but Weasel has to help the panicking squirrels and Fox gets left behind as he tries to help the rabbits who are also panicking. Several of the animals rescue the rabbits while Badger rescues Fox, but a mass of debris sweeps them both down the river. Badger is seen and rescued from the river, and Kestrel follows Fox downstream, but he disappears under a bridge. Badger takes over leadership of the group and the animals continue their journey.
Tawny Owl soon informs the other animals that they are going round in circles, and tells Toad that his homing instinct is leading him back towards Farthing Wood. Meanwhile several of the voles and fieldmice have babies and are all left behind to look after them, but all the babies and several adults are killed by a shrike so they all decide to rejoin the group. With the hope that Fox will eventually rejoin them, the animals continue their journey towards White Deer Park.
Journey to White Deer ParkEdit
Fox floats down the river on some driftwood, which soon catches against a small motorboat. Fox is taken down the river and into a lock, where he is seen by several humans so he jumps up onto the land and runs away from the town into the countryside. Here he meets a horse who tells him that he is walking through hunting country and warns him to get away as soon as possible. Fox comes across a large burrow and rests for a while, before waking up to the sight of a vixen, who allows him to continue resting in her earth. The two foxes go hunting and Fox tells Vixen about his friends and their journey to White Deer Park. Fox develops romantic feelings for Vixen, seeing her as the most beautiful creature on the earth. He wishes Vixen to be his mate, but she only agrees to accompany him as he looks for his friends, although she tells him she will consider becoming his mate along the way.
Fox talks to a barn owl and discovers that his friends are safe and well, and the two foxes head off in pursuit of them. Along the way the scent becomes divided and the foxes split up to search in both directions. Vixen soon discovers she has taken the wrong route, and decides that she wants to stay with Fox. She heads back towards him, but she is pursued by a fox hunt and tries to lose them in some woods and becomes trapped. Fox distracts the hunt and allows Vixen to escape but she is caught by the huntmaster as she climbs the hill towards the Farthing Wood animals who are waiting at the top. As Vixen is about to be caught Adder appears and sinks his teeth into the leg of the huntmaster's horse, causing it to rear up and allowing Vixen to escape. After this Vixen is reunited with Fox and joins the group on their journey.
The animals arrive at a quarry and Mole digs under the fence so they can all get in to drink. Here they meet a heron called Whistler, who catches some fish for them to eat. Toad goes swimming and is caught by a carp, but Whistler catches the fish which soon releases Toad from its mouth. Toad asks Whistler to set the fish free and the heron obliges. After this Whistler decides to join the animals on their journey and they all have a celebration before setting off again.
The animals reach a motorway and are able to cross one side without any problems, but the other side is much busier and would be much more difficult to cross. Whistler carries the smaller and lighter animals across the road and most of the other animals cross safely, but two of the older hedgehogs are too slow and perish under the wheels of a lorry. The rest of the group walks through some poisoned farm fields and come across a naturalist as they rest in an orchard. Next they travel through a town and rest in a church to escape a heavy storm, but the hole through which they entered is filled in and a wedding party arrives, causing pandemonium as the animals rush to escape. They all escape the church, but some of the slower animals are left behind and have to be fetched by Whistler.
The animals finally reach White Deer Park to a warm welcome from the park's inhabitants, including The Great Stag who greets them all individually. The animals rest in the hollow before telling everyone the story of their journey to the park. A few weeks later the Farthing Wood animals meet each other at the hollow and Toad leads them all to a barrel near the Warden's house, where they celebrate together by drinking the alcoholic liquid which has seeped onto the ground and singing about their great journey.