Grapes of Wrath --> Watership Down --> The Stand

Here we have three books about a group who, having survived a calamity, must travel to a distant land, enduring hardships on the way. At their destination, they must make a stand against another threatening group before they can settle down.

Now although this plot is probably fairly common, I think it can be argued that there is a definite chain of influence in these three works. At least that was my impression on reading them, but now enough time has passed that I can’t clearly remember why, beyond the plot similarity. So help me out here, folks. Do you think there is a clear influence? Why or why not?

One common feature that does come to mind is the role of a seer/mystical character as a member of the traveling group in each. TGOW: minister Jim Casy, WD: Fiver, TS: Tom Cullen/Mother Abigail. Also, Casy, Fiver and Mother Abigail die. Did Tom die? I can’t recall.

The image of the construction crews tearing up the warrens in WD is reminiscent of the farm houses demolished in TGOW.

A memorable scene from WD is the stopover at the poisoned burrow. Is there an analogous scene in either TGOW or TS?

In both WD and TS spies must be sent to infiltrate the enemy. What about TGOW?

Also, I’m fairly certain that somewhere in TS a character explicitly notices that their situation is similar to a certain book about rabbits.

What other parallels are there?

Actually…Fiver does NOT die in WD. He simply passes out and goes into one of his trances near the end of the book when WD warren rabbits are kicking the snot out of the Efrafa rabbits.

I haven’t read the other two…(well I did read TS but it was ages ago)so I can’t really drawn any similarities between the three.


The Odyssey by Homer?

I live near Watership Down, been there many a time.
Otherwise though I have read the other books nothing else of value to add.

Sorry, I think I misunderstood the OP. I thought the question was something like, “What was the original influence of these works?”

BTW, I guess you could argue that ALL plot lines in western literature were derived from Greek mythology. I think you’d be wrong, but that’s a whole other OP. :slight_smile:

Watership Down is mentioned in The Stand, but not as an overall similarity between the character’s situations. Stu Redman remembers it when he thinks of a minor character that scares the s*it out of him.

And Tom Cullen didn’t die, IIRC.

Haven’t read Grapes of Wrath or Watership Down, so that’s all I really have to offer.

Stu was the one in The Stand who recalled Watership Down. It was King’s way of paying serious homage to WD, because Stu wasn’t the type of character who’s a big reader, but he nonetheless loved Watership Down.

Tom Cullen doesn’t die in The Stand either.
I haven’t read Grapes of Wrath, but both The Stand and Watership Down end with a happy ending in which it’s time for the characters, having survived their ordeal, to multiply. In Watership Down, the warren settles down and they multiply like (HA!) rabbits. In The Stand people start leaving Colorado and spreading out, going back to where they will.

Both books end with the biggest villian alive but no longer in a position of great power. Randall Flagg is… I dunno, reincarnated or something at some Godforsaken place in the tropics. Efrafra’s leader, General something, I forgot, lives through his unsuccessful battle on Watership Down. Actually, it seems somewhat unclear but then we are told that the rabbits in the area tell tales of a horrible warren with no freedom, ruled with an iron fist.

General Woundwort! As I recall, he vanishes, and it’s never made clear exactly what happens to him, although he becomes sort of a bogeyman figure – mothers use his name to scare children into submission. “Such was Woundwort’s legacy, and perhaps it would not have displeased him…”

I need to reread WD sometime… :wink:

It’s all Moses and the Israelites.

The Grapes of Wrath is quite certainly based on the idea of a family trying to prosper in “The Promised Land”, since the Joads, and all the farmers who departed from the dust bowl, were informed that California would be a land of plenty. But there’s nothing corresponding to that in Watership Down that I can think of.

I just re-read Watership Down, and I’ve read both the other two books in question. It’s been years since I picked up Wrath so I’ll just pretend like it’s not there. :slight_smile:

The only possible link to Cowslip’s burrow (“the burrow of the snares”) is Stu’s visit to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (?).

Don’t read too much into it, though; the link is tenous at best. After the initial disastrous outbreak of the superflu, the CDC is touted as a safe building, where wise and influential people will Make It All Better. It turns out that this is no safer than anywhere else: in fact, much less so. Stu, while contemplating the dormant scenery outside his window, remembers the word tharn from Watership Down. Then he beats Elder’s face in with a chair and runs like hell.

It’s about as much a link as you’ll find, I believe. One, it’s an unsafe intermediate stop between the Disaster and the Promised Land, and two, it is initially hailed as being perfect safety but is discovered to be less so. And it is something of a trap, like Cowslip’s burrow. However, Stu’s the only one who goes; there is no shining wire in the running gap in the hedge to make Bigwig accept Fiver’s vision. The collective lesson the rabbits learn about Fiver’s insight, Bigwig’s strength, Hazel’s leadership, and Blackberry’s cleverness don’t apply to Stu alone; and Stu doesn’t take any converts with him, as the rabbits took Strawberry.

There’s also Mother Abigail’s farm in Nebraska, another intermediate stop. All the main (good) characters eventually congregate at Mother Abigail’s, but they arrive separately. And it is a place of safety, unlike Cowslip’s burrow. They do eventually leave, but not flying from danger, in no particular hurry, and they don’t learn anything like the rabbits did.

If you’re looking for a parallel to The Stand, then the Lord of the Rings comes to mind more readily. Diverse population of heroes, representing all races and cultures, converge on the Last Homely House and take consultation. Some of them repair to Gondor and Rohan to defend themselves; some go to Mordor (Las Vegas) to confront and defeat the ultimate evil. Wormtongue, with his eye on Eowyn, can even be echoed in Harold Emery Lauder, who commits atrocities when he cannot have Fran. It’s still not a good parallel, but it does have a lot of the same mythic resonances. King’s a well-known fan of Tolkien, too.


The reason these stories seem so similar is that they are all based on the classic “Hero’s Journey’ ( The journey comes with a standard variety of character archetypes ( The idea was first formalised by Joseph Campbell many years ago, but it runs through all great stories: oral, written and movie.

I’m still undecided whether it is quite as rigid and universal as some say, but the elements undoubtedly show up time and again. These three stories, and LoTR, appear more similar than many because they employ the same trick. Instead of a specific hero we have a group of heroes, and while all experience most stages of the journey some of he stages are only crossed vicariously.

The shared stage of “ at their destination, they must make a stand against another threatening group before they can settle down” is the “RESURRECTION” stage. “This is often a second life-and-death moment, almost a replay of the death and rebirth of the Supreme Ordeal. Death and darkness get in one last, desperate shot before being finally defeated. It’s a kind of final exam for the hero, who must be tested once more to see if he has really learned the lessons of the Supreme Ordeal.”

The common feature “of a seer/mystical character as a member of the traveling group” is simply a mentor archetype.

The destruction of the ‘Ordinary World’ is a means of combining both the call to adventure and the ‘first threshold crossing’… With home destroyed there is no truenig back.

An intermediate stop at a poisoned burrow, or formally ‘the first descent into the underworld’ is universal.

Sending spies to infiltrate the enemy, formally ‘wearing the enemies skin’ is also universal.

Leaving a villain alive but no longer in a position of great power is also almost universal. It is seen in ‘The Silmarillion’ and in stages of LoTR (Saruman was initially depowered and left alive), Star Wars ( Vader survives sans Death Star), Jason and the Argonauts (the cyclops is blinded and left alive).

I could go on and draw further similarities to “The Hero’s Journey’, but I’d recommend reading the book, or at leats the websites and trying it for yourself. It’s fun and it’s astounding how neatly each stage and archetype slots into every great story.

Blake writes:

> . . . but I’d recommend reading the book . . .

I presume you mean The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

Yeah, that’s the one.Kind of forgot to metionthe name. It is name dn the links though, which is my excuse.

IIRC, King has said (no cite) that “The Stand” was his attempt to retell “The Lord of The Rings”. Seems to me that there are plenty of parallells – the red eye, the group thrown together for a common purpose, the “breaking of the fellowship”.

Good links, Blake.

The Dark Lord Sauron is ultimately rendered “a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape.” That’s gotta hurt.