English novelist Richard Adams holding a pet mouse March 3, 1974 Getty

Richard Adams, author of “Watership Down,” a stirring book of adventure and survival well known to many, died Saturday night at the age of 96. Adams, who didn’t publish his first novel until he was in his 50s, died peacefully on Christmas Eve, his family said in a statement posted on the official website for the beloved book.

“Richard’s much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, an great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10pm on Christmas Eve,” the statement posted on the website read.

Adams’ “Watership Down” follows the story of a small group of rabbits as they seek a new home away from the threats imposed by humans who are moving into the land they have known. The rabbits embark on a journey from Sandleford Warren in England, avoiding predators and adversaries as they search for a promised land and a more perfect society.

That book wound up winning the Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction in 1972, the year the novel was published. Since then, the book has sold tens of millions of copies around the world.

Adams got the inspiration for his award winning story while on a long trip with his children, who begged that he tell them a story while in the car. That day, Adams made up the tale of the young rabbits escaping doom and later wrote it down for publishing.

“I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there,” Adams later told the Guardian in an interview.

Adams had previously been in the British army and had served in Palestine, Europe and the Middle East. In the 1980s he took his love for animals that was apparent in his most famous novel and turned it into activism, serving as the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from 1980-82.