Somehow this doesn't make it a bleak book. Every page is packed with the huge gusto of living. For example, how's this for the cycle of life -
'The sickly trout, which had been dying for days with the lamprey fastened to it, floated down the stream; it had been a cannibal trout and had eaten more than fifty times its own weight of smaller trout. Tar from the road, after rain, had poisoned it. A rat ate the body the next day, and Old Nog [the heron] speared and swallowed the rat three nights later. The rat had lived a jolly and murderous life, and died before it could feel fear'.
Where's the goody? Where's the baddy? Who gets their comeuppance/who comes out best? You get the feeling that Henry Williamson earned very hardly the right to present his truths.
Tarka is finally killed by huntsmen after an eight hour chase. During these hours, in the few times when he is not running/swimming for his life, Tarka drifts and plays among the wild dog-rose petals on the water, and basks in the sun. It is like the Tao story (from memory) of the man hanging from a fragile branch over a crumbling precipice edge, tigers below ready to grab him, who is enjoying the scent of a wild flower growing near his head.