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Watership Down: A Novel by Richard Adams

Watership Down: A Novel (original 1972; edition 2005)

by Richard Adams

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15,844295111 (4.22)3 / 625
Title:Watership Down: A Novel
Authors:Richard Adams
Info:Scribner (2005), Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:children's literature

Work details

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

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1970s (2)
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English (280)  Italian (3)  Finnish (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (292)
Showing 1-5 of 280 (next | show all)
It's been a funny year for reading and audio books. There have been a lot of surprising, completely unintentional parallels in the books I've picked up (and a boatload of time travel). A bit ago I started listening to an audio version of The Odyssey, read by Sir Ian McKellen (who was the primary reason for getting it, a far distant secondary being that I thought I ought to). Despite that voice, I found myself becoming restless with the story (especially with Odysseus back on Ithaca and still about five hours left in the book, and for the love of Zeus man stop lying to your loved ones AT GREAT LENGTH), so I picked another to, as I planned, alternate: Watership Down. This is one of that shelf of books I read several times long ago, and not for many years. I don't remember when I first read it; I ventured upstairs to the grown-up half of the library (waiting all the time for someone to stop me – was I really allowed?) and wandered the shelves like ... like a rabbit in a field of lettuce. I know for a period in my older childhood I made a point of reading mostly chunksters, the idea being that if I loved it I wouldn't want it to end, and a longer book has a longer time in which to weave its spell. I can only imagine that's how I landed on Watership Down, because I seem to remember a very large hardcover with a buff jacket, and perhaps a compass rose... I remember reading it before bed, and it giving me trouble because the classic "one more chapter" excuse was more tantalizing than fulfilling with WD, the chapters being rather short, so that reading at bedtime and "one more chapter"ing over and over (much like I am with the snooze alarm these days) could lead to another hundred pages before the light finally went out.

As I'm sure most voracious readers have experienced, I worried that a childhood favorite - more, a childhood beloved - which for whatever reason I had left alone for ... perhaps a quarter of a century? Is that even possible? ... would not bear up to a new reading. It was with a sort of apologetic reluctance that I clicked on the cover on my laptop. I'll listen a bit, I thought, and then maybe take up The Odyssey again.

One more chapter.

One more chapter.

One more ...

I didn't quite listen to the whole thing in one sitting - it's just shy of sixteen hours - but, being down with a cold and completely unmotivated to do anything that would take me far from my laptop anyway, it was darn near one sitting. If there was a small voice in my head in the beginning that complained about not liking the narrator, Ralph Cosham, all the other voices in my head rounded on it and beat it to a pulp within about fifteen minutes, because it was soon obvious that this is one of those perfect marriages between book and reader which justify every penny Audible seduces out of me. I have loved several audiobooks this year, but this may just be my favorite (at least till I listen to the new Peter Grant). I've been in the habit of deleting the downloads from my laptop, which has gotten rather cluttered, just to free up space. I can't delete this one. I want to listen to it again. Maybe tomorrow.

And here's the beauty of picking up (so to speak) an old favorite after such a long interval: I didn't remember a blessed thing, plotwise. It was a brand new adventure, with a soft and comfortable padding of old, old affection. I remembered Fiver and Hazel and Bigwig immediately; as the story unfolded I was able to make small sounds of recognition at other names as they came along, and then suddenly remembered appending "-roo" to at least one dog's name. The plot? Was utterly new to me. I had a vague foreboding that someone, possibly Fiver, possibly Bigwig, was going to be killed. That was all. Nothing diluted the suspense that built, peaked, broke, then built and peaked again with the adventures of Hazel and his merry band. It was marvelous.

What a story! To step back and look at it with cool objectivity - it's the story of a bunch of rabbits, an epic adventure that covers a couple of square miles. It is, and apparently for Mr. Adams in the quest to publish was, a hard sell. It should be ridiculous. I mean, bunnies. Oh, but it's so very not ridiculous. It is epic - it's life-and-death, and distance as we measure it is irrelevant. What a human, arrogant lord of the earth, traverses without a thought in just a few strides is a vast and terror-filled expanse to a ten-inch-tall prey animal at the bottom of the food chain. This tension was beautifully captured, and thrummed throughout the book. Besides, anyone who can retain cool objectivity in the face of Pipkin's terror or Fiver's otherworldliness, or Bigwig's courage, or Bluebell's jesting, or Hazel's diplomacy and leadership... that person I have no wish to know.

And the language. The English - warm and humourous (the Sherlock Holmes reference made me laugh out loud and rewind), and sure-footed, and the lapine - which Adams states he didn't attempt to make more than a smattering of "fluffy" words and phrases, things rabbits might actually say if they spoke, and what he did he did marvelously. I love that the bucks had plant names while the does had lapine names - except for the hutch-bred does. I loved the rabbit constructions to try to label human concepts - if I thought I could reliably pronounce it I would start using the lapine for "car". I want to hug whoever decided that the gull Kehaar's dialogue be read with a Swedish accent. I suppose it followed naturally from the speech patterns - but by Frith it was a joy.

Oh, and the reason I started this talking about how odd it was that I listened to it in the middle of The Odyssey was that, in the introduction (copyrighted 2005), Richard Adams slyly comments that Homer might have borrowed from the adventures of the trickster El-ahrairah when he wrote the tales of Odysseus. I suppose whoever wrote Gilgamesh might have borrowed too.

It was only halfway through the book, maybe further, that it struck me that these tales, which were supposed to be timeless and ancient, all featured men who smoked cigarettes and drove cars and trucks. And then, by the end of the book, it all made sense. For one thing, thirty - or twenty - or ten - years ago is ancient history to a rabbit who packs all of his own adventures into perhaps three quick years. And, for another, more important thing, the tales of El-ahrairah are not a concrete, set in stone, ossified body of tales, but an oral history which grows with the generations. That moment toward the end of the book that proves this also brought home to me with a greater clarity how utterly beautiful Richard Adams's portrait of lapine culture is. How extraordinarily wonderful the whole picture of rabbit-kind is. The depictions of individual bravery do not contradict what looks like utter timidity as a species; the latter only makes the former greater.

This book is a marvel. Treat yourself: go read it. No! Go listen to it.
  Stewartry | Jul 13, 2015 |
"It's about bunnies." This quote comes from Sawyer on Lost. ( )
1 vote Shannon29 | Jun 25, 2015 |
A clever and creative tale of a visionary rabbit who leads a group of intrepid rabbits on a long journey to a new home. Each rabbit has unique skills that, combined with the others, forms a formidable group. I read this years ago and loved it. I enjoyed sharing it with my kids. They were mesmerized. When I read it before, I didn't know the back story, which is that this book developed from a series of rabbit tales Richard Adams told his daughters when they were small.
Beautifully read by the incomparable Ralph Cosham. ( )
  nittnut | Jun 15, 2015 |
One of the best classics I have ever read, this was engaging, exciting had some adventure and suspense and was overall just a very, very enjoyable book. An important part in anyone's childhood (or it should be). Cannot recommend this enough. ( )
  Keah | Jun 4, 2015 |
This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for a long, long time and finally got round to it. A complex allegory full of adventure, echoing many classical and religious themes as well as contemporary social issues. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 280 (next | show all)
It would seem that in Adam's ardor for wild creatures he has tried too hard to make a case for them instead of allowing them fully to be their own recommendation. I'm grateful for much of what he's done, but I'm not going to look at rabbits differently from now on.
Watership Down offers little to build a literary cult upon. On the American-whimsy exchange, one Tolkien hobbit should still be worth a dozen talking rabbits.
added by Shortride | editTime, Melvin Maddocks (Mar 18, 1974)
This bunny-rabbit novel not only steers mostly clear of the usual sticky, anthropomorphic pitfalls of your common garden-variety of bunny rabbit story: it is also quite marvelous for a while, and after it stops being marvelous, it settles down to be pretty good- a book you can live with from start to finish.

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adams, Richardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baynes, PaulineCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cosham, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hallqvist, Britt G.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parkins, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekkanen, PanuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tucker, NicholasAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Master Rabbit I saw
Walter de la Mare
To Juliet and Rosamond, remembering the road to Stratford-on-Avon
First words
The primroses were over.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
AR 6.2, Pts 25.0

Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all.
Haiku summary
Rabbits find a home.
They find others on the way
and fight to stay safe. (marcusbrutus)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380002930, Mass Market Paperback)

Watership Down has been a staple of high-school English classes for years. Despite the fact that it's often a hard sell at first (what teenager wouldn't cringe at the thought of 400-plus pages of talking rabbits?), Richard Adams's bunny-centric epic rarely fails to win the love and respect of anyone who reads it, regardless of age. Like most great novels, Watership Down is a rich story that can be read (and reread) on many different levels. The book is often praised as an allegory, with its analogs between human and rabbit culture (a fact sometimes used to goad skeptical teens, who resent the challenge that they won't "get" it, into reading it), but it's equally praiseworthy as just a corking good adventure.

The story follows a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer. As they search for a safe haven, skirting danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band and its compelling culture and mythos. Adams has crafted a touching, involving world in the dirt and scrub of the English countryside, complete with its own folk history and language (the book comes with a "lapine" glossary, a guide to rabbitese). As much about freedom, ethics, and human nature as it is about a bunch of bunnies looking for a warm hidey-hole and some mates, Watership Down will continue to make the transition from classroom desk to bedside table for many generations to come. --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:05 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Chronicles the adventures of a group of rabbits searching for a safe place to establish a new warren where they can live in peace.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 19 descriptions

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0241953235, 0141341939

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