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Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down (original 1972; edition 1975)

by Richard Adams

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16,069295110 (4.22)3 / 640
Title:Watership Down
Authors:Richard Adams
Info:Avon (1975), Mass Market Paperback, 478 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:fiction, adventure

Work details

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

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1970s (2)
Unread books (1,102)

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English (282)  Finnish (4)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (295)
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
This gave me goose bumps. It has been at least 20 years since I last read or listened to it, yet it remains so very familiar - not necessarily in plot details, but in the very phrases of the prose. As a result, I can't be remotely objective about it. I loved it as a child, but it really isn't a children's book - if anything, I was belatedly amazed at just how young I fell in love with it given the reading age / vocabulary and concepts.

Adams does a great job of not overly anthropomorphising his rabbits (ahem, beyond, you know, devising a language for them, giving them a colourful mythology, poetry and a military dictatorship - err, other than that, yes?) and continually emphasises a lack of sentimentality. For the escaping Sandleford bucks, the absence of does in their group is an imperative, but it's positioned as a need for breeding stock for their new warren. This bothers me now in a way it didn't as a child, because I'd never (consciously) encountered sexism.

But putting this aside, this is a fabulous novel. The English countryside comes to intimate, intricate life; the level of detail is never stifling, but it bustles with hedgerow herbs and bird song. The rabbits interact as rabbits - scent, touch, mutual grooming and tending to wounds rather than raising non-existent eyebrows, smiling. When one rabbit laughs - an unknown phenomenon for rabbits - the others are terrified. The theme of rabbits embracing new things and encountering concepts beyond their ken runs throughout; we're meant to admire their resourcefulness without ever really forgetting that they're just rabbits.

Blast from the past. Very good stuff. ( )
1 vote imyril | Sep 29, 2015 |
Bunnies! I can't believe I like a book about bunnies! But that's how it is. My wife's had this book for years and, even though I had heard it was a good book, I never read it. When I heard the protagonists were rabbits, I figured the tale was all soft and fluffy--certainly nothing suitable for a manly man such as myself. I probably would never had read it except that Frederic Durbin had mentioned it as one of his favorites. And that's a powerful recommendation for me.

So read it I did and was suitably impressed. Watership Down is a story about rabbits. But it's also a story about manly things like adventure, a quest, war, and meeting girls. It's the tale of a group of rabbits who leave their warren, fleeing a prophesied disaster. They seek out a new home, facing danger from predators, the elements and even other rabbits. I enjoyed the adventure. Even more so I liked how Mr. Adams created a whole culture for the rabbits. It gave a sense that I was truly reading about an alien people, as much (if not more so) than any science fiction tale I've read.

I'll keep it on my shelf even if my wife should one day change her mind.
--J. ( )
  Hamburgerclan | Aug 22, 2015 |
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. ( )
2 vote Stewartry | Aug 20, 2015 |
I picked this book up 20 years ago, hit the page where the tiny rabbit, Fiver, starts giving a prophecy and tossed it for weird. I’m glad I gave it another chance.

So, where to begin?

The visceral experience of this text is not to be believed. Adams paints lush and vivid landscapes with more than imagery – one can feel the air, smell it, taste a freshness, a freedom. In reading it, I felt light rise, grow warm, and fade, heard birds chatter as sweetly as if they were outside my own window, heard the wings of owls in the night, felt air unbearably stifle underground then, with a quick movement, breeze again over my skin. Oh my word, I wanted to eat vegetables. But even when I didn’t have any, I could taste them – smell them – feel them towering over me in long, fine rows, like green skyscrapers with silken hair clipped with honeybees. This type of scene setting is extraordinary, especially when it is done to move a story along instead of stopping it. Adams accomplishes this. I admit that the first two pages of the book prepared me for completely the opposite experience, but after that, his pen prowls the field with a deftness that is unparalleled in my mind. BUT, beyond this wooing of the five senses, Adams does something even far more impressive.

Alongside the scenery he constructs for his rabbits to physically inhabitant, Adams pauses, and with the same sort of tenderness and studious care, creates small refreshing little pools of stories inside the story, weaving a mythological realm. He gives them a soul. Magically, this interjection of story here and there doesn’t feel like an interruption at all, rather, it perfectly deepens the world that is already centerstage – it enlarges the warren, gives it heritage and hope. Of course, all that and you can still have a book that goes nowhere.

You need a story that is in and of itself, and here there is no lack. There is conflict – oh so much conflict – and drama, and deus ex machina. The pacing is…absolutely perfect. The reveals, the tension, the dialogue. Adams writes a perfect book of action, with as much swashbuckling blood and girth as a pirateship. It feels remarkable to say that about a book of rabbits – RABBITS – but he does. And then... it still goes further up and further in.

The flight and plight of these tiny animals is humanized in such a way that does so without removing them from their own non-human reality. You never see rabbits making tea, for example, or wearing tiny gloves. There are no wallpapered houses, and rabbit sized fairy cakes. These rabbits are, with the exception of some second sight dreams and premonitions, mere, ordinary rabbits. But you see them. I mean, you SEE them. Doing what, you might say? Well, you seem them experiencing what we know to be scientifically true about them – attachment, grief, play, sheer terror, possibly affection. I applaud Adams for keeping the rabbits as rabbits, albeit with some more sophisticated thoughts and feelings. Why is that important? And how can that possibly be interesting? Those two questions are what led me to dismiss this book so quickly as a twenty year old. Now I know better.

I know that if we are to see other men – to really see them – to become, for a moment, them, in their skin and with their ways and in their world and within their pain - we don’t change the nature of the other man – we change our own.

And I think this is why, even though Adams admits that he set out “just to write about rabbits” he hits on a deeper thing.

In his decision to reject heightened fantasy for myth that heightens reality, Adams builds a story that is at once both very real (we see rabbits around us almost every non-winter day) and yet filled with wonder. Through the creatures in our own yard - not little white rabbits wearing waistcoats and carrying pocketwatches with their secondhands in Wonderland, but "just rabbits" looking very much as they are here and now - he creates a deeper magic. Through their small, formerly insignificant eyes, we are recalled to that forgotten struggle for survival going on around us each and every day, a struggle that so much of humanity has been privileged to throw off - and so many haven't. He takes the "ordinary" world and texturally enriches the images that are already there. It isn’t really real to read of Rat and Mole making tea by the fire in Wind in the Willows. Though charming in its own right, it is not to be believed even for a minute. However, a reader setting aside Watership Down will never look at a rabbit in his yard the same way again. He will make eye contact, see the trembling of those whiskers, the widening of the eye, and wonder what wonders Frith has spoken about him to this wee, furry neighbor. Possible, yes? After all His eye IS on the Sparrow.

And that is the magic of this backyard tale. It doesn’t show us a new thing, but an old, familiar thing in new light. It replaces the wonder that’s been lost since we left that Garden where the innocent creatures living beside us had more honor – where they received the wonder they deserved as the small miracles that they are. These days, humans seem to treat animals as either gods or rubbish and rarely anything in between. Watership Down invites us to again be their caretakers, and through that thing called empathy, better caretakers of men. To appreciate and value all “little” lives. To honor their bit of earth. Whereas tales which make mice like humans entertain us, Adams, by making humans briefly into rabbits, makes us deeper humans.

Years from now, when I need to taste sunshine, feel comraderie, witness leadership and cunning and heroic self-sacrifice, or simply hear the sounds of twilight with a more thrilling awe, I know I can pick up this tale of “the least of these” and find all of that in abundance. Because nature itself declares what is good and perfect and worth fighting for. ( )
4 vote Cymrugirl | Aug 6, 2015 |
Só não dei 5 porque por vezes as descrições campestres eram um pouco exaustivas. À parte disso esta é uma obra prima da fantasia lapina. Os momentos épicos à Homero são:
1 - Fiver revela a sua capacidade de P.E.S. e diz a Hazel que têm de fugir da casa actual senão vâo morrer
2 - Chegam ao novo local que parece idílico com poucos coelhos mas q revela uma verdade aterradora engendrada pelos humanos. Fiver detecta q alguma coisa está mal mas Hazel só acredita qd um deles quase morre
3 - A chegada a Watership revela-se a salvação mas apresenta-se um problema ao líder Hazel, faltam coelhas senão eles não terão futuro. Aí dividem-se em 2 grupos, 1 vai à quinta e com muito sofrimento captura 2 coelhas enquanto o segundo grupo conhece o general woundwort e Efrafa com oseu regime militar nazi
4 - A amizade com a gaivota e o épico ataque a Efrafa p ir buscar coelhas não tem igual em fantasia
Como interlúdio temos as tabu lisas histórias de El-ahrairah q é o herói máximo dos coelhos q engana até o deus do arco íris.
Foi uma surpresa muito agradável recomendada pelo 100 BEST fantasy books. ( )
  bruc79 | Jul 31, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (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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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.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your 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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