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Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership Down (original 1972; edition 1975)

by Richard Adams

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,246261123 (4.23)3 / 563
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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English (250)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (261)
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
Until about a year ago, I had some misconceptions about Richard Adams’s novel Watership Down. At first, knowing nothing about its plot, I assumed that it must be about a naval battle. Later, when I learned that it was in fact about rabbits, I thought that it must be a children’s book. I was very wrong on both counts (although I do think it is sometimes labeled a children’s book, despite its mature themes).

Watership Down is a story of a group of rabbits who escape the violent destruction of their warren by a group of humans. It stars Fiver, the clairvoyant, undersized fellow whose prophecy prompts the escape, his brother Hazel, the leader of the group of escapees, and Bigwig, a tough, brave rabbit who had been an officer in their old warren.

The rabbits, a group of fewer than a dozen, make their way across the countryside in search of a safe place to dig new burrows. Along the way, they run into various dangers: a warren of rabbits who live a comfortable life with plenty of human-provided food, but are nonetheless resigned to their eventual death at the hands of said human; an authoritarian warren called Efrafa, which is ruled by a cruel and unnatural rabbit named Woundwort; dogs; hombil (foxes), cats, humans, hrududil (cars), and other elil (enemies). They establish a new home on Watership Down, and immediately set out to find some does (for they are all bucks, and how are they to reproduce?). This brings them into the dangerous territory of Efrafa, and all they have to depend on are their wits, trickery, and their new gull friend Kehaar for survival when things turn ugly.

At times I felt positively creeped out while reading Watership Down. I’m not normally one to feel frightened when reading—I read It and The Exorcist without any problem—but there were parts of this novel that were quite disturbing. The authoritarian nature of Efrafan society, for instance, and the sad group of rabbits who knew they would eventually be caught in snares gave me the shivers. And the Black Rabbit was no warm, fuzzy guy—when he calls your name, you must follow, knowing you are no longer for this life.

There was blood, violence and abuse of power—and on the other hand, friendship, loyalty and camaraderie. There were rabbit myths and legends, stories of triumph and trickery, leaders and gods. (Rabbits worship the sun, whom they call Frith; and El-ahrairah, their rabbit lord). In many ways, rabbit society in Watership Down is not much different than human society.

I expected this to be a slow read, but I really flew through it. It was exciting and suspenseful, and I grew to root for Hazel-rah and his group of rabbits. The book was an in-depth exploration not only of Hazel’s warren, but of rabbit society in general. I saw at once a demonstration of human destruction and imperialism over the animal world, and humanity’s flaws reflected in the dystopian rabbit warrens. I think Watership Down is definitely worth a read.

I also watched the movie (made in 1978), and it was a dated but good adaptation—quite violent and bloody. Definitely worth a watch, if you enjoy the book. ( )
8 vote blackrabbit89 | Jun 24, 2014 |
This book about rabbits striking out to create their own rabbit settlement is well written. The rabbit characters are well developed and have individual characteristics. However, I was completely stressed out for the entire book. I can see why rabbits have such a high heart rate, their lives are fraught with peril. As far as using this book with students, the vocabulary was pretty difficult, especially with the complicated made-up rabbit language words, so for elementary it really could only be a read aloud. ( )
  mccooln | Jun 8, 2014 |
An amazing book that I remember being unable to put down, "Watership Down" ingrained itself in my memory. Not only is is very compelling and original, but also a sobering look into conflict and terror in a typically idyllic setting. ( )
  marthaearly | Jun 6, 2014 |
Absolutely lovely! Settle in for a read full of adventure, courage, loyalty, trust, vision, and determination. Oh yes....the characters......Savor the lapine world full of legend, mythical heroes, and rabbits who just plain survive by banding together and daring to beat the odds. This is a tale for all ages. For those listening to the audio version......great narrator! ( )
  hemlokgang | Apr 30, 2014 |
“Watership Down” by Richard Adams is a classic novel that had been on my “to read” list for a long, long while. However, a storyline about a group of rabbits searching for a new home couldn’t quite compete with the thousands of other titles on my list with more adult themes. Not long ago, I discovered a dog-eared copy in a box of musty smelling paperbacks that the local library was selling. Fifty cents seemed like a steal, so I purchased it along with an armload of others by Ray Bradbury and Arthur C, Clarke. After sitting on my nightstand for several months, I finally opened the little paperback and began reading. When finished, I was deeply regretful that I had waited so long in life to read this wonderful tale.

It didn’t take long to suspend disbelief and plausibility as I became attached to the story’s central characters. Unlike many Chief Rabbits, who rose through the ranks simply by virtue of size and strength, Hazel, an unassuming rabbit with a knack to recognize and marshal the talents of his comrades, becomes the group’s accepted leader. Though Hazel’s brother, Fiver, was the shunned runt of their mother’s litter, he could foresee perilous happenings during their journey that might be eluded or altered. Bigwig, an Owsla of their former warren, was large and fierce, a protector and strategist. Blackberry had a capacity for figuring out simple mechanics alien to his species, like how a piece of wood might float a weaker member of their clan over a water crossing. The fastest of their group, Dandelion, was also a gifted storyteller, who could inspire his companions when circumstances were bleak. And, many more delightful and fearful characters…

Mr. Adams invents an entire rabbit lore explained through a series of tales within his tale. Dandelion recites several stories about Frith, the Rabbit Sun-God, and El-ahrairah, a folk hero of extraordinary cunning, and the Black Rabbit, a menacing death figure.

The author’s prose is meticulous, yet simple and refined enough to be understood and appreciated by children and adults. Mr. Adams doesn’t shy from the cruelties of nature, especially when rabbits are preyed upon by every predator imaginable. Some violence and death are integral to the narrative, which is occasionally grim, but I believe these particular passages are written in such a way that most children wouldn’t find especially distressing.

Although the story is illustrated in human terms, the author does a clever job weaving in and around the imagined psyche of rabbits.

The first half of the story is a bit unhurried as the journey progresses, but the second half picks up speed. Once settled into their new home, Hazel ponders his group’s continued survival, so elaborate plans are made to gather willing does from an unfriendly, faraway warren. I found it difficult to put the book down during the final chapters.

Although I can’t prove, I like to believe in the presence of souls in all living things, so for me, the book’s poignant epilogue wrapped up the story nicely. ( )
1 vote johnrcobb | Apr 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 250 (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
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The primroses were over.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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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

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:29 -0400)

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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)

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

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0241953235, 0141341939

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