Saturday, July 4, 2009

Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Scribner Classics 1996, originally published in 1972
Hardcover, 448 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0684836058
modern classic/fantasy
very highly recommended / reread

From the Cover:
Set in the once idyllic rural landscape of the south of England, Watership Down follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by the doughty Hazel and his oracular brother Fiver, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators, hostile warrens, and worse, to a mysterious promised land known only to them as Watership Down. From their travails, they forge a more perfect society, made stronger by the vision that drives them.
A stirring tale of adventure and an imaginative tour de force that conjours up a world and its folklore with the force of myth, Watership Down is a modern classic. Through its masterful storytelling, it stands for all time as a powerful parable about society and its relation to the natural world.
My Thoughts:
Watership Down is truly a classic epic adventure that is also an allegory. If you have never read it don't let the fact that it is a story "about rabbits" stop you. It's so much more than that. Having read the book originally in paperback back in the 70's and several times since then, I am surprised to see it now being categorized as children's literature. I would certainly never say that about Watership Down. It is a book for adults that children may also enjoy. Certainly an adult with the literary background in folk stories and cultural mythology is going to gain a great deal more from the story than the younger reader. Perhaps this is one of those books that you can encourage children to read and then hopefully they will go back and read it again as an adult. I've reread Watership Down (again) for the Summer Lovin' Challenge.
Very Highly Recommended - one of the very best


The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog's mercury and the oak-tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes. In places the grass was gone altogether and everywhere there were clusters of dry droppings, through which nothing but the ragwort would grow. A hundred yards away, at the bottom of the slope, ran the brook, no more than three feet wide, half choked with kingcups, watercress and blue brooklime. The cart track crossed by a brick culvert and climbed the opposite slope to a five-barred gate in the thorn hedge. The gate led into the lane. pg. 3

"Fiver?" said the other rabbit. "Why's he called that?"
"Five in the litter, you know: he was the last -- and the smallest. You'd wonder nothing had got him by now. I always say a man couldn't see him and a fox wouldn't want him. Still, I admit he seems to be able to keep out of harm's way."The small rabbit came closer to his companion, lolloping on long hind legs.
"Let's go a bit further, Hazel," he said. "You know, there's something queer about the warren this evening, although I can't tell exactly what it is. Shall we go down to the brook?" pg. 4-5

"Oh, Hazel! This is where it comes from! I know now - something very bad! Some terrible thing - coming closer and closer."
He began to whimper with fear. pg. 6

It was Hazel who replied. "Fiver and I will be leaving the warren tonight," he said deliberately. "I don't know exactly where we shall go, but we'll take anyone who's ready to come with us."
"Right," said Bigwig, "then you can take me."
The last thing Hazel had expected was the immediate support of a member of the Owsla. pg. 13

To rabbits, everything unknown is dangerous. The first reaction is to startle, the second to bolt. Again and again they startle, until they were close to exhaustion. But what did these sounds mean and where, in this wilderness, could they bolt to? pg. 21

"No, we need to cross the river, Hazel, so that we can get into those fields - and on beyond them too. I know what we ought to be looking for - a high, lonely place with dry soil, where rabbits can see and hear all round and men hardly ever come. Wouldn't that be worth a journey?" pg. 30

One watch succeeded another through the day, though how the rabbits judged the passing of the time is something that civilized human beings have lost the power to feel. Creatures that have neither clocks nor books are alive to all manner of knowledge about time and the weather; and about direction, too, as we know from their extraordinary migratory and homing journeys. The changes in the warmth and dampness of the soil, the falling of the sunlight patches, the altering movement of the beans in the light wind, the direction and strength of the aircurrents along the ground - all these were perceived by the rabbit awake. pg. 40

Fiver gave no sign of having heard him. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. When he spoke again, it was as though he were talking to himself. "There's a thick mist between the hills and us. I can't see through it, but through it we shall have to go. Or into it anyway."
"A mist?" said Hazel. "What do you mean?"
"We're in for some mysterious trouble," whispered Fiver, "and it's not elil. It feels more like - like mist. Like being deceived and losing our way." pg. 47

1 comment:

Monster Paperbag said...

I love this book. One of the best adventure stories I've ever read :)