This week I decided to re-read Watership Down. It was the second best decision I’d made this entire week, (the first being to take a day off from work!), because I’ve now decided that it is one of my favourite books. When I completed the book yesterday I couldn’t stop talking about it! Thank God for family and friends who not only listen but promise to read the book as well.
When you begin to read Watership Down you’re introduced to the main characters, Hazel and Fiver. You learn a bit about the rabbits and their warren. As the book progresses you find yourself on a journey in search of a new warren with Hazel, Fiver and a few believing friends.
When Fiver, a small weak rabbit, has a premonition that something bad is going to happen to their warren he tells Hazel, who in turn tries to warn the other rabbits. Most of the rabbits think that Fiver invented the whole thing as a way to call attention to himself since it’s unlikely that he will ever find importance in any other way. But Hazel knows that Fiver isn’t a rabbit to lie and make up stories. In fact, he has found that in the past what Fiver says usually happens. But this story isn’t only about Fiver’s sixth sense. It’s a story of how a small band of buck rabbits leave their warren in search of a new home, the trials they face, and eventually how they begin a new life in a new place.
Even though Hazel is the main character, I found myself equally attached to all the 6 rabbits that leave with Hazel for a new warren. Each of the rabbits is resourceful in his own way and can’t be considered unimportant or minor. Only together, with their efforts combined, are they able to safely make it to a new warren, overcome the difficulties in their way, and survive attacks from other warrens.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the rabbits in Watership Down are anthropomorphised. What’s really fascinating is that while having human traits like their own language (Lapine), their varying governments and military Owsla, they are described very much like wild rabbits in their eating and living habits, their worries and fears, as well as their behavioral characteristics. I found that Richard Adams had learnt a lot about the lives of wild rabbit from Lockney’s book, The Private Life of the Rabbit. This idea of making the rabbits appear both completely as wild rabbits as well as understandably human is what makes the characters in this book believable and real.
I couldn’t find any fault with the way this book’s been written. I thought it was an impeccably thought out and beautifully written book. It’s very clear to me why this book is considered a classic. And besides, this book can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike. I personally think that any person who says they enjoy good reading should read this book at least once.
After reading the book I looked it up in Wikipedia and found that the book gets its title from Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, where the author lived. Initially he began telling these stories to his daughters off the top of his head when they went out on walks. He based the rabbits’ difficulties on the difficulties he and his friends had faced in the Battle of Oosterbeek, Arnhem, the Netherlands.
Finally, I was so caught up in the story that I began to feel quite depressed towards the end when the author mentioned that wild rabbits usually have a life span of just about 2 or 3 years. But the ending was so unexpectedly magical that I may have even teared up a little bit. Like Life of Pi, Watership Down was another thrilling adventure for me, except this time I didn’t disagree with any of the ideas or thoughts.
Have you read Watership Down? If you haven’t, you must. Or I will be compelled to write a second more convincing post on Watership Down.