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Watership Down

Richard Adams's heroic fantasy about a small group of rabbits, published in the UK by Rex Collings Ltd in 1972

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Intelligently Crafted Fiction

  • Jun 21, 2010
  • by
I have long been a fan of Brian Jacques's Redwall series, so I'm ashamed to admit how long it took me to get around to reading Richard Adams's classic Watership Down.  To put it mildly, I was blown away.  While I enjoy the swashbuckling adventures of the Redwall creatures, I've always found them to be too anthropomorphised.  Adams, on the other hand, had obviously done extensive research into the characteristics and behaviour of wild rabbits.  His main source was Robert Lockley's book The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964)

Adams's rabbits have their own culture, language, proverbs, poetry, and mythology.  They have limitations and strengths that make them extremely compelling.  I especially enjoyed the passages in which the rabbits are stretched to their limits - While Adams does anthropomorphise them, he does not give them human thought capacities.  His approach is to incorporate zoological knowledge into his imaginative portrayal, which is incredibly engaging.

The epic tale includes many layers of allegory, including mythical elements, allusions to other literature (such as the Odyssey), gender roles, and themes of power.  The legendary tales of El-ahrairah add dimension to the main plot line.  He serves as a sort of Robin Hood character, as well as fueling many different origin-like myths for the rabbit culture.  

Adams's detailed yet un-decorative prose is reminiscent of Tolkien.  Unfortunately, like Tolkien, the numerous characters are sometimes difficult to keep track of and the plot can be confusing at times.  It was a little difficult to get into at first, but an initial commitment will pay off - the world Adams creates is consistent, captivating, and thought-provoking.

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More Watership Down reviews
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Okay. A lot of people may think this fantasy about a group of rabbits escaping to eutopia is silly. But it needs to be read as a look at human society.
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
One of my favorite books of all time. It is so beautifully written.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
sparked my imagination like few books do!
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Utterly wonderful. Moving, dramatic, sometimes funny, much more serious than you would think.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Read this book as a freshman in high school and still love it today.
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Who knew that a book about rabbits could be so incredible?? The story was meaningful, the characters were wonderful, and the adventures kept me from putting this book down. Amazing book.
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
I read this book when it first came out. Loved it!!
Quick Tip by . June 18, 2010
This is a GREAT epic, full of characters I still cherish!
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
this epic tome will forever be dear to me. these cute little bunnies make communism a less terrifying pill to swallow =D
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
Somewhat entertaining read, but at the time I read it (7th grade) it seemed unenjoyable.
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Shannon Thorson ()
Ranked #1179
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Author: Richard Adams

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1984 (British first edition)



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