I’ve been attempting to read more classic books, and older titles that I feel I should’ve read, and one of these last year was Watership Down. I had been aware of the book and film and the basic premise, but didn’t realised that it was such an adventure story.
The story begins as young rabbit Fiver has a vision that something terrible to going to happen to the warren, he convinces his brother Hazel to go to the Chief Rabbit and tell him that they need to leave the warren. Hazel is dismissed, but Fiver is so insistent and has had visions before, so he decides that they should leave the warren, taking certain of their trusted friends with them. the Owsla, or council, of the warren find out about this and try to arrest them, but the small band of rabbits is able to escape.
The rest of the first part of the book then describes their journey to finally find a new warren on Watership Down, evading dogs, snares and other suspicious rabbits, but this is by no means the end of the story. Once the band have begun to dig their own warren, Hazel realises that they are going to run into a problem – they are all male rabbits and there are no Does to breed with.
With the help of a seagull, Kehaar, that the rabbits take care of when he is injured, they locate Efrafra and hope to negotiate a peaceful coexistence with them, if some does would like to leave with them, but this is not to the liking of the despotic leader, General Woundwort.
As classics go, Watership Down was not hard to read at all, maybe it’s because it’s a relatively ‘modern classic’. It does have some ‘rabbit language’ which can be a bit difficult to decipher, but it’s worthwhile to stick with it. What really comes through in the text if Adams’ love for the countryside and creatures he is writing about, it’s almost a love letter to the English landscape and while seen through the eyes of the rabbits it can be a scary and uncertain place, there is still time in their trek to enjoy their surroundings.
I did watch the animated movie after I read the book and it is fairly faithful to the book, but not really a substitute for the very descriptive prose.