Richard Adams’s Allegorical Novel Watership Down Book Review

Richard Adams's Novel Watership Down Book Review

Watership Down Full Book

Watership Down Review

Watership Down (1972) is one of the finest
allegorical fantasy-adventure novel by English writer Richard Adams. Set in the
rural south of England, it follows a cohort of anthropomorphic rabbits who have
created their own mythology and culture to make sense of the world around them.
The novelist gives them the voices,
morals, and stories of people. They have a government, culture, language,
mythology, etc.

The novel borrows
the classic structure of the epic,
tracing the rabbits’ perilous voyage out of their ruined warren to seek a new
home. The novel won several awards, including the Carnegie Medal, and was
adapted to a 1978 animated film and a 1999 television series.

The very opening of the novel takes place in the rabbits’ home, the Sandleford
warren. A young rabbit named Fiver receives a prophetic vision of the demolition
of their warren and relates it to his brother, Hazel. Fiver and Hazel try, to
no avail, to convince the chief rabbit that they have to escape. The brothers
resolve to set off with a band of nine other rabbits from the warren who
believes Fiver’s vision. Immediately, they are under threat by the warren’s
guards, the Owsla, whom they must evade in order to escape.

At the point when they get away from the warren, the group of eleven rabbits
selects Hazel as the de facto leader. Until this point, he has
never led anything. The rabbits trek through the dangerous country seeking a
new home. Silver and Bigwig, the two biggest rabbits, are former members of the
Owsla, so they act as the group’s guards, helped by Hazel’s cleverness and
judgment. Soon they meet a lone rabbit named Cowslip. Cowslip tells them that
they are welcome in his warren.

In spite of the
fact that the bunnies are at first thrilled to have discovered another home,
Fiver senses an ominous fate in this warren. Bigwig is trapped in a snare and
almost dies, whereupon the rabbits realize that Cowslip’s warren belongs to a
farmer, who keeps them alive and well fed in order to kill them for meat and
furs. They were welcomed into the warren only to dilute its current population,
increasing the residents’ average chance of survival. The group rescues Bigwig
from the snare and escapes with a new member, Strawberry, whose female partner
was killed in a similar snare.

Fiver has a
clear vision that they are approaching a safe place for residing. They come
upon Watership Down, which looks exactly like the place in his vision. They
encounter Bluebell and Holly, two surviving members of the Owsla. Both are
severely wounded, having sustained injuries from a group of humans who
destroyed their home warren, and further violence at Cowslip’s warren. Holly
admits that he attempted to stop the emigration on the first night after
Fiver’s vision, and apologizes. He now believes the veracity of Fiver’s visions
and pledges his support.

Watership Down is idyllic, with the exception that there are no females. This
feature seemingly condemns it to a future where the population dwindles to
nothing. Hazel’s group meets Kehaar, a black-headed seagull who finds a nearby
warren for them called Efrafa, which is overpopulated with both males and
females. Hazel decides to send an envoy to request females and appoints Holly
the leader. Simultaneously, Hazel and Pipkin launch a rescue mission at the
nearby Nuthanger Farm, rescuing three rabbits, two of them does. Holly returns
and tells them that Efrafa is a fascist rabbit warren led by a rabbit who calls
himself General Woundwort. Holly’s team located Hyzenthlay, a rebel who wants
to assemble a group of rabbits to escape. Bigwig and Hazel plan to help her.

Their plans are hindered by a sudden attack on Watership Down led by Efrafa’s
Owsla and General Woundwort. Bigwig and Hazel release the watchdog at Nuthanger
Farm, who critically wounds him before he vanishes. Hazel nearly dies from a
cat attack, but is rescued by Lucy, a girl who lives on the farm. The story’s
epilogue takes place several years later. Hazel is visited by the rabbits’
mythical hero, El-ahrairah, who asks him to join his Owsla in the spirit realm.
Confident about the future of his warren, Hazel leaves Watership Down to join
the mythical world.

Depicting the epic tale of a group of anthropomorphized animals as an allegorical
frame for the human struggle to build and nurture society in an often bleak and
hostile world, Watership Down allows its audience to
emotionally relate to its rabbit protagonists. In the process, the novel
invites meditation on our own contingent relationships to the natural world.


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