Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Watership Down
by Richard Adams

Watership Down new cover Watership Down (1972)

This book is an animal fantasy bestseller. It follows the adventures of a group of rabbits searching for a safe place in the threatening world to establish a new home. Watership Down is set in Berkshire, in southern England.

current Avon paperback - 484 pages (left)
1975 Avon first paperback ed. - 478 pages (right)

Watership Down original paperback

Amy's Summary:
Fiver, a small nervous rabbit, has a premonition something terrible is going to happen to their Sandleford warren. (A housing developer is planning to build.) Fiver tells his brother Hazel and they try to warn their aging Chief Rabbit, the Threarah, to no avail. Hazel and Fiver decide they must leave, and are joined by other males Bigwig, Dandelion, Pipkin, Hawkbit, Blackberry, Buckthorn, Speedwell, Acorn, and Silver.

The little band takes off across the countryside. Along the way they encounter many obstacles such as a stream, a bean field, and a road. They meet Cowslip, who takes them to his warren where the rabbits are healthy yet strangely philosophical. Once they learn the warren's dreadful secret, they leave, taking a new friend, Strawberry, with them.

Hazel leads the rabbits to safety high on Watership Down. They are joined by Holly and Bluebell, who fled the destruction of their old warren. But there's a problem - for their new warren to succeed they need does, female rabbits.

The rabbits befriend and feed a hurt bird, Kehaar, who "speaks" in an accent. When healed, the gull flies reconnaissance, searching for does, and spots some rabbits in a box at a farm, and more at a big warren to the south near an "iron road".

Getting does to join them from these places won't be easy. At Nuthanger Farm there is a cat, a dog, and people. Efrafa warren is ruled like a army camp by tyrant General Woundwort. Hyzenthlay is a discontent doe at Efrafa where, despite overcrowding, rabbits are not allowed to leave.

The brave Watership Down rabbits risk their lives breaking out does and bringing them to freedom.

Lapine words such as "silflay"- to go above ground to feed, and "owsla" - a group of strong or clever rabbits, add color to the text.

Within the book there are a number of stories of the clever rabbit folk hero El-ahrairah, The Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

How we each rated this book
Dan 10 Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 10 Barb 9
Aaron - Cynthia 9
Lars 10 Jackie 9
Benjamin 10 Kerry 10

Watership Down DVD Watership Down (1978) - animated movie

92 minutes, color - rated PG
Produced, directed, and screenplay by Martin Rosen

Voice actors include John Hurt (Hazel), Richard Briers (Fiver), Michael Graham-Cox (Bigwig), Michael Hordern (Frith/Narrator), John Bennett (Holly), Ralph Richardson (Chief Rabbit), and Joss Ackland (Black Rabbit). Features Art Garfunkel's song, Bright Eyes

Watership Down DVD cover (left)

Richard Adams (1920-    ) is English writer who became famous with his first novel, Watership Down. Tales From Watership Down (1996) contains stories of further adventures. Note the publication dates mentioned here are for the first UK editions, which are sometimes earlier than the US editions.

Adams's books Shardik (1974), and Maia (1984) are set in the fantasy land of the Belkan Empire. The title character Shardik is an enormous bear. Maia is a slave girl who goes through numerous adventures.

Plague Dogs (1977) is a animal technofantasy with dogs. The Girl in the Swing (1980) is supernatural fiction. Traveller (1988) tells the Civil War through the eyes of General Lee's horse. The Iron Wolf and Other Stories (1980) is a short fiction collection.

Adams has also written an autobiography, The Day Gone By (1991).

Watership down, Tripod - rabbit warrens, pictures of locale
Wikipedia - Watership Down
BBC - h2g2 - 'Watership Down' - the Book and Film
SparkNotes: Watership Down

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This page was last updated October 16, 2008