Saturday, December 21, 2013

watership down

Was Watership Down one of those books folks had to read in middle school? I seem to recall hearing about this story when I was a kid, but maybe that's because of the cartoon they made based on the book. The book was originally published in 1972, and the movie came out in 1978 with the voice of John Hurt in the lead. Watership Down was pegged as the most violent PG-rated movie, ever. dude, the pictures are pretty grim The book and the movie are both English. The author, Richard Adams, won two prestigious children's book awards in England for the story: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. He began by telling the story to his daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, who later convinced him to write the story that became Watership Down.

The story of Watership Down is a story of rabbits. Regular ol' rabbits that chew on grass, live in warrens, and hop about. What Adams makes clear pretty quickly is that rabbits can not only communicate with each other--in a language folks just don't understand--but they also have a society, hierarchy, traditions, and even mythology, which enjoys a rich oral tradition. Adams portrays rabbits as every bit as intelligent, complex and thoughtful as humans. He has also woven their natural, outward behaviors into their personalities so that the illusion is complete. A child, after reading this story, could look at a few rabbits nibbling away at some dandelions in a field and imagine that complex plots and strategies were well under way.

Things appear to be going along well at the warren where Hazel and Fiver live, but Fiver is suddenly quite sure that this is not the case. See, Fiver has these episodes (as some rabbits do) where he sort of zones out and catches glimpses of the future. And the future he sees for their warren, just after some men place a large wooden sign at the edge of their field by the road, is not so bright. Murder, death and mayhem is what he sees and then the story is off at a romp.

This a long story, and a good one. I was surprised at how quickly the fact that I was reading about rabbits faded away and I just began to enjoy the story. It's not that the rabbit's collective rabbit-ness was absent, it wasn't, in fact it was pretty central. What faded quickly was the feeling that reading about rabbits in the first place, was anything but natural. You'll have to trust me on that one.

Fun, surprising, violent more than you'd imagine in places and good!

Read this book.

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