What a treat it is to find a book like Watership Down. Richard Adams wrote for the child in me while simultaneously exploring mature themes. If you told me a book about nomad rabbits would teach me more about being a leader than a John Wooden autobiography, I’d slap you square across the face. But it’s true! It’s not all eating carrots. Well, there is some of that. Watership Down is the story of courage during the unknown, facing down animosity, and putting others before yourself. Yes, with rabbits.
A group of rabbits decide to leave their warren when one of their own, Fiver, has visions of doom and gloom. He doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but the queer buck insists on leaving. Fiver and his brother Hazel, along with Bigwig the ex-military rabbit, and a few others, set upon a dangerous journey. They all put their faith in Fivers visions and Hazel’s leadership.
On the way they encounter other rabbits, mice, foxes, cats, dogs, rats, birds of prey, birds of the sea, both friends and foes. During the hard times Dandelion, the fastest of the bunch, tells stories about rabbits past. Specifically the trickster, El-ahrairah. It’s those accounts that are my favorite parts of the books. I could relate to being told tales of Robin Hood when I was younger.
The story is simple yet flowing. You can tell that Adams lives in England. He paints a beautiful picture of the English countryside. His most impressive feat is the way he breathes life into these characters. These rabbits. As I said before, look no further than Hazel for a course on leadership. The ups and downs, the pros and cons. With Fiver there is a magical element implemented into the story. He is the rabbit who has the mysterious premonitions of bad, and good. Then there is Bigwig. There’s a part of the story where he infiltrates a hostile warren. From his perspective you understand what it is to put your faith in someone, while also not letting down the people you care about. He has some of the most courageous acts in the book, and the end will not leave you disappointed. Maybe a little teary eyed, but that’s never a bad thing.
As over used as magical is, there’s no other way to describe this book. It’s right up there with Lord of the Rings as one of my favorite journeys. I might even appreciate it more just for the sheer simplicity of it compared to the Tolkien’s fantasy epic (rabbits moving to a new home/saving Middle Earth), yet I’m still as moved.If you’re in the market for a book that will inspire, hop no further.