Watership Down is about more than just bunnies. Granted, the characters are all bunnies (with the exception of the insane bird they befriend), but the story behind the bunnies is one that could be applied to any species.
The novel centers on a group of rabbits who, at the bidding of a panicked friend, decide to leave their warren and set out for something new. On their journey, they run into other rabbits that are and are not their friends. They face challenges like weasels and rivers, as well as human machines. Along the way they pick up stragglers until they reach their new home: Watership Down.
So while this is certainly a tale about bunnies and their plight, it is also about courage and strength. When they originally decide to leave their warren, it is because of the foresight of their friend that they do so. After this particular rabbit has had a vision of destruction, they leave for better things.
You have to wonder whether you would leave in a similar situation. On one hand, you have a well-developed, warm home with friends and family nearby. There is no danger that you can see (or smell), and there is no warning that anything bad may happen. On the other hand, you have a rabbit who “Sees” things and is warning his friends to leave for a new place. Do you stay or do you go? Personally, I am a huge chicken so I would have stayed.
Here is also where we begin to see parallels between the book and the TV show “Lost.” Very early in the first season (I promise I am not giving away anything too crazy), the characters are torn between staying on the beach (which is the “Safe” option), or venturing into the jungle after Jack to stay in the caves. Those characters are facing a very similar situation and Sawyer, the character who inspired me to read this book next, is reading Watership Down as this dilemma unfolds. It is an interesting coincidence.
And it turns out, that neither choice is safer than the other. With choice comes risk, and characters from both book and TV show realize that. There never is a “safe” option and sometimes, you have to make the decision whether staying in one place and facing what comes is a better choice than going out and seeing what comes at you.
So with all that being said, did I like the novel? Yes…and no. I enjoyed the tale of their flight from home, and characters. However, I got annoyed with the rabbits whining about lack of females. It was incredibly distracting to the rest of the tale and while the major conflict in the end of the novel was centered on their lack of females in the new warren, it was an almost constant whine that really distracted from the tale.
In all, I enjoyed it. I am sure that as Matt and I continue watching “Lost” I will find some more connections between book and TV show. When I explained the book to Matt, his eyes went wide in parts, so I am sure that those connections will click into place.
Before I cut this off, there are two passages I would like to share. The first stuck out because of its connection to my blog:
“What Robin Hood is to the English and John Henry to the American Negroes, Elil-Hrair-Rah, or El-ahrairah—the Prince with a Thousand Enemies—is to rabbits. For that matter, Odysseus himself might have borrowed a trick or two from the rabbit hero, for he is very old and was never at a loss for a trick to deceive his enemies,” (38).
This second passage I enjoyed was later in the novel, when they run into a rabbit from their old warren. I found this very insightful:
“Bluebell had been saying that he knew the men hated us for raiding their crops and gardens, and Toadflax answered, ‘That wasn’t why they destroyed the warren. It was just because we were in their way. They killed us to suit themselves,’” (169).