Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Watership Down (Watership Down #1) by Richard Adams

I tried to read this book as a kid. Then I tried as a young adult. Now I'm reading it in my middle-aged years and I still find it slow going, although I appreciate the good writing. I'm not a fan of anthropomorphic tales. I find it hard to identify with the characters when they are fuzzy, cute creatures that nibble grass. In all fairness, these rabbits change into warriors by the end, but not until much later in the plot. My other problem is the pacing. It's too slow for me. The in-depth details spent on describing the setting and animals is at such lengths that I can easily visualize a field dotted with rabbit holes and a brook where watercress, ragwort, and kingcups grow in abundance. I just figuratively kept falling asleep in the breeze under the oak tree. I've read other authors that use nature prominently in their stories. In "The Secret Garden," the author describes nature on the moors and in the garden in great detail. Why do I love that book and struggled with this one's pace? Perhaps it's my personal bias. I don't know. I finished "Watership Down," so I guess that says something even if I was skimming along the page surfaces like a whirligig beetle by the end.

The rabbit, Fiver, who can predict the future, has a vision that the warren he lives in will be met with a catastrophe. He tells his brother, Hazel, who goes to the Chief Rabbit, but the vision is unheeded. Hazel leads a group of rabbits, who believe in Fiver's seer-like abilities, to leave the warren in search of a new home. They have adventure-after-adventure before establishing their own home; however, they don't have any does to mate in their warren. They know of an overcrowded warren nearby and ask the Chief Rabbit if some does can come live with them, but they are refused. The Chief Rabbit is a tyrant and the rabbits decide to trick him out of their does. A war ensues before they can find happiness.

The tyrannical Chief Rabbit who runs his warren like a totalitarian government is allegorical. The author was a soldier in World War II and the similarities are evident. Bigwig is a hero who will sacrifice himself to save his comrades. He is courageous and brash. Hazel makes decisions while Blackberry is the brains of the operation. Each rabbit has unique skills it contributes to the group making them strong and loyal as a military unit. When faced with fighting for their lives, they know how to cover each other's back.

Humans are at odds with nature for they break rules like killing for just the sake of it, instead of necessity. They wipe out large populations of animals just because they want the land for a building or their own habitat. The rabbits do not kill for sport like the humans and they do not understand the destructive nature humans display. At the end, when a girl saves the life of a rabbit, it shows that humans have the capability to destroy or protect those around them. While this was written in the 70's, its universal themes apply in today's world as well.

4 Smileys

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