“All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.”Watership Down began as an impromptu entertainment for Adams' two young daughters on long car trips - an adventure of a migrating bunch of somewhat anthropomorphic but yet very rabbit-like rabbits. It is a story full of palpable love for English countryside, full of 'rabbity' allegories of the variations of human societies and ideologies that nevertheless do not overshadow the simple but fascinating impact of the story of survival against all odds, rooted in friendship, bravery, loyalty, courage, quick thinking and learning, ability to see and embrace the new while relying on the ages-tested old, and perseverance despite the unfavorable odds.
“Rabbits live close to death and when death comes closer than usual, thinking about survival leaves little room for anything else.”I first read the story of Hazel, Bigwig & co. when I was twelve, and read it again and again many times since, loving it more and more with each re-read, appreciating more and more each time how its seeming simplicity is actually made of layers of complexity.
“Animals don't behave like men,' he said. 'If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don't sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures' lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”Each rabbit has a distinct voice and personality - without being *people* they are nevertheless *persons* - but it's the three that stand out to me: Hazel, Bigwig and Woundwort.
His opposite is the eventual villain of the book, General Woundwort, the tyrant leader of an isolated militaristic rabbit warren, a ruler with an iron fist, whose forceful personality is supplemented by ferociously merciless teeth and claws. Unlike Hazel, he leads by force and coercion - but props to Adams for not making him neatly fit into a black-and-white good-vs-bad model as his amazing ability to at least temporarily make rabbits, perpetual prey, into predators was a source of almost legendary fame. And yet Woundwort's vision breaks down because, grand as it may be, it's still just tunnel vision.
"You needn't worry about them," said his companion. "They'll be all right -- and thousands like them. If you'll come along, I'll show you what I mean."
He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."
“At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit's idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him.”
This book is wonderful, fantastic, and has definitely earned itself a spot on the strategically placed bookshelf in my future hypothetical daughter's room where it will serve the purpose of helping to bring her into the wonderful world of stories and help her see the world for the amazing place it is.
“My Chief Rabbit has told me to stay and defend this run, and until he says otherwise, I shall stay here.”
"Underground, the story continued."