I have to admit right off the bat here, that I lied in the title of this post. This is not really a review of Watership Down, per se, but more of a collection of quotes I love, and some thoughts I have on it. But not a review of the book itself. I will start with the publisher’s summary though!
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
I get asked all the time why I love this book so much. I don’t actually have a great answer – it just speaks to me, I never get tired of it, and every reading I find something new to think about or a different way of looking at our world. I love how this band of rabbits works together, are loyal to each other, trust each other. And there is something to be said for that, especially in this world we live in. This book gives me hope, it gives me the warm feels, and, at times yes, it scares me with its violence or situations. It is a book of freedom, with characters full of wisdom, chutzpah, honor, cleverness, feyness. Characters who are leaders and storytellers and dreamers, inventors and fighters and goofs. I have a new favorite every time I finish reading it. This time around I was all about Blackberry.
Richard Adams began spinning the tales of the Sandleford Warren, Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and all the rest as a means of entertaining his daughters on car rides. He began putting the stories to paper and from there, Watership Down was introduced to the rest of us. Adams builds a full world, one full of myth and folklore, and even the language of rabbits, called Lapine, appropriately enough. I have read this book so often that sometimes I slip a word of Lapine into conversation here and there like a weirdo, probably, but I do it. I have been known to say Fu Inlé, or Silflay hraka, u embleer rah. Because I am not a super nerd or anything.
For many people, the only introduction they ever have had to this masterpiece is the cartoon movie from 1978, which yes, is nightmare fuel if you watched it as a little tiny kid expecting fun and fluffy bunnies. Umm, like me. I was three in 1978 and probably watched this around that time and yes, it freaked me the heck out. But I never forgot it, and a few years later picked up my first copy..the one that looks like this.
I read my first copy so often that it became tattered and worn and eventually fell to pieces. So my parents got me another one, same cover. Which also later became so well read it no longer could be read. I now currently have the one pictured at the top, and another very fancy one that Billy bought me for Mother’s Day last year. I am on a mission to collect different copies now, and keep one for reading to pieces. I realized I could just get a digital copy (and wow, I totally should!) but there is something about this book that I most definitely want to hold in my hands. This year I also listened to the audiobook narrated by Peter Capaldi, and I could not recommend it enough. The life he brings to these rabbits, the personalities are alive – it was magnificent.
My copy is currently full of underlined quotes, thoughts, notes, coffee spills (yep, I am not a pristine book reader). It is a collection of me within the confines of the book. Most quotes that I love are the most famous ones, but there is a reason that those particular phrases are so famous and loved. Let me share!
“There’s terrible evil in the world.”
It comes from men,” said Holly. “All other elil do what they have to do and Frith moves them as he moves us. They live on the earth and they need food. Men will never rest till they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals.”
“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.”
This next one is a top favorite..
“Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it.”
“…what is, is what must be.”
Ok last one, I could go on forever.
“To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear! To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse—the cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory! This at least is one joy that must have been known by almost every living creature.”
Have you read this? What did you think?
9 thoughts on “Book Review: Watership Down”
When you said you couldn’t explain why you loved this book, it was exactly my reaction. I just do. I’ve not seen those quotes in a long while. Thanks for sharing them. Yes, it’s a special book and I’m glad you reminded me of it.
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Right? That is usually actually what I say – I shrug, and say, I just do!
True confession…I have not read this book. I will change that soon. I love these quotes…so timely for our world today.
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It is such a wonderful story Marsha!! And those quotes never get old. Such true words Richard Adams wrote.
There are lots of Star Trek fans who speak Klingon, so no need to worry about a few words of Lapine. 🙂
Well thank you!! I appreciate that!
I found it a traumatic read and I had a nosebleed in the middle of it, so not sure I ever finished it! I mean, it must be well-written to be so powerfully upsetting! My alternative animal novel is Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, though not sure if that was so widely known.
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Oh no about the nosebleed!!! It is a pretty traumatic read the first time through, I will agree. I read Adams’ book The Plague Dogs and that disturbed me so much that I became an animal rights activist then and there, and vowed to never read that book again. And I haven’t. He is quite the writer.
I have never read Mrs. Frisby but I watched the cartoon as a kid and it scared me! I liked it even though it freaked me out though. 🙂
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