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Watership Down: Book for children & adults

Updated on June 17, 2015

Watership Down: A book for readers of all ages

Many years ago, I lived in Hampshire in the UK and during that time, a book was published that was set in the area in which I lived. 'Interesting' I thought.

Then I realized that this was a fictional tales about rabbit. Yes, talking rabbits. 'Ah, maybe not' I thought. In those days, I liked to think that my tastes were a little more sophisticated than that. I really couldn't imagine that I'd enjoy reading a book about rabbits.

I was wrong.

I received it as a gift

I always love getting books so, despite my reservations, I started to read the book. 'Hmm' I decided 'nicely written'. A few pages later - 'this is quite good, actually'. A few more pages and I couldn't put it down - rabbits or not.

Choose your own level

A group of rabbits, whose warren is under threat from developers, decide that they need to find another place to live.

A band of young rabbits set off to find new home and the book describes their adventures and struggles along the way. As such, that's an interesting story for younger people and completely fascinating in itself. Adults though might find (and many have) that this entertaining tale has deeper meanings regarding our own society.

But nevertheless, younger readers will probably appreciate the underlying message about areas in the countryside which are being developed and hence losing their wildlife. Older readers may wonder how this aspect of the book affects society in addition.

The author

Richard Adams initially developed this story for his young daughters. He later denied that he intended any 'hidden meanings' or allegories. Does that mean that they aren't there though?

Sexist rabbits - really?

I remember reading that the book had been denounced by feminists. You see, once the all-male band of rabbits had found their new home, they belatedly realized that if their society wasn't to die out, they would need to have the 'company' of some females so embark on their next adventure - 'find the lady'.

A few female writers got somewhat hot under the collar about what they considered to be a cavalier attitude by the bucks towards their female counterparts; that they were looking for does not for 'love and companionship' but for sex.

For goodness sake, these are rabbits!

Yes, they made a film

Which was a disappointment to me.

It was too disneyfied and the rabbits in my imagination when I was reading the book were the real thing, not cartoon characters.

However, the trailer that you can watch below does give you some idea of the story and will help you determine whether the book is for you - or your child.

Tales from Watership Down (Puffin Books Book 2)
Tales from Watership Down (Puffin Books Book 2)

When I win the lottery (haha) a Kindle is one of the top purchases on my list. If you are lucky enough to own one already, here is the sequel you'll need.Like the other two products shown here, this makes a great gift.

Tales from Watership Down
Tales from Watership Down

It was about twenty years later that the author wrote a sequel to his book.

This allows us to revisit the world we were enchanted by in the original novel.

Once again it is we, the humans, who are causing the problems.


Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size

I have added screenshots of the pages in the section above so that you can decide if the book is suitable for your own child's reading level.

Children vary so much in the development process and this book may be perfect for some eight year olds but a little too advanced for other older children. Different children develop at different rates. Older children may think, as I did, that reading a story about rabbits is beneath them and too childish.

But for some children, this book is ideal to use as a transition between children's books and those which are more suitable for older people - it can form a valuable bridge.

In the end, it is up to each parent or teacher to determine whether this book is right for their child or children. I hope that the examples above will help.

Note that the first image above is from the introduction in which the author explains how the book came into being and how he characterised the rabbits in the story.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson


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    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      Read this several years ago and have always loved the passage describing the way moonlight transforms how we see our day lit world.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I enjoyed this book so much when I read it years ago. I hope those who did not like it from the movie will give the book a chance. Pinning.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Adventuretravels: I know - the film was so dark and dreary. The book is another matter though :)

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from Perth UK

      There's nothing that would make me read this book because I hated the film as it had no humor whatsoever! What a dirge!! My son hated it too - it was just too sad! Poor rabbits. But it is an incredibly popular story and Garfunkle's song in the film is so haunting. Well written review.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Justine_bish: That's a very good point. The story carries you away because of the action.

    • profile image

      Justine_bish 4 years ago

      Read this book in junior high and it was amazing, it made other books after it seem so slow and boring. So much action it felt real, you don't even realize your reading about rabbits.

    • profile image

      arlojamesbarnes 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: I do not remember the film too well, but I thought they stayed truer to the book than many films nowadays (and previouslyadays) do to their films, especially with the mythology (El-Ahrairah's exploits, and the creation myth of Frith's droppings).

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Ruthi: Very well said indeed - enjoy the book!

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I have not read Watership Down but now that I've read your review I think it might be a book I would like to read. The feminist hullabaloo is not for me! I am a gal quite happy being treated like a Queen by a King!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Haha - I can understand why :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      that movie gave me nightmares for years

    • Campala profile image

      Campala 4 years ago

      A great book and lens. I loved it and probably time to read it again.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      A truly wonderful book for all ages!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Funny, I remember reading Waterhship Down as a young mom, and I don't remember noticing the lack of female characters on the journey, something I was usually quite aware of. But then, it was not a book I encouraged my children to read as they got older, so perhaps some part of me was aware of the issue.I do remember being quite stimulated by the whole environmental aspect of the book. I had forgotten that Richard Adams wrote the story for his children.Thank you for taking me back to my youth. It took awhile for me to get into the book, but once I did, like you, I couldn't put it down. In fact, I remember exactly where I was sitting while I read it that day.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Watership Down was a favorite book of my three daughters. I like your thoughts on the meanings behind the story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      The new John Lewis Christmas ad has more than a hint of the film in it, but no BigWig, that would make for poor festive sales I think.