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For the Young


Chitra Narayanan

WATERSHIP DOWN
By Richard Adams
Puffin Books (Reprint), Delhi, India, 1975, 478, 0.60

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Watership Down is an incredible book. It is the story of an epic journey of a small band of wild rabbits. Fiver, the prophet, predicts imminent destruction and, under the leadership of his brother Hazel, the rabbits leave the familiar security of their warren and brave the unknown countryside in search of a new home. Unconsciously, the reader slides into a completely new dimension, joins Hazel and his friends, sees the world through their eyes, smells the dangers, suffers the hardships and terrors till they reach the perfect home ­Watership Down. But the journey does not end there. Does (female rabbits) are required to establish the warren and the search begins again, leading to fearsome adventures in the dictator-state warren Efraha ruled by the terrible General Woundwort. Eventually the odyssey ends with a tragic but triumphant battle and Watership Down flourishes as a prosperous warren. This is no once-upon-a-time story. It is a novel of very real rabbits who feel and think as wild animals. Richard Adams has studied the life-style of rabbits and substantiates his work with references to R.M. Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit with footnotes. The book reveals an incredible insight not only into the minds of rabbits but also of human beings. When Hazel and his friends are later on joined by refugees from their old home, they hear of the terrible destruction and death by poison gas caused by man to level the ground of their old warren into a building site. ‘Their feelings were not false or assumed. While the story was being told, they heard it without any of the reserve or detachment that the kindest of civilized human retains as he reads his newspaper.’ The comparison between rabbits and human beings (usually unfavourable to the latter) leads to some delightful observations about what animals think of us. Hazel, frozen with fear in the grass on seeing a man nearby, realizes he is safe, thanks to man's passion for 'the little white sticks' that they burn in their mouths. ‘He could smell the man. The man could not smell him. All the man could smell was the nasty smoke he was making.’ One of the most beautiful passages is Hazel's first glimpse of a road which he mistook for a river—black, smooth and straight between its banks, yet a spider could run across it. To him it was not ...


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