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Chitra Narayanan

Watership Down* By Richard Adams Reviewed by Chitra Narayanan 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. … . 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 natural, it smelt of tar and oil. The explanation was provided by the most ‘experienced’ rabbit, ‘It’s a man-thing’, made for machines that actually run faster than rabbits but are harmless unless one crosses their path. Richard Adams shows the world as it was, natural and beautiful—full of dangers and yet some pattern existed. On a goodwill mission to Efraha to negotiate the release of does, our friends find themselves virtual prisoners of General Woundwort. Shocked by this unrabbit-like behaviour, they tell him, ‘Animals don’t behave like men. 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.’ Watership Down is supposed to be ‘a grown-up ...

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