Book Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

30 July 2011

I *finally* finished this book on Wednesday! I was literally jumping up and down when I had completed the last page (not something I normally do when I finish a book). Sound strange? It probably won't when I say that I've had all summer to read this book, and I just finished it now. Yes. That girl blushing profusely over there? That's me. See, I love reading books... when they're books that I enjoy. Required reading? Not so much. That's why it took me so long to finish WD. But, 'tis finished now, which means I get the chance to sort out what I liked and disliked about the book.

Watership Down
By Richard Adams
*Summary taken from the back of the book

Watership Down is a remarkable tale of exile and survival, of heroism and leadership...the epic novel of a group of adventurers who desert their doomed city, and venture forth against all odds on a quest for a new home, a sturdier future. 

My Thoughts: Watership Down. What can I say about Watership Down? I didn't hate it--but I didn't particularly love it, either. A good friend of mine was discussing this book with me, and we agreed that one of the reasons behind our rather neutral feelings about the tale is because it's so long. Now, don't get me wrong, I love long books, especially when the characters/story are brilliant. When I read that type of book, I'm sad when it ends. But WD was very rambling and unorganized. It almost seemed as if the author was just writing for the sake of writing until he got a good idea; the plot is inconsistent up to a certain point--then everything is focused on overcoming the evil and fighting the battle. 

Pros: Courage. Courage plays a very large part in this story. The rabbits are extremely brave, I must say. Several of them, especially Bigwig (one of the rabbits), think nothing of putting themselves in dangerous situations for the sake of others. I see that as a very selfless aspect of their character, and one to be praised. Of course, Bigwig is alone in the fact that he enjoys a good fight--all the others simply do it because they have no other choice.

Cons: One thing that never failed to rub me the wrong way in this book was the fact that man was portrayed as never being content until he has destroyed the earth and all its inhabitants. Now, we as Christians know that Adam was commanded by the LORD to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28, KJV). Man is above the animals; in WD, the rabbits looked upon man as a vile monster and destructive beast. Now, I know this story is told from the perspective of the rabbits, and 'tis only natural that their assumed viewpoint should be expressed. However, are rabbits going to be reading this book? No. And when a human reads that man will not be satisfied until he has demolished the earth and all the animals, s/he may not realize it, but that perspective starts to seep into his or her beliefs.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
I recommend this book for ages 13+, due to its exceeding length. 

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
"The rabbits became strange in many ways, different from other rabbits. They knew well enough what was happening. But even to themselves they pretended that all was well, for the food was good, they were protected, they had nothing to fear but [being snared by the shining wire]; and that struck here and there, never enough at a time to drive them away. They forgot the ways of wild rabbits. They forgot El-ahrairah (the rabbit version of Robin Hood, also given magical qualities), for what use had they for tricks and cunning, living in the enemy's warren and paying his price?" ~Watership Down, chapter 17

11 epistles:

  1. interesting. thank you kindly for your words. i shall think of them if watership down is ever recommended to me.

  2. I had a hard time with this book, not just how long it was, but how eerie some of the rabbits were in the book. Every time I see a rabbit now, they seem creepy to me. Just something about how aggressive and oppressive some of the rabbit were in the book has left me scared for life. I will never look upon a rabbit in the same way. I am not sure I could be in the same room with one.
    Yes, I confess, I find rabbits creepy because of Watership Down. :D

  3. Good review!

    I really like what you said on your "cons" part, "when a human reads that man will not be satisfied until he has demolished the earth and all the animals, s/he may not realize it, but that perspective starts to seep into his or her beliefs." That's very true, especially in this world today.

    I've read "Watership Down" and I thought it was pretty good, but your right that it can be long and unorganized. I just like the action parts of the book. :)
    Have you watched the "Watership Down" movie?

  4. Nela: Thank you! I am glad you agree. It's alarming to realize how many underlying themes there are in books that can corrupt our thoughts and eventually our actions. Just one more reason to pay careful attention to what you read!

    Ah yes, the action was my favorite part, too! Once it got to the Efrafa section of the book, I was far more interested in the story. The book seemed to have a purpose after that. Before? Not so much.

    I have never seen the Watership Down film before, although I have heard that there is one. Have you seen it? Is it good?

    Thank you for commenting!

    Elizabeth Rose

  5. I've been curious about this book in the past, so I'm glad to get a glimpse of what it's like.

    And a comment: I agree with you, Lizzy, that man's dominion over the earth should not be portrayed as evil, nor should man be portrayed as a "vile monster and destructive beast" for exercising his God-given responsibility to steward creation. However, since it's true that fallen man abuses that responsibility OFTEN, and since some "Christians" use Genesis 1:28 to justify destruction of the earth, we who know that isn't what God intended have to be very articulate when we bring it up, I think. You were fine here -- I just wanted to make that point, since I've seen Genesis 1:28 used to justify irresponsible logging and destruction of forests, for example. (As opposed to responsibly using the wood resources God has provided for us.)


  6. Miss Emily Rose~ Yes, I have seen it. I thought is was okay, but nothing grand though. :) It's alot shorter than the book, but also a bit "wacky".

    If you want, you can watch the first part of the film on Youtube, here's a link to it:

    Take Care!

  7. I have never read Watership Down but it doesn't seem quite up my street. For some reason I really have trouble reading books about animals...not sure why but that is the way it is. :)

    Oh, and I am with you on mandatory reading. All my reading this summer has been mandatory and, while some of them have been good, I can't wait to be finished. :)

    Love ya!

  8. Edith F.: It is true that there have been times when man has destroyed a part of nature without reason or wisdom, but I believe that the opposite extreme happens far more often. The Liberals in today's government are *always* criticizing this person or that person for not "conserving enough energy," "using windmills," or, in general, "being green." They have meetings and organizations all the time about what animals are in danger of being extinct and how to "save" them. Yet at the same time, they see a living baby in his or her mother's womb as "a part of her body," and something to be thrown away if "unwanted." Since when do the animals matter more to us than human beings? Man is *higher* than the animals! We live in a world turned upside down.

    Näna: Yes, I agree. Books about animals have never interested me; I much prefer reading stories about people. That's part of the reason it's taken me *cough* 2 months *cough* to finish WD. The other reason was because it is mandatory. I have encountered a few mandatory reads that are amazing, but most of them fall under the "okay" category. Now I only have 2 weeks until my tutorial starts up again, which is when I'll have even more mandatory reading, so I'm delving into Emma every chance I get. :)

    Thank you for commenting, ladies!

    Have a blessed day in Christ,
    Elizabeth Rose

  9. Oh, you're reading Emma! I *love* Emma! Half way through Silas Marner this summer (mandatory reading...which is very boring at first but then turned out to be surprisingly good) I broke down and started Emma. Which is also mandatory reading but I was planning on saving it for vacation so I would have something enjoyable to look forward to. Oh, well. I still have the rest of Jane Austen's books. :)

    Blessings, friend!

  10. Dear Lizzy,

    Thanks for replying to me, and sorry for being tardy replying to your reply. : ) I don't want to make this longer than necessary, since my point was tangential to your post, but I felt I should respond. I wasn't trying to make a political statement, nor to give "environmentalism" a greater place than it deserves. (The one thing I would say about that is, I agree with you completely about priorities being backward; but keep in mind, damaging and polluting the land hurts the people who live there. For this reason, protecting Creation is actually loving one's neighbor. And unfortunately, big commercial interests show almost no conscience in this regard.) I think my initial comment was actually unnecessary, when I reread it and your original post, but to clarify, I was trying to say this: When we as Christians try to give care for Creation its proper context by quoting Genesis 1:28, I think we need to be careful to note that God does command care for the earth. The KJV wonderfully uses the word "replenish," as in your quote. This is important to mention when discussing this issue because, as I said before, there are people who bring shame to the cause of Christ by advocating "using up" the earth -- because, in their skewed logic, Jesus is returning so we don't need to worry about it. Clearly this is not the attitude God wants us to take, and though we have certainty Jesus IS coming, we don't know when.

    Christians NEED to say what you said -- that man is more important than the earth and animals, and that man is to exercise dominion over the earth. All I'm advocating is a great deal of clarity in what we mean when we say that, and an awareness that proper dominion comes with responsibility too.

    I hope this tangent wasn't unduly annoying, and again, I'm sorry for the length. I hope we agree now that I've clarified.

    Love in Christ,

  11. Dear Edith,

    I completely agree with everything you said. Thank you for clarifying. I am glad we are on the same page now. :)

    Have a blessed day,
    Elizabeth Rose


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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