I've Moved!!!

See my new site at http://tomtesblog.tumblr.com!!!

Watership Down

| 24.9.03
Watership Down, by Richard Adams

I seldom re-read a book. There are still fewer books that I enjoyed as a teenager, yet still enjoy as an adult. Watership Down is one of those few. Written in 1972 by Richard Adams, this tale about a group of rabbits searching for a new home in the English countryside can rightly be considered a modern classic. It has been made into a feature film, a short lived animated television series, and an anthology of short stories based around the same characters.

I normally dislike books about animals, but in Watership Down Adams transcends the genre by doing what all great authors do --he makes the reader care about the characters and their dilemma passionately. The fact that the characters in this case are rabbits makes his artistry all the more amazing. While the book weighs in at a hefty 426 pages, Adams does not waste words. Everything contributes towards creating a credible, multi-layered physical, emotional, linguistic, and mythical world through which the rabbits live and move and have their being.

Others have compared Watership Down to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and I think it's a very apt comparison. Both authors create fantastic worlds that seem vividly real to the reader. Both contain a strong sense of the struggle between good and evil. Both worlds contain a fair share of violence. Additionally, I consider the universe created by Richard Adams in this novel as "Middle Earth in microcosm." While Tolkien's fantasy landscape spanned thousands of leagues, Adams' setting is a real English countryside spanning only a few miles. A map near the beginning of the novel shows the rabbits' entire world comprising only a ten mile by six mile square.

Imagine life as a rabbit. The sun shines overhead as you feed on the sweet grass of the meadow. Yet there is a rigid social hierarchy in the burrow you share with your fellow rabbits. Population pressure, and a sense of impending doom encourage you to leave, but you're small, defenseless, and a thousand different species hunt you as prey. How would you cope with such a situation? What stories would you tell to make sense of the world you live in? What comforts would you seek, and what solutions would you find? Adams answers these questions poetically through this novel, and one can't help but draw parallels with the human condition.

I found two things especially compelling about the social world inhabited by the rabbits. First, it's remarkably similar to our own. Secondly, it's under-girded by a spirituality that explains life and gives it meaning. While the myths and the meanings are not exactly like the ones humans have found, they are nonetheless credible and satisfying. The rabbits tell each other sacred stories as they travel and struggle, providing variety to the novel and deepening our understanding of the rabbit's worldview. The infusion of spiritual meaning helps the reader identify with the rabbits on yet another level.

PUBLISHER: Maximillan Publishing Co., Inc; New York; 1972; ISBN: 0-02-700030-3

I've Moved!!!

See my new site at http://tomtesblog.tumblr.com!!!