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Watership Down (Watership Down #1)

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  297,311 Ratings  ·  9,852 Reviews
Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predato ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 478 pages
Published June 1975 by Avon Books (first published 1972)
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Brian Bigwig should have been the natural leader of the warren he was biggest, and strongest, but he and other recognized that being the biggest, strongest,…moreBigwig should have been the natural leader of the warren he was biggest, and strongest, but he and other recognized that being the biggest, strongest, and most outgoing doesn't make the best leader, and they naturally followed Hazel and Bigwig only lived due to Hazel's brilliance in defeating the razor wire trap that almost killed Bigwig.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Rico Suave
Jul 13, 2007 Rico Suave rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people, rabbits, not for sailors.
Shelves: ricosbooks
oh man, this book totally tricked me! I got a bad haircut one day so I needed to lay low for a few weeks ("Supercuts", my ass! Liars!). I called two of my hardest, most straight-up thug homies (Zachary and Dustin) to bring me some of their books and this was one of them. I had just watched a show on A&E about WWII naval battles so I couldn't WAIT to read Watership Down! I love sea stories, "man overboard!" and "off the port bow!" and "aye aye cap'n!" all that stuff so I pulled my hat down an ...more
Bookworm Sean
Mar 27, 2015 Bookworm Sean rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Humankind and rabbits
I don’t give a shit what Richard Adams says about his book because it simply isn’t true. According to him, in the preface of my edition, this is just a story about rabbits. Its intended purpose was to entertain his children in the car, that’s fair enough, but he also says there is no intentional allegorical meaning whatsoever. I find this hard to believe. The allegories in here are rich and meaningful. They don’t just allude to simple problems. They’re complex and purposeful. So if he didn’t int ...more
Sep 01, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like a good story or who have a vague interest in rabbits
Shelves: favorites
Ok, so it's a book about a bunch of rabbits traveling through a small stretch of English countryside. As such, it doesn't seem like something that would appeal to anyone but a preteen. But the fact of the matter is this is a great story, full of rich characters, a deep (if occasionally erroneous) understanding of things lapine, and it can reach moments of depth and profundity that the movie of the same title does not even begin to hint at. I was actually introduced to this book in one of the bes ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 23, 2012 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-to-film
"El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."

When Fiver, a seer, is overcome with a vivid dream of mass destruction. He tries to convince the rabbits in charge of the validity of his vision. The
Mar 17, 2012 Lyndz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book about 2 months ago, got through the first 10 pages or so and I was not interested in continuing. I put it down. In all honesty, it seemed like it was going to be too babyish for me. I mean come on, bunnies though? Seriously?

About a week ago I got to a point where I didn’t have anything else to read so there I was, staring pensively at my obese bookshelf, thinking about reading Lord of the Rings for the 12th time, when I noticed Watership Down poking its cute little bunny fac
In memory of Richard Adams (1920 - 2016):

Some books have an amazingly unexplainable ability to transcend the purpose of their creation and take a leap into being an instant timeless classic.
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.”
Watership Down began as an imp
All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

This is my all time favorite book...although some of my love for this book may be an emotional attachment to the time in my life when it was read for the first time. Before this book, my parents used to read to me at bedtime on my
Jul 15, 2008 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
I think there are generally two classes of people when it comes to this book: those who see beyond the surface and love it, and those who just don't get it and wonder how anyone can praise a silly book about talking rabbits.

Given my rating of it, I obviously fall into the former group. On the surface this is an engaging tale about a group of outcast rabbits who leave their warren at the promptings of one of their fellows who is able to foresee a great catastrophe on the horizon. Their adventures
Aug 29, 2011 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
Most reviews I write just for the hell of it, for my own records and if some people like them I am just happy as a lark. For Watership Down however, I am just a little bit more ambitious. I would like to convince people who feel averse to reading a novel for children about rabbits to drop their preconception and give this book a chance. This is not a book about cute little bunnies running around eating carrots and being adorable 24/7. This is one of the most badass books I have ever read, and I ...more
Jason Koivu
Aug 27, 2011 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, fantasy


* * * * * *



When I was in school, the teachers played the movie version (the one with Art Garfunkel songs, Zero Mostel as the bird, and a bevy of well-respected English actors providing voice-overs) of this epic drama of courageous rabbits and us kids just bawled. The sadness, she was too much!

It's been 30, maybe 35 years on since then and I figured, despite
Dec 20, 2008 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: story-review
It's got nothing much to do with this book, but I want to tell my rabbit story. Feel free to disbelieve me if you must, but it's actually true. I know the person it happened to quite well, though I have changed names and other particulars in order to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.

So, many years ago, my friend (let's call her Mary) used to have a dog (let's call him Rover). She lived next door to a family whose five year old girl (let's call her Anna) had a rabbit (let's call him Fluff
I remember when Watership Down was first published in 1972. It was a novel by an unknown English author, Richard Adams. All of a sudden the book Watership Down was absolutely everywhere and people were reading it on buses, trains, park benches — all over the place. It captured everybody's imagination. Six years later the animated film came out, and it all happened all over again! If, glancing at the cover, you asked any of those readers "Is this a book about rabbits?" the answer would be a hesit ...more
Jul 04, 2013 Maciek rated it it was amazing
"I announce with trembling pleasure the appearance of a great story."

In 1972, an unknown British novelist named Richard Adams published his debut novel with a rather misleading title, Watership Down. After being rejected 13 times by various publisher it was finally accepted by Rex Collings, a one-man company which worked on a shoestring and couldn't pay Adams any advance, but had important connections in the London literary scene and made sure that it was read by everyone who mattered. Rex Col
Mark Lawrence
Mar 20, 2011 Mark Lawrence rated it it was amazing
I read this book an age ago. Maybe 40 years ago the first time.

Lots of authors have written animal stories but they tend to be cute little tales where the level of anthropomorphism is such that the rabbits or whatever are practically, or literally, wearing waistcoats and top hats. We only need to look to Wind in the Willows or Beatrix Potter for examples.

Obviously *some* level of making the animals human is required. I suspect a rabbit's true inner monologue would be rather dull even if it could
Nov 06, 2013 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Actually, I do not give this book a 5. It is worth much more! This book is a classic for a reason. Read it, buy it, read it to your children, give it to your children... Seriously, if you have not read this book yet, READ IT NOW. It is about rabbits. It is also about bravery, warlords, leadership, sacrifice, adventures, spies, friendship, rescue missions and so much more. This is not the first time I've read this book and it certainly won't be the last. Don't miss out on this stunning adventure! ...more
Aug 21, 2008 Robert rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
When I was very young I was taken to see this movie that my parents probably thought would have cute, comical bunnies in it. Thusly I was exposed to disturbing images of fields of blood, extreme bunny-bunny violence and weird, floaty and somehow scary black rabbits...there was also an alarmingly bad song called Bright Eyes. The whole thing was incomprehensible and scary and I didn't like it. And the song was everywhere for weeks...

Zillions of years later the scars have healed and I eventually ge
Jul 17, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Masterful and enchanting, a timeless classic of children’s literature likely to be rewarding for most humans of the biped variety. I always avoided it, thinking why read some cutesy tale about goddam wimpy rabbits when I could have a glorious adventure with “The Lord of the Rings”, fight the evil French with Captain Horatio Hornblower, or be a space cadet in a Heinlein tale. Who could imagine that such fearful little vegetarian critters could work together under the right leaders to conquer thei ...more
Nov 29, 2007 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: let's pretend we're bunny rabbits. we'll do it all day long
Recommended to Mariel by: Harvey
Watership Down is not a children's book. It's a everyman's book. Every animal, too. (Anyone with a pulse and a beating heart that gives a shit about what is around them.) There's a lovely intro in a newer edition about how he "wrote" it with his children (the stories started out a spur-of-the-moment thing when prompted to tell them a story). It's meant to be interactive in a makes you think and makes you feel way. I certainly lose myself in this world whenever I reread (it's funny how quickly I ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Watership Down is a classic fantasy novel, written in 1972, that originated in stories told by Richard Adams to his daughters on long car drives. It's kind of a pastoral fantasy, based on anthropomorphized rabbits, who have an elaborate if primitive society. A group of rabbits leave their warren when one of them, Fiver, who has second sight, has visions of a disaster to come. They have various adventures along the way to a new home on the top of Watership Down, then more adventures as they somew ...more
I'm 100 pages in, and this book is as boring as they come. So many indistinguishable rabbits hopping around eating various types of green things in the ground. I try to read on it during my lunch break, but I find that I'd always rather do anything than start back on this book. Is it a rule that classics have to be boring? Do books become classics because they are boring and someone has decided that it's a mark of high class to read boring books? Oh, god, please let this book get better since th ...more
Feb 04, 2010 Fabian rated it liked it
I had started this before but shelved it for more than eight years.

Now, without that adolescent sense of awe, I do not share Donnie Darko's fascination with it (though Joy Division for sure will never go out of style). Yes, because I associate it with my formative (hellish) years, I think I made a bigger deal about getting through this than I should have.

In reality, it is actually a Tolkienesque experiment personifying rabbits. As a reader you feel for the critters & their warren seems lik
Jul 23, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013

"Our children's children will hear a good story."
Rabbit proverb

I don't have any children of my own, but if I had, I know Watership Down would be at the top of the list of books to gift them with. On the back cover it is described as "one of the most beloved novels of our time", and for once the marketing hyperbole turns out to be justified. It would take a major Grinch to remain unmoved by the adventures of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Blackberry, Dandelion et all. These critters have managed to b
Aug 09, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
It was the summer of 1986 when, rumaging through the long unused bedrooms of my grandfather's house, I stumbled upon the book Watership Down. At twelve, I was at that wonderful age when any book was a source of fascination rather than embarrassment, and so I sat upon my uncle's old bed and, in the dusty sunlight streaming through the window, began to read a book which would stay with me years later.

Fiver, a small and nervous rabbit, is plaugued by visions of the coming destruction of Sandleford
Feb 16, 2008 Werner rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers who can accept animals as protagonists,
This was a book that Barb and I read together, and both enjoyed immensely. Best-seller status isn't typically something that draws me to a book; I've actually read very few of those, because I'm aware that they usually win their status through publishing-industry hype rather than quality. But the description of this one intrigued me, and it's definitely highly original, given that virtually all of the characters are rabbits and humans appear only as minor characters (though their actions do play ...more
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
**Edit... 12/2016 R.I.P. Richard Adams**

dare I say it...?
i think i may have found another favorite book...

i loved this book and the character Hazel.
he alone made me enjoy this book.
if i were to ever own a rabbit, i would name it Hazel.

and to think this book has been around and not one of my high school teachers ever mentioned this or requested us beady eyed pupils to read it.
of course i would have wanted to read about bunnies back in the day instead of Dickens and many others.

Allllllllllllllmost a year ago I begged and pushed and begged and pushed politely asked Delee to read the Harry Potter series with me. As everyone knows, it’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world, closely followed by chocolate.

Well, of course she loved it- who doesn’t? (If you don’t, you may as well unfriend me and move on with your pathetically boring life). So she said to me- “Stepheny, you are making me sharing one of your all-time favorite books with me, would you be willing to read o
Otis Chandler
Sep 02, 2008 Otis Chandler rated it it was amazing
I read this after hearing from a few people that it was among their all-time favorites. I was almost put off when I saw it was a story about rabbits, originally written as a tale by a father to his children - but I'm glad I wasn't.

I found the folk tales about El-ahrairah to be very impressive. The author clearly had a vivid imagination to create so much of the rabbits culture and history. But I think this book was worth reading as it's really a story about survival, leadership, and human nature.
This book was absolutely fantastic. One of my new favorites, for sure. I heartily recommend it to... everybody! Full review now added below:

I’ve been a huge fantasy reader since around fifth grade. So how on earth did I miss Watership Down while I was in school? Did our library not have a copy? Was its reputation as a “classic” a deterrent to friends who might have told me of its existence? Whatever the case, I had never even heard of Watership Down until the later years of college. The people w
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
April group read with the Pantsless Non-Crunchy Classics people!

This book really gives one the feeling of an old-timey yarn, which makes sense when you know that it started out as a story Richard Adams spun out for his daughters. The descriptions made me fall in love with the English countryside, though I could easily picture the story taking place in my backyard and reminded me fondly of the rabbits I had as pets in past years. And I really didn't expect to cry reading this, but that final para
Mar 16, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Watership Down is a modern classic that has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.

Watership Down is my 3rd favorite book of all time behind
Gone with the Wind and
In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages
I've tremendously enjoyed rereading this wonderful book again.

Author Richard Adams love of nature and knowledge of English flora and fauna made it so easy to enter the imaginary world of WD to the point of even being able to sniff the flowers and enjoy the scenery.

The delightful and ch
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Adams was born in Newbury, Berkshire. From 1933 until 1938 he was educated at Bradfield College. In 1938 he went up to Worcester College, Oxford to read Modern History. On 3 September 1939 Neville Chamberlain announced that the United Kingdom was at war with Germany. In 1940 Adams joined the British Army, in which he served until 1946. He received a class B discharge enabling him to return to Worc ...more
More about Richard Adams...

Other Books in the Series

Watership Down (2 books)
  • Tales from Watership Down  (Watership Down #2)

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“Animals don't behave like men,' he said. '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.” 561 likes
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.” 542 likes
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