Mick's Reviews > Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams
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's review
Jan 07, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: hate-it, fantasy
Read in January, 2008

While I was trying to put together a preliminary list for the books I was going to try to read this year I came across the title Watership Down a hundred times. I’ll admit that when I first came across it I thought it was going to be a space adventure. Much like the movie Ice Pirates, I thought it was going to be about a over laden supply ship crashing in enemy territory with the only know water supply that existed in the galaxy, or at least something like that. As it turns out the book contains a children’s story – about bunnies.

Of course – they aren’t your normal rabbits. These guys can talk, and have feelings, and some can even see into the future. With abstract thought and freethinking comes the ability of others to oppress those things that make them human – or ahem – bunnies. That is the essence of the story.

Two brother rabbits are sitting around eating on some leaves, and a bigger meaner rabbit comes and takes the best leaves away. The bigger and brighter of the brothers is like “this sucks!” but the little pussy brother is like “We are all going to die, this place sucks ass, we must flee!” Keep in mind the little one is a 'seer'. So they basically the pack up the truck and they move to Beverly – hills that is. Those hills are called the Watership Down.

There are of course obstacles, dangers and adventures along the way, and then when they finally get there. “Oops you mean we forgot to bring any chicks? Damnit! Well we’re boned now dawg. Unless, yeah! Let’s go steal some bitches!”

The story itself is clever and decent enough, but muck like Jackson’s King Kong remake, it’s so focused on the evils of man that the whole story gets dragged down by it. Every time the group comes across a man he is described by the cigarette smoke he is inhaling, and they all carry guns, and have evil dogs that bite and chomp, yada yada yada. Tractors and cars and trucks are evil. Trains run animals over. Man's Dogs and guns always protect gardens. Don't forget that all the rabbits that show any "manish" qualities die right away. Miliatary Stategy, Art, Poetry, and Culinary Skills are all evil man things that eventually lead to the poor little bunnies doom. Oh how awful it is to live in the constant fear of man. Those darn rascally rabbits!
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12/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Borncoughing you ruin genius with your american colloquialisms. shame on you.

Mick I'm not very ashamed. I don't see things the same way as you. I feel bad that instead of respecting someone's opinion, or even just politely disagreeing with someone you instead leave a comment like this. American I might be - but at least I know how to treat people with respect! And to think, Americans are the people with bad reputations in the world.

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 06, 2008 09:59PM) (new)

I find your assessment to be rather glib, Mick. Your main argument seems to be against the fact that the book highlights the evils of man. First of all, I don't think it's such a far fetch to look at the human species in this light, seeing as how our domination of the land often proves disastrous to the environment. And it's not as if Watership Down is even that overt or obnoxious about such an environmentalist message.

You say that every time a man is presented, it's in an evil light. Well, this is simply wrong, and anyone who's read the whole book will readily know why.

The other bone I have to pick is that you include military strategy and poetry as things that are seen as evil and leading to doom in the book. Can you support this whatsoever? All the rabbits, in fact--even the good ones--use military strategy in the book. And Bluebell and Hazel are always rhyming back and forth. And while visual art might be a great surprise to the rabbits, the art of storytelling is certainly of value.

So, really, I don't see the relevance--or accuracy--of your review. Although I do sense in your tone that you might just think the whole idea of thinking rabbits is silly... in which case, why don't you just say that instead?

Mick First of all - thank you. Most people who disagree with my reviews on this website simply leave little one line attacks with nothing to back them up.

I'm not saying that people aren't evil. I'm just saying that I didn't appreciate it thrown in my face. I simply found the whole thing unpalatable. I realize that I'm in the minority.

As far as man being presented in evil light I cannot think of one time man isn't portrayed in the book negatively. It has been almost a year since I've read the book (all the way through) but I can't recall man even playing a part in the second half. I do have poor recall for such things. Especially if I didn't enjoy the read.

My point with the rabbits using strategy, art, etc is that Adams used is as foreshadowing for something horrible to happen to the rabbits. Each time a rabbit seemed to have a leap forward towards civilization something horrible would happen to it. It didn't matter if it was a good bunny or an evil one.

Anyway - just my 2 cents. As far as thinking rabbits being silly. You might be right. I don't mind anthropomorphic tales but you run the risk of having it tear you away from story if you don't see eye-to-eye with the author. I believe that is what happened here.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the response. There's certainly no reason not to be civil when discussing books :).

I for one didn't feel as if the "people are evil" motif was thrown in my face while reading... it didn't seem overbearing or overemphasized whatsoever. But maybe that's just me.

I'll simply remind you that there is a whole chapter near the end of the book in which human beings play a pivotal (and positive) role in the fate of one of the characters. If you'll recall this particular part of the book, it throws a huge wrench in your argument that all men in the book are portrayed as evil.

And yeah, I didn't pick up on any negative foreshadowing with the use of those things... strategy in particular. Like I said, the rabbits are constantly strategizing in the book--strategy saves their lives. Their intuition and innovation are a source of rescue on multiple occasions. Indeed, I imagine that their man-like qualities are what make the book so exciting and the rabbits so endearing for myself and other readers.

I'm curious--what do you think you don't see eye-to-eye with the author about in this case? And is reading ever a rewarding experience when the author and reader do see eye-to-eye?

Mick Unfortunately I gave the copy I had to one of my friends who will hopefully like the book better than I. So, I can't go back to read the chapter you are referring to. I just don't remember. I'm sure you are right. However, one positive interaction in the entire book doesn't really spoil my argument - at least I don't feel it does. I think we just didn't see it the same way.

Again, with having read the book awhile ago and not having a copy in which to reference right now I can't argue with you about the foreshadowing issue. The way I remember it, especially given what I wrote in my original review, each time the characters encountered another bunny that seemed rather 'human' something horrible would happen soon after. It felt like it was the other shoe dropping so to speak. Again, I'd like to remind you that it's been to long and I have nothing specific I can offer as evidence.

Reading in general is enjoyable. By no means am I disappointed That I read this book. I personally felt like Adams overstated the Urban Sprawl=bad, Man=bad theme, but it seems that you and others don't feel the same way. Your last question confuses me. Did you mean to ask if reading is ever enjoyable when the reader and author DON'T see eye-to-eye? Of course! I think my point is when authors use anthropomorphism they run a higher chance of forcing the reader out of the story. I can't remember the specific term. I think it might be suspended dis-belief. At some point you stop living the story and start reading the story. That is what happened to me with this book.

Heidi Although I also disagree with your opinion of this book, I do have one point to bring up about the man=evil thing.

As anyone who has had a vegetable garden destroyed by "el wascally wabbit" knows, WE ARE EVIL! The only time a rabbit sees me is when I've got a pellet gun in hand, dog at my heal and curse's on my lips. That's not to say that I don't like the vermin... but I can clearly imagine how I must appear to them. :P

message 8: by Arte (new) - added it

Arte Real rabbits have feelings too!

Alexandra Moseley I think at some point towards the end, there's this thing about "hey, maybe men aren't all that bad," when Hazel's rescued by one.

Abigail Normal Heidi pretty much covered what I was about to say. At the end of the day, they are still rabbits (as easy as that is to forget in places), and the life of a wild rabbit is basically fear distilled. Especially of humans, who to a rabbit would seem to functionally have super-powers. Why WOULDN'T they think we're evil incarnate? For a rabbit, anything that's not another rabbit from your own warren is a potential source of abject terror. So I guess it makes perfect sense to me?

Also, a brohoof for Scootaloo. :)

Jered I don't necessarily agree with your review of the literature, but your delivery is great. "Let's go steal some bitches!" That's funny stuff.

Misha I'll have to disagree with your opinion, but I also wanted to say something about the portrayal of humans in this book. As anyone who has read the entire book can tell you, humans aren't always portrayed as evil. Hazel was, in fact, rescued by a human girl and nursed back to health. And the only reason why the people in this book are always packing heat is because they live in a farming community. That means that rabbits are less cute little bunnies and more "if you come near that lettuce, you're getting a pellet shot at your ass." As for the smoking, it was the 1940s. Everyone smoked.

Michelle I don't think the message of this book was that humans are evil. Men, dogs, cats & other enemies of wild rabbits are portrayed realistically as they would be seen from a rabbit's perspective. I can see that a person who doesn't connect with animals might find it hard to empathize with them and accept the rabbit's point of view. But it doesn't seem quite right to blame the author for a reader's short-comings. Just my opinion.

message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim DeCina I'll set aside how you're using homophobic, misogynistic language and say you're completely divorcing the "portrayal of Man" from this book away from any actual context. That context being, these are rabbits. The rabbits have their own culture, priorities, legends, and biases as according to fictional rabbit culture combined with real-life rabbit behavior. Absolutely, man seems terrifying. Absolutely, utilizing certain aspects of human society feels foreign and frightening. The unreliable point of view of the novel is of a particular kind of culture and civilization, and it's viewpoint is as limited as...well, as yours is.

I'll also wonder what book you're reading when it's signs of civilization that destroy a warren. The rabbits clearly have their own societal structure, their own customs and legends, even their own religion. That's every sign of a civilization right there. The other warrens they encounter reflect other KINDS of civilization, particularly certain political structures gone horribly wrong, but if you think having a sense of art is what dooms them then I'm not sure what you were doing through all the El-ahrairah legends.

message 15: by Budd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Budd While you are wrong, your review was very humerous, but still wrong.

Andrea Doyle But the book is written from a RABBITS point of view!! People do consider rabbits pest and try to kill them so the bunnies seeing people as the enemy makes sense for the story.

Amber After reading this book, my views on human actions changed completely. I believe that we are destroying the eath's natural beauty

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