Nathan's Reviews > Tales from Watership Down

Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams
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Jul 07, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

Remember sitting on your parent's bed, listening to stories from their childhood or of ancestors long since dead but still living in words? Adams "Tales" has a similar feeling to it. Like the Bible, it's narrative only coheres in a stretching arch from beginning to end. No single conflict drives the plot, only the recognition that we are narrative creatures and that we live according to the words of stories.

Except that the "we" in the novel is, in fact, a warren of rabbits.

Here, Adams asks his reader to suspend their judgment lest they label this "fantasy" or "young adult lit." Like any good story, the reader must be transposed and transported into a new world in order to view their own world aright. All of this Adams does easily and deftly - he allows readers to escape while challenging them to return to their own context with a their imaginations ablaze.

And I'll never look at rabbits in quite the same way...


*Spoiler Alert for what follows*

Best Scene:

Stories from the life of El-ahrairah in the first third of the novel were the most enjoyable. Perhaps the strangest, but most imaginative, was the tale of the three cows. El-ahrairah goes in search of eternal youth, which is held by the three cows. After years on the quest, he finally approaches the last cow. This cow is "herself the end of the world" and "in that land there is nothing that is not the Third Cow." The Third Cow is time, and has swallowed up everything in the world that has already taken place. Coming to the asymptote of what is possible to describe, the narrator only concludes, "The Third Cow is beyond and beyond the reach of any rabbit's understanding."

That the heifer is the size of the whole world itself is incredible to picture - like trying to imagine the character of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost as he sits in shackles on the floor of hell, taking up the entire abyss with his enormous wings. For some reason, this defies imagination. You have to feel your way through some of these stories as it were, just like a child does when hearing a fairy tale or a biblical narrative...

Favorite quotes:

"In a way [El-ahrairah] felt glad that there was no choice but to struggle on, because if there had been, he would have taken it without hesitation" -147

"In nature there are no rewards or punishments: there are consequences" -155

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