So, I finally completed this Puffin Classic. Watership Down – a book about the journey of a bunch of rabbits from one adventure to another. I want to set the record straight once and for all – this is not a children’s book no matter what they say. It is not a Puffin Classic. It should have been a Penguin Classic.
It has cute bunnies and fairy tales but it also has death, pain, misery, religion, superstitions, mutilation etc. in abundance. The book starts off with a happy warren with a wise Chief Rabbit and a strong owsla (a group of military rabbits). A small rabbit with the special gift of intuition Fiver gets the premonition that a grave danger awaits the warren. His stronger brother Hazel takes the news seriously and sets off to a journey that eventually leads them to an adventurous, yet better life.
Oh and also, the book has “lapine” words like elil (meaning enemy) and silflay (meaning to graze outside). As soon as you get the hang of it, you are hooked. The touch of realism sets the tone for the novel early on.
The characters are rich and diverse. You have the strong one – Bigwig who performs with bravery and courage. There is Hazel who is wise and has the ability to lead. Fiver is the one with intuition but is a bit timid. Pipkin makes for the perfect follower. Bluebell, Holly, Dandelion and many others come with their own qualities. The refugees start a warren of their own and are joined by a couple of hutch rabbits, a rabbit Strawberry from an enemy warren and a bunch of others.
The antagonist of the novel is the Chief Rabbit from an enemy warren Efrafa – General Woundwort. He is menacing, spiteful and has army-like tactical abilities. Efrafa shows up in the novel after two-thirds of the story is over and yet, it is the highest point in the story. A warren ruled by a lapine tyrant. Adams’ imagination touches news skies here.
So all in all, definitely not a kids’ book. But yes, young adults and adults will enjoy it immensely.