My friends and I had been eating lunch when Ela, a friend I met during a summer program at Georgetown University, first mentioned “a book about bunnies killing bunnies.” The books we read for our English classes at school had been the topic of our discussion, and a couple of my classmates had also read this book. The ones that had read it before were very split on their opinions about the book. A few of them, like Ela, vehemently disliked the book, but there were also some that genuinely enjoyed it. I learned some more about the book’s content from tuning into my friend’s discussion before I learned of its title, Watership Down, for most of them seemed to have various nicknames that they preferred to use instead of the actual title of the book (“the rabbit book” was my personal favorite).
Although our conversation quickly moved on to different books (particularly the works of Shakespeare), Watership Down by Richard Adams stuck with me for some time. You don’t hear your average teenagers saying that they read a fantasy book with talking rabbits for school. As somebody who used to love the classic childhood fantasy novels, this book sounded more than intriguing to me.
The next time I went to Barnes and Noble, I went searching for the book and was surprised to see it in the “Books that make you think” section. I was only able to start reading it after I came back to Korea, but I was able to finish all 474 pages of it in less than a week. The cover is quite misleadingly ordinary, but the book itself is very interesting.
|The book Watership Down
Watership Down tells a story of a group of rabbits that left their home after Fiver, one of the major characters, warned them that something bad was about to happen. At first, it seemed like an ordinary story of adventure that just happened to anthropomorphize rabbits. Although the book contained much less of “bunnies killing bunnies” than I envisioned from what I had originally heard, it was quite unpredictable because just when you thought the rabbits could finally settle down and live peacefully, they would face another conflict.
The style in which Adams spun his tale was simplistic, similar to what you might expect from any other book that had originally been written for children, but the plot was surprisingly complex. The rabbits formed a distinct social hierarchy based on age, size, and physical strength, and they had their own language and mythology that was explained in depth by the author. The book was also unique in the sense that while it was mainly written in third person point of view, Adams quite often broke the fourth wall that separated the audience from him to explain how the rabbits were different from humans, sometimes even referring to famous figures.
Many parallels could be drawn to humans from a seemingly innocuous story about young rabbits traveling to find a new home. The aforementioned complex culture and hierarchy as well as the internal conflicts fought for the leadership of the group were quite similar to what you would expect from our modern society.
Something interesting to point out is that Watership Down was never intended to be some sort of allegory or parable; Adams first came up with the idea for this book when his daughters asked him to make up a story for them on a long car ride. That hasn’t stopped many people from interpreting this book in wildly different ways. Emboldened by the book’s motifs about liberation and self-motivation, quite a few minority groups showed the tendency to play their own narrative into this book. Although I certainly think that Watership Down has more significance that can be applied to our world today, at least to Adams, this story has never and never will be more than just “the story about rabbits made up and told in the car.”
Korea International School
Kristin Kim email@example.com
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