Watership Down: Wikis


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Watership Down  
Richard Adams WatershipDown.jpg
First edition cover
Author Richard Adams
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy novel
Publisher Rex Collings
Publication date November 1972
Media type Print (Hardback and paperback)
Pages 413 (First edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0-901720-31-3
(First edition, hardback)
OCLC Number 36359929
Dewey Decimal 823/.9/14
LC Classification PZ10.3.A197 Wat PR6051.D345
Followed by Tales from Watership Down

Watership Down is a heroic fantasy novel about a small group of rabbits, written by British author Richard Adams. Although the animals in the story live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel recounts the rabbits' odyssey as they escape the destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

The novel takes its name from the rabbits' destination, Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. The story is based on a collection of tales that Adams told to his young children to pass the time on trips to the countryside.

Published in 1972, Watership Down was Richard Adams' first novel, and is by far his most successful to date. Though it was initially rejected by thirteen publishers before eventually being accepted by Rex Collings Ltd, Watership Down has never been out of print, and was the recipient of several prestigious awards. Adapted into an acclaimed classic film and a television series, it is Penguin Books' best-selling novel of all time.[1][2] In 1996, Adams published Tales from Watership Down, a follow-up collection of 19 short stories about El-ahrairah and the rabbits of the Watership Down warren.[3][4]


Publication history

Watership Down began as a story Richard Adams told to his two daughters, Juliet and Rosamond, on a long car journey; in an interview, Adams said he "began telling the story of the rabbits ... improvised off the top of my head, as we were driving along."[2][5] He based the struggles of the animals in the story on the struggles he and his friends encountered during the Battle of Oosterbeek, Arnhem Holland in 1944. His daughters insisted he write it down—"they were very, very persistent"—and though he initially delayed, he eventually began writing in the evenings, completing it eighteen months later.[5] The book is dedicated to his daughters.[6]

"To Juliet and Rosamund,
the road to Stratford-on-Avon
—Dedication, Watership Down

However, Adams had difficulty finding a publisher; his novel was rejected 13 times in all, until it was finally accepted by Rex Collings, a small publishing house.[2] The publisher had little capital and could not pay Adams an advance; but "he got a review copy onto every desk in London that mattered."[5]

Adams's descriptions of wild rabbit behaviour were based upon The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964), by British naturalist Ronald Lockley.[7][8] The two later became friends and went on an expedition to the Antarctic, resulting in a joint writing venture, Voyage Through the Antarctic, published in 1982.[7]

Plot summary

The real Watership Down, near the Hampshire village of Kingsclere, in 1975.

In the Sandleford warren, Fiver, a young runt rabbit who is a seer, receives a frightening vision of his warren's imminent destruction. When he and his brother Hazel fail to convince their chief rabbit of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own with a small band of rabbits to search for a new home, barely eluding the Owsla, the warren's military caste.

The travelling group of rabbits find themselves following the leadership of Hazel, previously an unimportant member of the warren. They travel through dangerous territory, with Bigwig and Silver, both former Owsla, as the only significantly strong rabbits among them.

The company cope with many dangers, but none so insidious as their encounter with Cowslip's Warren. Here, the company encounter an apparently prosperous rabbit colony with pampered and fastidious citizens who enjoy plenty of food and protection from predators by humans. However, Fiver is profoundly suspicious especially when he observes the local culture disdains the traditional tales of El-ahrairah in favour of maudlin fatalistic poetry. When Fiver attempts to leave, a derisive Bigwig learns firsthand the deadly secret of the warren; the whole area is a human designed rabbit farm with numerous snares placed to harvest them. After helping Bigwig escape, Fiver convinces his fellows to leave this decadent colony immediately and afterward his counsel is followed without question.

Fiver's visions promise a safe place in which to settle, and the group eventually finds Watership Down, an ideal location to set up their new warren. They are soon reunited with Holly and Bluebell, also from the Sandleford Warren, who reveal that Fiver's vision was true and the entire warren was destroyed by humans.

Nuthanger Farm, Hampshire, England, in 2004.

Although Watership Down is a peaceful habitat, Hazel realises there are no does, thus making the future of their new home uncertain. With the help of a seagull named Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren, Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does. Hazel sends a small emissary to Efrafa to present their request for does. While waiting for the group to return, Hazel and Pipkin successfully raid the nearby Nuthanger Farm to rescue a group of hutch rabbits there, returning with two does. When the emissary returns, Hazel and his rabbits learn Efrafa is a tyrannical police state led by the despotic General Woundwort; Hazel's rabbits barely return alive. However, the group does manage to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay who wants to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join. Hazel and Bigwig devise a plan to rescue the group of rabbits from Efrafa to join them on Watership Down. The Efrafan escapees start their new life on Watership Down, but soon Woundwort's army arrives to attack the Watership Down warren. Through the bravery and loyalty of Bigwig and the ingenuity of Hazel, the Watership Down rabbits defeat Woundwort.

The story's epilogue tells the reader of how Hazel, dozing in his burrow one "chilly, blustery morning in March" many springs later, is visited by El-ahrairah, who invites Hazel to join his Owsla. Leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down with El-ahrairah, slipping away, "running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."


  • Fiver – A small runt rabbit whose name means, which means "Little-five" or "Little-thousand" (rabbits cannot count above four, so any number greater than that is "hrair," meaning "many" or "thousand" thus giving El-ahrairah [and Fiver, for example] the names elil-hrair-rah: Prince with a Thousand Enemies.). As a seer, he has visions and very strong instincts. Fiver is one of the most intelligent rabbits in the group. He is quiet and intuitive, and though he does not directly act as a leader, the others listen to and follow his advice.
  • Hazel – Fiver's brother; he leads the rabbits from Sandleford and eventually becomes Chief Rabbit. Though Hazel is not particularly large or powerful, he is loyal, brave, and a quick thinker. He often relies on Fiver's advice, and trusts in his brother's instincts absolutely.
  • Bigwig – An ex-Owsla officer, and the largest rabbit of the group. His name in Lapine is Thlayli, which literally means "Fur-head" and refers to the shock of fur on the back of his head. Though he is powerful and fierce, he is shown to also be cunning in his own way when he devises a plan to defeat the larger and stronger General Woundwort.
  • Blackavar – A rabbit with very dark fur who tries to escape from Efrafa but is apprehended, mutilated, and put on display to discourage further escape attempts. When he is liberated by Bigwig, he quickly proves himself as an expert tracker and ranger.
  • Kehaar – A black-headed gull who is forced, by an injured wing, to take refuge on Watership Down. He is characterised by his frequent impatience, guttural accent and unusual phrasing. After discovering the Efrafa warren and helping the rabbits, he rejoins his colony. According to Adams, Kehaar was based on a fighter from the Norwegian Resistance in World War II.[9]
  • General Woundwort – A vicious, psychotic and brutally efficient rabbit who was orphaned at a young age, Woundwort founded the Efrafa warren and is its tyrannical chief rabbit. Though he is greater even than Bigwig in terms of his size and power, he lacks the former's loyalty and kindness. He even leads an attack to capture the Watership warren as an act of revenge against Bigwig. After his apparent death, he lives on in rabbit legend as a bogeyman.
  • Frith – A god-figure who created the world and promised that rabbits would always be allowed to thrive. In Lapine, his name literally means "the sun."
  • El-ahrairah – A rabbit trickster folk hero, who is the protagonist of nearly all of the rabbits' stories. He represents what every rabbit wants to be: smart, devious, tricky, and devoted to the well-being of his warren. In Lapine, his name is a contraction of the phrase Elil-hrair-rah, which means "prince with a thousand enemies".
  • Black Rabbit of Inlé – A sinister phantom servant of the god Frith who appears in rabbit folklore. He is the rabbit equivalent of a grim reaper in human folklore, and similarly ensures all rabbits die at their pre-destined time. Inlé is the Lapine term for the moon or darkness.


Watership Down has been described as an allegory, with the labours of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and Silver "mirror[ing] the timeless struggles between tyranny and freedom, reason and blind emotion, and the individual and the corporate state."[10] Adams draws on classical heroic and quest themes from Homer and Virgil, creating a story with epic motifs.[11] Additionally, some scholars have criticized its representation of gender.

Religious symbolism

It has been suggested that Watership Down contains elements of Christian or anti-Christian symbolism, or that the stories of El-ahrairah were meant to mimic some elements of real-world religion. When asked in a 2007 BBC Radio interview about the religious symbolism in the novel, Adams stated that the story was "nothing like that at all". Adams said that the rabbits in Watership Down didn't worship, however, "they believed passionately in El-ahrairah". Adams explained that he meant the book to be, "only a made-up story... in no sense an allegory or parable or any kind of political myth. I simply wrote down a story I told to my little girls". Instead, he explained, the "let-in" religious stories of El-ahrairah were meant more as legendary tales, similar to a rabbit Robin Hood, and that these stories were interspersed throughout the book as humorous interjections to the often "grim" tales of the "real story".[12]

The hero, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid

The book explores the themes of exile, survival, heroism, political responsibility, and the "making of a hero and a community".[13] Joan Bridgman's analysis of Adams's work's in The Contemporary Review identifies the community and hero motifs: "[T]he hero's journey into a realm of terrors to bring back some boon to save himself and his people" is a powerful element in Adams's tale. This theme derives from the author's exposure to the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell, especially his study of comparative mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and in particular, Campbell's "monomyth" theory, also based on Carl Jung's view of the unconscious mind, that "all the stories in the world are really one story.".[11]

The concept of the hero has invited comparisons between Watership Down's characters and those in Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.[10] Hazel's courage, Bigwig's strength, Blackberry's ingenuity and craftiness, and Dandelion's and Bluebell's poetry and storytelling all have parallels in the epic poem Odyssey.[14] Kenneth Kitchell declared, "Hazel stands in the tradition of Odysseus, Aeneas, and others".[15] Tolkien scholar John Rateliff calls Adams's novel an Aeneid "what-if" book: what if the seer Cassandra (Fiver) had been believed and she and a company had fled Troy (Sandleford Warren) before its destruction? What if Hazel and his companions, like Aeneas, encounter a seductive home at Cowslip's Warren (Land of the Lotus Eaters)? Rateliff goes on to compare the rabbits' battle with Woundwort's Efrafans to Aeneas's fight with Turnus's Latins. "By basing his story on one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Adams taps into a very old myth: the flight from disaster, the heroic refugee in search of a new home, a story that was already over a thousand years old when Vergil [sic] told it in 19 BC."[1]

Gender roles

The 1993 Puffin Modern Classics edition of the novel contains an afterword by Nicholas Tucker, who wrote that stories such as Watership Down "now fit rather uneasily into the modern world of consideration of both sexes". He contrasted Hazel's sensitivity to Fiver with the "far more mechanical" attitude of the bucks towards does, who Tucker considers are portrayed as "little more than passive baby-factories".[16]

In "Male Chauvinist Rabbits," an essay originally published in the New York Times Book Review, Selma G. Lanes criticized Adams's treatment of gender. She observed that the first third of the story is a "celebration of male camaraderie, competence, bravery and loyalty as a scraggly bunch of yearling bucks ... arrive triumphant at a prospectively ideal spot", only to realize that they have no females for mating.[17] "Fully the last two-thirds of Adams's saga," Lanes argued, "is devoted to what one male reviewer has blithely labelled 'The Rape of the Sabine Rabbits,' a ruthless, single-minded and rather mean-spirited search for females – not because Watership Down's males miss their companionship or yearn for love, but rather to perpetuate the existing band."[17] For Adams, Lanes continued, the does are only "instruments of reproduction" to prevent the achievement of reaching Watership Down from "becoming a hollow victory."[17] As evidence, Lanes pointed to Hazel and Holly's assessment of the rescued Nuthanger does' value: "it came naturally ... to consider the two Nuthanger does simply as breeding stock for the warren."[18]

Lanes argued that this view of the female rabbits came from Adams himself rather than his source text, Ronald Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit. In Lockley's text, by contrast, the rabbit world is matriarchal, and new warrens are always initiated by dissatisfied, young females. Hence, Lanes concluded, Adams's novel is "marred by an attitude towards females that finds more confirmation in Hugh Hefner's Playboy than R. M. Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit."[19]

In similar vein, literary critic Jane Resh Thomas stated that Watership Down "draws upon ... an anti-feminist social tradition which, removed from the usual human context and imposed upon rabbits, is eerie in its clarity." Thomas did find much to admire about Watership Down, calling it a "splendid story". For her, its "anti-feminist bias ... damages the novel in only a minor way."[20] Yet she later explained: "I wrote about Watership Down because I was angry and hurt when I read the book. ... I felt he [Adams] had treated me and my kind with a contempt I couldn't be silent about."[21]

Adams' 1996 sequel, Tales from Watership Down includes stories where the does play a more prominent role in the Watership Down warren. It has been suggested that this might have been an attempt to modernise the story, to make it more politically correct and gender sensitive for the 1990s in which it was published.[22]


The Economist heralded the initial publication of Watership Down with, "If there is no place for “Watership Down” in children’s bookshops, then children’s literature is dead."[23] Peter Prescott, senior book reviewer at Newsweek, gave the novel a glowing review: "Adams handles his suspenseful narrative more dextrously than most authors who claim to write adventure novels, but his true achievement lies in the consistent, comprehensible and altogether enchanting civilisation that he has created."[13] Kathleen J. Rothen and Beverly Langston identified the work as one that "subtly speaks to a child", with "engaging characters and fast-paced action [that] make it readable."[14] This echoed Nicholas Tucker's praise for the story's suspense in the New Statesman: "Mr. Adams’ ... has bravely and successfully resurrected the big picaresque adventure story, with moments of such tension that the helplessly involved reader finds himself checking whether things are going to work out all right on the next page before daring to finish the preceding one."[24]

The "enchanting" world Prescott admired was not as well received upon its 1974 American publication. Although again the object of general approval, reception in the United States was more mixed unlike the predominantly positive reviews of 1972. D. Keith Mano, a science fiction writer and conservative social commentator writing in the National Review, declared that the novel was "pleasant enough, but it has about the same intellectual firepower as Dumbo." He pilloried it further: "Watership Down is an adventure story, no more than that: rather a swashbuckling, crude one to boot. There are virtuous rabbits and bad rabbits: if that’s allegory, Bonanza is an allegory."[25]

Despite the criticism, Watership Down was a hit with the reading public. The novel found a spot on the Publishers Weekly’s Best-Seller List in March 1974; it attained the number one ranking on 15 April 1974, and remained there for another three months. The book did not drop off the list until February 1975.[citation needed]

John Rowe Townsend notes that the book quickly achieved such a high popularity despite the fact that it, "came out at a high price and in an unattractive jacket from a publisher who had hardly been had heard of".[26] Fred Inglis, in his book The Promise of Happiness: Value and meaning in children's fiction, praises the author’s use of prose to express the strangeness of ordinary human inventions from the rabbits' perspective.[27]


Watership Down won both the Carnegie Medal in 1972 and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in 1973.[28][29] In The Big Read, a 2003 survey of the British public, it was voted the forty-second greatest book of all time.[30]



In 1978 Martin Rosen wrote and directed an animated film adaptation of Watership Down. The voice cast included John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne, and Roy Kinnear. The film featured the song "Bright Eyes", sung by Art Garfunkel. Released as a single, the song became a UK number one hit.[31]

Although the essentials of the plot remained relatively unchanged, the film omits several side plots. Though the Watership Down warren eventually grew to seventeen rabbits, with the additions of Strawberry, Holly, Bluebell, and three hutch rabbits liberated from the farm, the movie only includes a band of eight.[citation needed] Rosen's adaptation was praised for "cutting through Adams' book ... to get to the beating heart".[32]

The film has also seen some positive critical attention. In 1979 the film received a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[33] Additionally, Channel 4's 2006 documentary 100 Greatest Cartoons named it the 86th greatest cartoon of all time.[34]


From 1999 to 2001, the book was also adapted as an animated television series, broadcast on CITV in the UK and on YTV in Canada.[35] It starred several well-known British actors, including Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, Dawn French, John Hurt, and Richard Briers, and ran for a total of 39 episodes over three seasons. Although the story was broadly based on that of the novel, with most characters and many incidents retained, in later episodes especially some story lines and characters were entirely new. In 2003, the second season was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Series.[36]


In 2006, Watership Down was adapted into a theatrical production by Rona Munro for the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Directed by Melly Still, the cast included Matthew Burgess, Joseph Traynor, and Richard Simons, and ran from November 2006 through January 2007.[37] The tone of the production was inspired by the tension of war: in an interview with The Guardian, Still commented, "The closest humans come to feeling like rabbits is under war conditions ... We've tried to capture that anxiety."[38] A reviewer at The Times called the play "an exciting, often brutal tale of survival" and said that "even when it’s a muddle, it’s a glorious one."[39]

Role-playing game

Watership Down inspired the creation of Bunnies & Burrows, a role-playing game centred around talking rabbits, published in 1976 by Fantasy Games Unlimited.[40] It introduced several innovations to role-playing game design, being the first game to allow players to have non-humanoid roles, as well as the first with detailed martial arts and skill systems. Fantasy Games Unlimited published a second edition of the game in 1982, and the game was modified and republished by Steve Jackson Games as an official GURPS supplement in 1992.


American folk rock trio America performed a song titled "Watership Down", released by Warner Bros. Records in April 1976 on their Hideaway album. Composed by singer/songwriter Gerry Beckley, the song's lyrics refer obliquely to the story elements, including the phrase "you might hear them in the distance, if your ear's to the ground." Although the song did not chart, it did receive airplay on FM album rock stations during the year.

Swedish progressive rock musician Bo Hansson released Music Inspired by Watership Down in 1977.

The British electro group Ladytron shot a music video for their single "Ghosts," off their 2008 album Velocifero, which featured many references to Watership Down.

The experimental band Fall of Efrafa created a trilogy of albums collectively known as "The warren of snares" (Owsla, Elil and Inle) which was a loose interpretation of the political ideology and mythology of the book. Their lyrics and artwork contain many references to the source material, both the language and characters portrayed therein.

Other References

Watership Down has been referenced in other media, such as Stephen King's "The Stand" novel (One of the main characters, Stu Redman was mentioned in the beginning to have read Watership Down nonstop for two days straight, and King gave the book a mixed review in the reference) and ABC TV's show "Lost" (one of the main characters, Sawyer, was shown several times in the first season reading the book). The book (and its film adaption) are viewed and discussed in a scene in the movie Donnie Darko.


  1. ^ a b Rateliff, John D.. "Classics of Fantasy". Wizards of the Coast, Inc.. http://ww2.wizards.com/books/Wizards/default.aspx?doc=main_classicswatership. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  2. ^ a b c BBC Berkshire (2007-03-16). "Interview: Richard Adams". BBC.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/articles/2007/03/16/richard_adams_interview_feature.shtml. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  3. ^ Tales from Watership Down at the Internet Book List
  4. ^ Sally Eckhoff (1996-11-26). "Tales from Watership Down". Salon.com. http://dir.salon.com/story/books/review/1996/11/21/sneakpeeks/. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  5. ^ a b c Swaim, Don (1985-04-10). "Audio Interview with Richard Adams" (audio). Book Beat. CBS Radio Stations News Service. http://www.wiredforbooks.org/richardadams/. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  6. ^ Richard Adams (1972). Watership Down. United Kingdom: Rex Collings. 
  7. ^ a b Ronald Lockley: Find More Like This. 355. The Economist. 2000-04-29. pp. 84. "In 1964 he had published The Private Life of the Rabbit. This study of the habits of the wild rabbit gathered by Mr Lockley persuaded Richard Adams to write Watership Down, a kind of Disney story for adults, which became an immediate bestseller.". 
  8. ^ Douglas Martin (2000-04-04). "Ronald Lockley, of Rabbit Fame, Dies at 96". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3D91430F937A15757C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink. Retrieved 2008-04-26. "In his acknowledgments, Mr. Adams credited Mr. Lockley's book for his own description of bunny behavior in his tale of wandering rabbits." 
  9. ^ Introduction by Richard Adams in Watership Down, Scribner edition, USA 2005. ISBN 0-7432-7770-8.
  10. ^ a b "Watership Down", Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction Series, Salem Press, Inc., 1991 
  11. ^ a b Bridgman, Joan (August 2000). "Richard Adams at Eighty". The Contemporary Review (The Contemporary Review Company Limited) 277.1615: 108. ISSN 0010-7565. 
  12. ^ Interview: Richard Adams. BBC Berkshire Website. March 16, 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/articles/2007/03/16/richard_adams_interview_feature.shtml. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  13. ^ a b Prescott, Peter S. (1974-03-18). Rabbit, Read. Newsweek. pp. 114. 
  14. ^ a b Rothen, Kathleen J.; Beverly Langston (March 1987). "Hazel, Fiver, Odysseus, and You: An Odyssey into Critical Thinking". The English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) 76 (3): 56–59. ISSN 1544-6166. 
  15. ^ Kitchell, Jr., Kenneth F. (Fall 1986). "The Shrinking of the Epic Hero: From Homer to Richard Adams’s Watership Down". Classical and Modern Literature: A Quarterly 7 (1): 13–30. ISSN 0197-2227. 
  16. ^ Tucker, Nicholas (1993). "Afterword". In Richard Adams, Watership Down. London: Puffin Modern Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-036453-8. In later printings of the same edition, however, this part of the afterword is excised.
  17. ^ a b c Lanes, p. 196
  18. ^ Page 222 of the 1996 Simon and Schuster edition
  19. ^ Lanes, Selma (2004). Through the Looking Glass: Further Adventures and Misadventures in the Realm of Children's Literature. David R. Godine. , p. 198
  20. ^ Resh Thomas, Jane (4 August 1974). "Old Worlds and New: Anti-Feminism in Watership Down". The Horn Book L (4): 405–08. 
  21. ^ Quoted in Piehl, Kathy (Winter 1982). "Jane Resh Thomas: Feminist as Children's Book Reviewer, Critic, and Author". Children's Literature Association Quarterly 7 (4): 16–18. , p. 17
  22. ^ J. D. Biersdorfer (1996-12-01). "Books in Brief: Fiction". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9505EEDE113DF932A35751C1A960958260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink. 
  23. ^ Pick of the Warren. The Economist. 1972-12-23. pp. 47. 
  24. ^ Tucker, Nicholas (1972-12-22). Animal Epic. New Statesman. pp. 950. 
  25. ^ Mano, D. Keith (1974-04-26). Banal Bunnies. National Review. pp. 406. 
  26. ^ Townsend, John Rowe; Betsy Hearne, Marilyn Kaye (eds.) (1981). Celebrating Children's Books: Essays on Children's Literature in Honor of Zena Sutherland. New York: Lathrop, Lee, and Shepard Books. pp. 185. ISBN 0-688-00752-X. 
  27. ^ Inglis, Fred (1981). The Promise of Happiness: Value and meaning in children's fiction. Cambridge University Press. pp. 204–205. ISBN 0521231426. 
  28. ^ "The CILIP Carnegie Medal — Full List of Winners". CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards. 2007. http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/carnegie/full_list_of_winners.php. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  29. ^ "British Children's Literature Awards: Guardian Children's Prize for Fiction" (PDF). Burnaby Public Library. 2007. http://www.bpl.burnaby.bc.ca/gab/guardian.pdf. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  30. ^ "The Big Read: Top 100 Books". BBC. April 2003. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  31. ^ Collings, Stephen (2003-2008). accessdate = 2008-03-28 "Watership Down (1978)". BFI Screenonline. http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1266157/ accessdate = 2008-03-28. 
  32. ^ Phil Villarreal (2005-07-15). "Phil Villarreal's Review: Watership Down". Arizona Daily Star. http://azstarnet.com/sn/review/83996.php. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  33. ^ "1979 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. http://www.thehugoawards.org/?page_id=40. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  34. ^ "100 Greatest Cartoons". Channel 4. 2005-02-27. http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/G/greatest/cartoons/results.html. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  35. ^ Decode Entertainment. "Watership Down". http://www.decode.tv/index.php?sid=50
  36. ^ "Canada's Awards Database". Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. 2003. http://academy.ca/hist/history.cfm?categid=8002&shownum=18&winonly=0&awards=2&rtype=5&curstep=4. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  37. ^ "Christmas at the Lyric: Watership Down". Lyric Hammersmith. http://www.lyric.co.uk/pl191.html. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  38. ^ "Down the rabbit hole". The Guardian. 2006-11-22. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/feature/0,,1954016,00.html. Retrieved 2008-03-21. "The closest humans come to feeling like rabbits is under war conditions. Imagine what it would be like if every time we stepped out on the street, we know we could be picked off by a sniper. We've tried to capture that anxiety in the way the rabbits speak—lots of short, jerky sentences." 
  39. ^ Sam Marlowe (2006-11-29). "Watership Down". London: The Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article653369.ece. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  40. ^ GURPS Bunnies & Burrows (1992), Steve Jackson Games, ISBN 978-1-55634-237-0

External links

Preceded by
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Watership Down (film) article)

From Wikiquote

Watership Down is a 1978 animated film about a group of rabbits who flee their doomed warren and face many dangers to find and protect their new home.

Written and directed by Martin Rosen, based on the novel by Richard Adams.
All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and when they catch you, they will kill you... but first they must catch you.



  • Long ago, the great Frith made the world. He made all the stars, and the Earth lived among the stars. He made all the animals and birds, and at first, he made them all the same. Now, among the animals in these days was El-ahrairah, the prince of rabbits. He had many friends, and they all ate grass together. But after a time, the rabbits wandered everywhere, multiplying and eating as they went. Then Frith said to El-ahrairah, 'Prince Rabbit, if you cannot control your people, I shall find ways to control them.' But El-ahrairah would not listen. He said to Frith, 'My people are the strongest in the world.' This angered Frith, and he determined to get the better of El-ahrairah. And so, he gave a present to every animal and bird, making each one different from the rest. When the fox came, and others, like the dog, and cat, hawk, and weasel, to each of them, Frith gave a fierce desire to hunt and kill the children of El-ahrairah.
  • General Woundwort's body was never found. It could be that he still lives his fierce life somewhere else, but from that day on, mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them. Such was Woundwort's monument, and perhaps it would not have displeased him.
  • 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 a swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.


  • Hazel, look... the field... it's covered with blood!
  • Look. Look. That's the place for us. High, lonely hills, where the wind and the sound carry, and the ground's as dry as straw in a barn. That's where we ought to be. That's where we have to get to.


  • My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.
  • [to the cat] You look hungry! Rats getting too clever, I suppose?


  • [Hazel offers to help him] PISS OFF!!!
  • [about his injured wing] Damn cat jump me, farm cat.
  • Go away. Wing no good, but I walk... plenty good... [collapses] Is long way?
  • [Bigwig asks where he comes from] From Beeg, BEEG VAWTER! ("Big Water") My home near Beeg Vawter... Beeg Vawter... We go "Kehaaaaar"... "Kehaaaaaaaar"... "Kehaaaaar"...
  • YOU STUPID BUNNIES! You got no mates! Where are mates?! WHERE ARE CHICKS?! Plenty trouble for you! You need MATES!
  • You got no brains! You no plan! You need mates for plan! Listen - I got plan for you. Wing better. I go fly; fly for you. I find mates.
  • [about Bigwig] He tell me the plan?! I KNOW the plan!


  • Bigwig: [Mocking Fiver's prophecies] But I'm in a mist! Everything's bad! Oh, I've got a funny feeling in my toe!
  • General Woundwort: [after Kehaar attacks him] Get away, you damned white bird!
  • The Cat: [catching Hazel] Can you run? I think not... I think not...
  • Frith: All the world will be your enemy, Prince With 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.


Fiver: There's something very queer about the warren this evening...
Hazel: Is it dangerous?
Fiver: It's not exactly danger, it's... oh, I don't know. Something oppressive... like thunder.

Bigwig: Hazel? It is Hazel, isn't it?
Hazel: It is.
Bigwig: What are you doing here?
Hazel: [Motioning to Fiver] We want to see the chief rabbit, Bigwig.
Bigwig: We? You mean he wants to see him too?
Hazel: Yes.
Fiver: I must.
Hazel: Look, Bigwig, when have I EVER asked to see the chief rabbit?
Bigwig: [Thinks over, hesitating] All right, all right. Wait here.
[He goes into warren, speaks to Chief Rabbit for a moment, comes back up]
Bigwig: Come along then. Though I'll probably get my ears chewed off for this...

Violet: [Running from a badger] It had just killed. I saw blood on it's lips.
Dandelion: Lucky for us it had, otherwise it might have been quicker!

Bigwig: There's a dog loose in the woods!
Silver: Oh, that does it!

Pipkin: [while all are digging in the rain] What's happening back home, I wonder? Think, when we lived in our own burrows? Dry, soft, warm bodies...
Dandelion: [to Hazel] Look, we can't go on like this.
Silver: It keeps getting worse and worse wherever we go. Where ARE we going?
Hazel: It won't be much longer, then we can all rest.
Silver: How MUCH longer?
Pipkin: We never should have left.
Blackberry: Suppose Fiver's all wrong?
Pipkin: We want to go back and find out.
Hazel: Go back? After all we've been through?
Bigwig: And probably get killed for wounding Captain Holly? An Owsla officer? Talk sense, for Frith's sake!

Hazel: Where are you going?
Fiver: Away, to the hills.
Hazel: By yourself, alone? You'll die!
Fiver: You're closer to death than I am.

Hazel: [Bigwig is being strangled in a snare] Bigwig! Listen, you're in a snare! A snare! And what did they tell you in Owsla? Think!
[Hazel tries to chew the wire loose]
Bigwig: No good biting wire...

Fiver: [they believe Bigwig to be dead] You pay for it! The food, the warren! But no one must ever ask where anyone was or speak of the wires! The whole placed is snared! Everywhere, every day!
Silver: They left Bigwig to die!
Dandelion: Silver's right!
Silver: Let's drive them out, take their warren and live there ourselves!
Dandelion: Yes!
Blackberry: Back to the warren!
Pipkin: Yes! Yes! Yes, back to the warren!
Fiver: Embleer Frith, you fools! That warren's nothing but a death hole! Yes, let's help ourselves to a roof of bones!
Bigwig: [waking up, still choking] I'll kill them.

Holly: [to Fiver] I remember you. You're the one that saw it coming.
Pipkin: But what happened?
Holly: Our warren, destroyed!
Silver: Destroyed? How?
Holly: Men came. Filled in the burrows. Couldn't get out. There was a strange sound. Hissing. The air turned bad. Runs blocked with dead bodies. I couldn't get out. Everything turned mad. Warren, herbs, roots, grass, all pushed into the earth.
Hazel: Men have always hated us.
Holly: No. They just destroyed the warren because we were in their way.

Dandelion: [looking at the countryside from Watership Down] O Frith on the hills! He made it all for us!
Hazel: Frith may have made it, but Fiver found it.

[The rabbits first meet Kehaar the seagull]
Hazel: Are you hurt?
Kehaar: KAH, KAH!
Hazel: Bigwig, I've got an idea. See if you can find some worms--
Bigwig: Worms? What for, for Frith's sake?
Kehaar: [fiercely proud] I get up plenty soon!
Hazel: Well if he's hurt, maybe we ought to help him.
Bigwig: A bird? What for?
Hazel: [to Kehaar] We - help - you.
Kehaar: PISS OFF!!!

[After the rabbits decide to ask Kehaar to find mates for them]
Kehaar: [sitting and musing in a burrow] What home? This hole? Where are mates? Where are chicks? Mate make eggs, mate sit on eggs, hatch eggs, many eggs. We feed chicks. Egg robbers come, we fight.
[Bigwig pounces on him from behind to get his attention]
Kehaar: YAAAAAAAAAH, YAAAAAAAAAAH!!! KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH!!! YOU STUPID BUNNIES! You got no mates! Where are mates?! WHERE ARE CHICKS?! Plenty trouble for you! You need MATES!
Bigwig: [whispering] It's working, Hazel.
Kehaar: You got no brains! You no plan! You need mates for plan! Listen - I got plan for you. Wing better. I go fly; fly for you. I find mates.
Hazel: What a splendid idea, Kehaar!
Blackberry: How clever of you to think of it. You very fine bird.

Blackberry: Fiver, there's been some trouble. Hazel's been shot.
Fiver: No.
Blackberry: The Black Rabbit serves Lord Frith, but he does no more than his appointed task.
Fiver: Hazel's not dead.

Hazel: Did you find anything on your flight?
Kehaar: Efrafa.
Hazel: Can you guide us there?
Kehaar: Many rabbits. Too many rabbits.
Holly: The whole lot of us wouldn't be enough to fight one of their wide patrols.
Bigwig: What do you mean?
Holly: [shows Bigwig the scar on his shoulder] You see this? They did it to me. It's an identification mark. Tells you when you can be above ground.
Bigwig: What do you mean? Who's to stop you?
Holly: Their Owsla. Their chief is called Woundwort. General Woundwort. I don't think even you'd match up to him, Bigwig. Under him are captains, each one in charge of a Mark. If you're found above ground at the wrong time they take you before the Council for punishment.
Bigwig: Some of them must get away.
Holly: They caught one trying to run away when I was there. Blackavar was his name. When they'd finished with him, both his ears were ripped to shreds worse than this one of mine. He was lucky not to have been killed. There was another one, a doe, Hyzenthlay. I couldn't have escaped without her help.
Dandelion: Why didn't she go with you?
Holly: She wouldn't go without the others.
Hazel: Then there are some that might be persuaded to leave?
Holly: Oh, yes. But you'd never get them out of Efrafa.
Dandelion: Well, you got out.
Holly: Only because Lord Frith sent one of his great messengers. [a flashback shows Holly running away from two Efrafans, the Efrafans are run over by a train and Holly rolls down a steep slope] I didn't see what happened to them. It must have cut them down.
Hazel: Well, it's not going to be easy, but I'm afraid we don't have much choice. We'll start off as soon as I'm fit to travel.
Holly: I don't like this idea of yours at all, Hazel.
Hazel: Holly, I want you to stay here. You're known to them and it could be dangerous for you.
Holly: I've been in Efrafa, and I tell you you're making a bad mistake that might very well get you all killed.

Bigwig: Hyzenthlay.
Hyzenthlay: Sir?
Bigwig: I'd like to talk with you.
Hyzenthlay: I'm in the Mark and under your orders, sir.
Bigwig: Do you remember a pale grey rabbit called Holly you helped escape some while ago?
Hyzenthlay: You've made a mistake, sir.
Bigwig: Listen, Hyzenthlay. Listen carefully. I'm from a warren where life is free. Where you can do is as you wish. I've come to bring you all out of Efrafa.
Hyzenthlay: You might be a spy, sent by the Council.
Bigwig: You know I'm not. Will you join us? And persuade your friends as well, trust me. My friends are not far away.
Hyzenthlay: [Voice is breaking] My courage, my... spirit is so much less than it was.
Bigwig: We can escape Efrafa. Believe me.
Hyzenthlay: Yes... I think I do.

Bigwig: Aren't you going to silflay?
Blackavar: I don't silflay at this time, sir.
Chervil: Tell him why you're here, Blackavar.
Blackavar: [Mumbles] I've come here for the Mark...
[Chervil swipes at him to make him speak up, and he does]
Blackavar: I... I... I've come here for the Mark to see me. I... I've been punished for trying to leave the warren.
[Chervil glares]
Blackavar: The Council were merciful...
[Chervil threatens him again, and Blackavar cowers]
Blackavar: The Council were merciful.
Chervil: He keeps trying to run away. Captain Campion caught him this time. The Council ripped his ears and says he has to show himself every morning early silflay as an example to the others. If you ask me, he won't last much longer. He'll meet a blacker rabbit than himself one of these nights.

Bigwig: [meeting secretly with Kehaar, whispering] Listen carefully.
Kehaar: [none too quietly] YAAAAAAH!
Bigwig: Shhhh!

Hyzenthlay: Sometimes I can tell when things are true. Sometimes... I can see it... The high down with trees, and... [shakes head] I've become foolish.
Bigwig: [referring to Fiver] You'll have to meet this friend of mine. He talks just like that.

Campion: The new officer, sir. He's gone.
General Woundwort: Bigwig?
Campion: He's wounded Chervil, taken a crowd of the Mark with him.
General Woundwort: Embleer Frith! I'll blind him. I'LL BLIND HIM!

[Confronting Bigwig leading a mass defection of Efrafans]
General Woundwort: Bigwig, you traitorous...! [to a subordinate] Captain, get this miserable group back to their Marks. I'll settle you myself, Bigwig. There's no need to take you back.
Bigwig: Come on and try, you cracked-brain slave driver!
Kehaar: KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!! KAH, KAH, KAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!! [swoops down and attacks Woundwort]

General Woundwort: You were one of those on the riverbank. Did Bigwig send you?
Hazel: I'm a friend of Bigwig's.
General Woundwort: What was left unfinished on the riverbank will be finished now.
Hazel: It would be better for both of us if we could come to terms.
General Woundwort: Terms?... Very well. These are my terms. Hand over all the deserters immediately.
Hazel: We couldn't agree to that. But I can suggest something better, for both of us--
General Woundwort: [dangerous] You're in no position to bargain.
Hazel: We shouldn't be fighting each other. We have enough enemies as it is. Perhaps we should be together. A joining of free, independent warrens.
[Woundwort considers this]
General Woundwort: ... Ah, I have no time for this nonsense!
Campion: Shall I kill him, sir?
General Woundwort: No. [to Hazel] You take back our terms. And you tell your chief, Bigwig, that if he and Hyzenthlay and the others aren't waiting outside when I come for them, I'll tear out every throat in the place!

Hazel: Lord Frith, I know you've looked after us well, and it's wrong to ask even more of you. But my people are in terrible danger, and so I would like to make a bargain with you. My life in return for theirs.
Frith: There is not a day or night when a mother doe does not offer her life for her kittens, or an honest captain of Owsla his life for his chief's. But there is no bargain. What is, is what must be.

[After they've been fighting]
Bigwig: I told you once that I was trying to impress you... I hope I have.
General Woundwort: And I told you I would kill you myself! There's no white bird here, Bigwig!

General Woundwort: Why throw your life away?
Bigwig: Hraka, ... sir!
General Woundwort: Come out!
Bigwig: My chief has told me to defend this run.
General Woundwort: [Stunned] Your ... chief?

[Campion and the other Efrafans see the dog that Hazel and the others have unleashed on them]
Campion: Run! Run for your lives! Run!
[Woundwort emerges from the hole and sees his soldiers fleeing at the sight of the dog]
General Woundwort: Come back! Come back, you fools!
Campion: Run!
General Woundwort: Come back! Come back and fight! Dogs aren't dangerous!
[the dog drops a dead Efrafan and then comes after Woundwort, who lunges]

Black Rabbit: Hazel... Hazel... you know me, don't you?
Hazel: I don't know.
[The apparition reveals himself to be the Black Rabbit, and Hazel gasps]
Hazel: Yes, my lord. I know you.
Black Rabbit: I've come to ask if you'd like to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you, and I know you'd like it. You've been feeling tired, haven't you? If you're ready, we might go along now.
[Hazel looks at all the younger rabbits of Watership Down]
Black Rabbit: You needn't worry about them. They'll be all right, and thousands like them. If you come along now, I'll show you what I mean.

Major cast

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File:Watership Down.gif
The real Watership Down, near the Hampshire village of Kingsclere, in 1975

Watership Down is a novel written by Richard Adams. It tells the story of rabbits and their adventures concerning their warren at a hill in the north of Hampshire, England known as Watership Down.

In this fantasy novel, rabbits of human intelligence are shown in their natural environment. They have a culture, a language, proverbs, poetry and mythology.

It was published in the United Kingdom by Rex Collings Ltd in 1972 and it has never since been out of print.[1]



  • Hazel- The main character. He is at first the only rabbit who trusts his brother Fiver. He becomes the leader of the rabbits when they reach Watership Down. He is thought dead when he is shot during the raid on the farm, but Fiver saves him. In the final chapter, he dies of old age-an unusual occurrence-and is taken away by El-ahrairah to join his Owsla.
  • Fiver – A small, runt rabbit; his Lapine name is Hrairoo, which means "Little-five" or "Little-thousand" (rabbits are stated to be capable of counting only up to four, so there are no specific numerical fixes beyond four). He is a seer (and presumably a prophet of the rabbit god Lord Frith), and his visions of the destruction of the Sandleford warren lead him to leave, along with his brother Hazel and several other rabbits. His visions are almost always centered on Hazel, saving him from the snared warren and dying from a gunshot wound. He also gives Hazel a vision that inspires Hazel to set up the release of the Nuthanger Farm dog to save the Watership Down warren from General Woundwort.
  • Bigwig – A rabbit who was formerly an officer in the Sandleford Owsla. His name in Lapine is Thlayli, which means "Fur-head" and refers to the shock of fur on the back of his head. The largest and most powerful of the Sandleford survivors in terms of brute strength, he is often blunt and impatient for dangerous action and fighting. He quickly befriends Kehaar and often asks for his help on Hazel's behalf.
  • General Woundwort – The Chief Rabbit of Efrafa who serves as the primary antagonist. He is a hard and brutally efficient rabbit who was orphaned at a young age and founded the Efrafa warren. He is described as the largest rabbit anyone has ever seen, and thought by Holly to be the one rabbit that is more than a match for Bigwig. In the television series and the movie, Woundwort is blind in his left eye.


Fiver, a rabbit with a gft for seeing the future, living at Sandleford Warren, envisions his home being destroyed by a land developer. He convinces his brother, Hazel to talk to the Chief Rabbit, Threarah about leaving the Warren, however, the Chief Rabbit has no intention of leaving. Hazel, Fiver, and nine other rabbits then set off in search of a new home (at the time, merely off of the basis of Fiver's dreams that a good home awaits them somewhere far away).

They travel through forests, fields, over rivers, and roads filled with hrududu's (cars) before tiredness forces them to stop at a warren headed by a rabbit named Cowslip. After much debate, the rabbits tentatively agree to stay at Cowslips warren. The warren however, feels wrong to them (especially Fiver) due to the other rabbit's strange customs.

They soon find out that the strange actions that Cowslip's rabbits are showing is due to the fact that they are merely being fed and taken care of by a farmer so that he kill them off, one by one, for food. They leave Cowslip's warren, although Bigwig nearly dies on the way.

They keep going until they arrive at the site of Watership Down, a high hill that is far from man and full of good food and safety. After a day or two at their good land that Fiver had promised them, Hazel is named the unofficial chief rabbit of Watership Down. However, Hazel realizes that there are no does among them, and they cannot have a healthy warren of rabbits without does.

Hazel later rescues a big gull named Kehaar, who has been injured by a cat. After nursing Kehaar back to health, Keharr agrees to help the rabbits for the time being in return for their kindness toward him. After being asked by Hazel to perform a scout of the area, Kehaar locates a large warren called Efrafa to the South of their position. After hearing that Efrafa is large and overcrowded, Hazel sends four rabbits to Efrafa to ask if they could bring back some does to their warren.

However, Efrafa, being a large warren with too many rabbits, is tightly controlled by a rabbit named General Woundwort and his massive military. Each rabbit is told when are where they are allowed to eat, sleep and more. Nothing happens without the Generals consent, including leaving the warren. The four rabbits barely run away after playing a trick on an Efrafan Captain.

At the same time that the four rabbits are at Efrafa, Hazel leads a small group to look into Kehaar's report that there is a farm with a few hutch rabbits, including does. After a few raids, the Watership rabbits break a few hutch rabbits out of the farm, but Hazel is shot on the way out. Fiver has a vision where Hazel is, though, and Hazel is found and returned to health.

Now hearing how Efrafa is, the weakened Hazel decides to free the rabbits from Efrafa. The entire party of Watership rabbits travel carefully to the edges of Efrafa. Under the guise of a wandering loner, Bigwig infiltrates Efrafa as an officer of their Owsla. Secretly, however, Bigwig is helping get rabbits to help with the break out. He meets Hyzenthlay and Thethunninnang, two does who tell him that, if he has a working plan, they and a few other rabbits will attempt the escape with him.

After nearly having to fight General Woundwort, Bigwig and the does break out of Efrafa with Kehaar's help. Of course this break out is noticed by the guards, and soon the General himself and his small army catch up Bigwig and the runaway rabbits. They get away only because Kehaar attacks Woundwort. Woundwort keep chasing the rabbits to a stream, and the rabbits escape on a small boat. Two does die on the way to Watership Down, but most rabbits make it there safely.

The rabbits are glad to see the new rabbits. However, a field mouse warns the rabbits that General Woundwort and a small strike team are coming. The General then attacks the warren in the night as the Watership Rabbits head to their deepest burrows, blocking off the tunnels in an attempt to hold off the Efrafans.

While in a burrow, Fiver passes out as too many visions come to him at once. Meanwhile, Hazel, has a vision of how to stop the Efrafans. Hazel tells Bigwig to stay there and fight and he takes Blackberry and Dandelion out of the burrow. Hazel's plan is to use the dog at the nearby Nuthanger farm to defeat the Efrafans.

Hazel's plan works, however Bigwig and Hazel are hurt in the process. General Woundwort disappears, never to be seen again. Captain Campion and the other attackers go back to Efrafa, where Campion becomes Chief Rabbit.

Hazel lives a long life as Chief Rabbit of Watership Down, while his warren prospers peacefully. Fiver recovers and Bigwig becomes the respected captain of the guard.


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