I first read Watership Down by Richard Adams when I was in grade school. I remembered it as being a pretty hefty book, but one that kept me spellbound. I read it at an age when I was just learning to how to read for deeper meaning and was rewarded with an extraordinarily rich experience. When my own children reached that age, it was one of the books I couldn't wait to read with them. They both loved it, and I fell in love with the book all over again.
As it opens, the heroes of the story, two brothers, Fiver and Hazel, have emerged from their warren for their evening grazing. Fiver has a terrifying vision. He senses impending doom. Vague though this is, he is so certain and so terrified that he convinces Hazel they must leave immediately. They gather up a tiny group who are willing to follow them either because they have become disaffected with the warren or because they trust Hazel and find Fiver’s fear contagious. Among these is a large, strong rabbit named Bigwig. He’s a member of the Chief Rabbit’s police force, a position of privilege in the old warren, but he is willing to leave and start anew. Bigwig becomes one of the most critical members of the group, but each rabbit has his own unique personality and they all make important contributions on the journey.
The group embarks on a search for a new home. They undergo a series of adventures that teach them about themselves, about cooperation, and about the essential nature of rabbitness. The adventures drive the story and are compelling enough to entrance children and adults. The characters, even though they are rabbits, are so well developed that they capture your heart. It’s the type of story you won’t want to see end.
Watership Down is truly one of my favorite books of all time.