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Tales from Watership Down

Tales from Watership Down

3.9 21
by Richard Adams

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Watership Down was one of this century's best-loved works of imaginative literature. Now Richard Adams returns, to tell us what happened to the rabbits after their defeat of General Woundwort.

Tales From Watership Down begins with some of the great folk stories well known to all rabbits. Then we listen in as Dandelion, the rabbits' master


Watership Down was one of this century's best-loved works of imaginative literature. Now Richard Adams returns, to tell us what happened to the rabbits after their defeat of General Woundwort.

Tales From Watership Down begins with some of the great folk stories well known to all rabbits. Then we listen in as Dandelion, the rabbits' master storyteller, relates the thrilling adventures experienced by Al-ahrairah, the mythical rabbit hero, and his stalwart, Rabscuttle, during the long journey home after their terrible encounter with the Black Rabbit of Inlé (as narrated in Watership Down). Finally, in the principal part of the book, we are told eight enchanting stories about the rabbits of the Down— Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and their companions—including the impact on the warren of the obsessive doe Flyairth, and the appointment of Hyzenthlay as a female Chief Rabbit and partner to Hazel.

All listners— the millions who remember Watership Down with the deepest affection, and also those for whom this volume will be their first encounter with the rabbits— will find these nineteen tales utterly compelling, the fruit of Richard Adams spellbinding narrative power and ability to conjure up a world that is at the same time both real and unreal.

Editorial Reviews

Sally Eckhoff

To those with an aversion to fairy stories, fake mythological lingo, and anything that anthropomorphizes animals, here's a book to make you swallow your doubts. Tales from Watership Down is a marvel. It consists of 19 stories, ostensibly about rabbits but actually concerning aspects of life - some mystical, some practical - that are traditionally hard to pin down. Hard, that is, Adams seems to argue, unless you're as sensitive as only a rabbit can be.

Adams is best known for two earlier books, Watership Down and The Plague Dogs, and for the films made from them. (He is also the author of Traveler, a moving and perceptive biography of Robert E. Lee's legendary war horse.) None of these quite convey the striking and often scary atmosphere he brings to this new collection, a full 20 years after we last heard from him.

Aside from the rabbits' vocabulary, which can be distracting, there's nothing prissy or inconsequential here. Adams clearly understands a great deal about rabbits, surely among God's poor because, as the old saw goes, He made so many of them. Rabbits are not only prey to what Adams calls "the thousand enemies," but to the cruel whims of the seasons. But few people can conjure up weather like Adams can, and hardly anybody has ever made an overgrown field in England sound so gorgeous and full of promise.

Rabbits' lives don't really have a point to them, not in any way people understand. Adams concerns himself instead with aspects of destiny that have to do with mysticism and nature - stuff we think we understand but really don't. The pure, unfamiliar feelings evoked in "The Story of the Three Cows" and in the gory "The Hole in the Sky" - just two of the stories here - persist for quite a while after you've finished reading them. How often do you get to step inside a wounded rabbit's delirium, or taste "the blessing of the years," a small animal's dreams of youth? And a laugh-out-loud nonsense yarn by a rabbit named Speedwell, with its crocus boats and sky-blue horses, may be the best carrot of all. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As readers of Watership Down (1974) will recall, Adams reached classic heights of inspired storytelling in that fable of the animal kingdom, performing a finely calibrated juggling act between the real and the imagined. These 19 interrelated tales continue the adventures of the rabbits met in the earlier book, after their defeat of General Woundwart and the Efrafans. The deeds of the hero El-ahrairah are celebrated in the seven stories of Part One (of three). El-ahrairah's stalwart companion Rabscuttle joins him for four tales in Part Two, while the remaining stories, which are devoted to Hazel and his rabbits, have the continuity of a novel. Mystical, occasionally allegorical, full of whimsy, rich in vivid descriptions of the rabbits' society and of the natural world, the tales are often suspenseful, frequently amusing and invariably clever. The rabbits exhibit a wide range of behavior, showing themselves to be manipulative, defiant, ignorant and self-satisfied, along with noble, loving and brave. There is a brief summation of what happened in the initial passages of the first tale, but from there on, the book stands on its own. El-ahrairah's heroic exploits include his perilous journey to obtain a sense of smell for all rabbits and his search for eternal youth, while his adventures with Rabscuttle find them both leading another group of rabbits across a dangerous marsh as they attempt to evade an army of rapacious, savage rats. Eventually, a new warren is founded and various other ones reconfigure and recombine. The collection comes to a satisfying close by ending, as it began, with an account of the bold deeds of another heroic rabbit, formerly an enemy, now a valued member of the new warren. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Library Journal
This is Adams's long-anticipated encore to Watership Down (LJ 4/15/74), the enormously popular novel of rabbit life and adventure. With the small collection of self-contained short stories, plus a minisequel, fans and newcomers alike will marvel at Adams's singularly crafted world. Most of the stories follow the mythical adventures of El-ahrairah, a legendary rabbit hero whose quests of a bygone era served to furnish his species with, among other things, the common tools of survival, such as the sense of smell. Other, less fantastical tales, update the lives of the rabbits following General Woundwort's defeat at the end of Watership Down. As with the original novel, Adams avoids mere anthropomorphism, equipping the rabbits with their own unique characteristics. Sure to appeal to readers of every type, this is highly recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/96.] John Noel, Tennessee Tech Univ. Lib., Lebanon
School Library Journal
YA-A delightful collection of 24 tales for readers who enjoyed the fantastical warren of Watership Down popularized so many years ago, or who just want an uplifting and heartwarming animal story. A glossary lists rabbit words found throughout the tales, but readers can readily understand these terms in context. The collection is divided into three parts: traditional tales that help to explain how things came to be in the rabbit world; some of the adventures encountered by El-aharairah (rabbit folk hero) and his comrades on their return trip home after defeating the Black Rabbit of Inle; and a continuation of the story of Watership Down and its many inhabitants. Familiar characters reappear: Hazel, Bigwig, Dandelion, Bluebell, and Campion. Events from the earlier novel are referred to-the encounter with General Woundwort, the destruction of Efrafa, and the establishment of Watership Down-but knowledge of them is not necessary to appreciate this book. Substitute human experiences for the rabbits' and the simple action becomes the stuff of fable, and an allegory of humankind. While younger children will enjoy the surface tales, more mature readers will understand the underlying themes.-Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
From the Publisher
“Utterly captivating.” —People 
“A return to the rabbit world so memorably conjured by Richard Adams in Watership Down. . . . Affectionate, compelling, and oddly convincing.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“An exercise in enchantment. . . . Adams is a master of characterization and description—and his rabbit vocabulary is priceless. . . . Tales From Watership Down is the sort of work that can transport the reader to a parallel existence.” —The Baltimore Sun
“It’s grand to see Mr. Adams’s characters again.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Lyrically written. . . . This will be a sure hit with all those who have loved the first book.” —Booklist

Product Details

Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

1. The Sense of Smell

“…noses have they, but they smell not.”
—Psalm 115
“Who dares wins.”
—Motto of the special air service
“Tell us a story, Dandelion!”
It was a fine May evening of the spring following the defeat of General Woundwort and the Efrafans on Watership Down. Hazel and several of his veterans—those who had been with him ever since leaving Sandalford—were lying on the warm turf, full of grass and comfortably relaxed. Nearby, Kehaar was pecking among the low tussocks, not so much feeding as using up the day’s remains of his continual, relentless energy.
The rabbits had been chatting together, recalling some of their grand adventures of the previous year: how they had left the Sandleford warren under fiver’s warning of imminent disaster; how they had first come to Watership Down and dug their new warren, only to realize that there was not a single doe among them. Hazel had recalled the ill-judged raid on Nuthanger Farm, in which he had nearly lost his life. This had reminded several of them of their journey to the great river, and Bigwig had told yet again of the time he had spent in Efrafa as a supposed officer of General Woundwort; and how he had persuaded Hyzenthlay to form the group of does who had broken out in the thunderstorm. Blackberry had tried but could not explain his trick with the boat, which had enabled them to escape down the river. Bigwig, however, had refused to tell of his underground fight with General Woundwort, insisting that he wanted only to forget it; so instead, Dandelion had recounted how the Nuthanger dog, let loose by Hazel, had pursued him and Blackberry into the midst of the Efrafans gathered on the Down. He had hardly finished, when there arose the well-worn cry: “Tell us a story, Dandelion! Tell us a story!”
Dandelion did not respond immediately, seemingly reflecting as he nibbled the grass and took a few hops to a sunnier patch before settling himself again. At length he replied, “I think I’ll tell you a new story this evening; one that you’ve never heard before. It’s about one of the greatest of all adventurers of El-ahrairah.”
He paused, sitting up and rubbing his front paws over his nose. No one hurried the master storyteller, who appeared, by taking him time, to be rather relishing his standing among the group. A light breeze stirred the grass, and a lark, ending its song, dropped down near them, paused for a time and then began another ascent.
There was a time (said Dandelion), long ago, when rabbits had no sense of smell. They lived as they do now, but to have no sense of smell was a terrible disadvantage. Half the pleasure of a summer morning was lost to them, and they couldn’t pick out their food in the grass until they actually bit into it. Worst ofall, they couldn’t smell their enemies coming, and this meant that many rabbits fell victim to stoats and foxes.
Now, El-ahrairah perceived that although his rabbits had no sense of smell, their enemies and other creatures—even the birds—possessed it, and he determined that he would seek out that extra sense and win it for his people, whatever the cost. He began to seek advice everywhere he could, asking where the sense of smell was to be found. But no one knew, until at last he asked a very od, wise rabbit in his warren, named Heartsease.
“I can only recall that when I was young, “ said Heartsease, “our warren gave shelter to a wounded swallow—one who had traveled far and wide. He pitied us because we had no sense of smell, and he told us that the way to the sense of smell lies through a land of perpetual darkness, where it is guarded, he said, by a band of fierce and dangerous creatures known as the Ilips, who live in a cave. More than this he did not know.”
El-ahrairah thanked Heartsea and, after deliberating for a long time, when to see Prince Rainbow. He told him that he meant to go to that land and asked him for his advice.
“You had much better not attempt it, El-ahrairah,” said Prince Rainbow. “How do you think you are going to find your way through a land of perpetual darkness to a place you don’t know? Even I have never been there, and what’s more, I don’t intend ever to do so. You’ll only be throwing your life away.”
“It’s for my people,” replied El-ahrairah. “I’m not prepared to see them hunted down day after day for want of a sense of smell. Is there no advice you can give me?”
“Only this,” said Prince Rainbow. “Don’t tell anyone that you meet on your journey why you are going. There are some very strange creatures in that country, and if it were to become known that you had no sense of smell. It might well be the worse for you. Invent some purpose. Wait—I’ll give you this astral collar to wear around your neck. It was a gift to me from Lord Frith. It may just possibly help you.”
El-ahrairah thanked Prince Rainbow, and the next day he set out. When at length he came to the border of the land of perpetual darkness, he found that it began with twilight, which deepened until all around was dark. He could not tell which wa to go, and what was worse, he could form no sense of direction, so that for all he knew, he might be going in circles. He could hear other creatures moving in the dark around him, and as far as he could tell, they seemed to know what they were doing. But were they friendly. And would it be safe to talk to any of them? At last, in sheer desperation, he sat down in the dark and waited in silence until he heard come creature moving nearby. Then he said, “I’m lost and confused. Can you help me?”
He heard the creature stop, and after a few moments it replied in a strange but just understandable tongue. “Why are you lost? Where have you come from and where do you want to go?”
“I’ve come from a land where they have daylight,” answered El-ahrairah, “and I’m lost because I can’t see and I’m not used to this darkness.”
“But can’t you smell your way? We all can.”
El-ahrairah was about to answer that he had no sense of smell, but then he remembered Prince Rainbow’s warning. So he said, “I’m afraid the smells are all different here. They only confuse me.”
“So you’ve no idea what sort of creature I am, for instance?”
“Not the least. But you don’t seem fierce, that’s one blessing.”
El-ahrairah heard the creature sit down. After a little, it said, “I’m a glanbrin. Are there any where you come from?”
“No. I’m afraid I’ve never heard of a glanbrin. I’m a rabbit.”
I’ve never heard of a rabbit. Let me sniff you over.”
El-ahrairah kept as still as he could while the creature, which was furry and seemed to be about the same size as himself, sniffed him over carefully from head to foot. At last it said, “Well, you seem to be very much the same sort of animal as I am.  You’re not a beast of pretty and you obviously have a very strong sense of hearing. What do you eat?”
“There isn’t any here. Grass won’t grow in the dark. We eat roots. But I think you and I are very much alike. Don’t you want to have a sniff too?”
El-ahrairah pretended to sniff all over the glanbrin. In doing so, he found that it had no eyes; that is, what might have been its eyes were hard, small land sunken, almost lost in its head. But for all that, he thought, “Well, if this isn’t some sort of rabbit, then I’m a badger.” He said, “I don’t believe there’s anything much to choose between us, except that I…” He was about to say “can’t smell” but checked himself and finished, “that I’m utterly confused and lost in this darkness.”

Meet the Author

Richard Adams is the author of many bestselling novels, including Watership Down (1974), Shardik (1976), The Plague Dogs (1978), The Girl in a Swing (1980), Maia (1985), and Traveller (1988), as well as several works of nonfiction, including his autobiographical The Day Gone By (1991). The winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award for Children’s Literature, he currently lives in Hampshire, England.

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Tales from Watership Down 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
StefanYates More than 1 year ago
Tales from Watership Down is a collection of legends and short stories that flesh out the history of the rabbits of Watership Down and continue their story after the events of the original novel. I personally had never read any of Richard Adams works prior to this (I have seen the animated film adaptation of Watership Down however, so was fairly familiar with the events and plot.) I was very impressed with how quickly I was drawn into Adams' world. His writing style is very easy to slip into and I found this collection of tales extremely difficult to put down. Mr. Adams has created a social world amongst his rabbits that is as totally believable and feels as fleshed out as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, albeit Adams world only exists in the one novel and this compilation of short stories. I don't know why I've never read any of his works before as they have always been favorites of my step-father and accessible to me throughout my lifetime, but now that I have sampled his writing, I'm more than eager to delve into more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and the first one! I think its funny how the bunnies have thier own religion. My favorite characters are El-aharia(i probably mispelled that), bigwig, and blackberry and pimpkin. But its sooo sad how hazel dies at the end of the first book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
not quite as good as the first book but still great. fans of watership down will almost certainly love it.(be sure to read 'speedwell's story'!)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Aside from one or two bits, I must cofess that I was extremely disappointed in this book. I felt that in an attempt to add on to an already complete story, Richard Adams got to modern and ceased to remain true to his original characters. It does however include the complete story of 'The Fox And The Water' that Bluebell tells the to rest of the rabbits when Efrafa is attacking the warren. So it's probably worth at least one read if you are a real Watership fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some deatils shold show up in the first but don't
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful and thrilling book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His name is El-arairah.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love rabbits and watership down, so i think that the book is great!!! It is sometimes a little boring, but i think that this is an awesome book becauz the bunnies have their own belif, just like us. This book is my third fav. BOOK. Children in third grade might not like it ( and im saying MIGHT). This book was totaly exsiteing for me, and at night i did not want to stop reading it!! Like i said, it was an awesome book and i loved it, but it was boring in some parts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For the people talking about reading it to thr children, this is a book mostly for adults. Kids might not want to get tjis read to them because theyre just kids! I read ths book in just two days in fourth grde and understood it perfectly. So stop complaining about how its a horrible read for children. It is the best book ever and I would suggest it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like this book. At times it was slightly dullish, it was well wrote. I liked part 2 the best because it contunes the first book with a new tale. So pleade read the whole book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I love the 1st book.This was so dissapointing and boring.I thought it was gonna be like watership down not just them telling stories of what happened in the 1st book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tales From Watership Down is a (for lack of a better word) different book. I loved it because it doesn't really have a plot. It's just some more stories about my favorite character, El-ahrairah. Richard Adams has, once again, provided readers of all ages a truthful book about how rabbits actually live(apart from the speaking and the lapine religion stuff).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book because it opened my heart and it is amazing how rabbits live!! I am an animal lover and I lovee it so much!! You really must keeping making them!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you read WATERSHIP DOWN, you should read the long awaited sequel, TALES FROM WATERSHIP DOWN.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a really great book. The perfect sequel to WATERSHIP DOWN.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rabbits seem to have their own way to live in a civilized world. The way these rabbits have such good freindships among one another really brings this book together as a group of rabbits that sit around and tell stories of other rabbits and what the other rabbits have done. There are some really fasinating stories told by the rabbits that are unbeleiveable. This is a story book for young kids and should be read to young kids. But I would'nt pick this book to read to one of my kids. It's not an exciting book at all.