Watership Down

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Overview

First published in 1972, Richard Adam's extraordinary bestseller Watership Down takes us to a world we have never truly seen:  to the remarkable life that teems in the fields, forests, and riverbanks, far beyond our cities and towns.  It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership, and survival; and epic tale of a hardy band of Berkshire rabbits forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream ...

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Watership Down: A Novel

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Overview

First published in 1972, Richard Adam's extraordinary bestseller Watership Down takes us to a world we have never truly seen:  to the remarkable life that teems in the fields, forests, and riverbanks, far beyond our cities and towns.  It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership, and survival; and epic tale of a hardy band of Berkshire rabbits forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream called "home"

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
"Spellbinding...Marvelous...A taut tale of suspense, hot pursuit and derring-do.
Los Angeles Times
"A classic...A great book."
New York Times Book Review
"Quite marvelous...A powerful new vision of the great chain of being."
Charles McGrath
Here is the Odyssey and Iliad of rabbits, for people of all ages — a splendidly written adventure story.
The New York Times Book of the Century
The Wall Street Journal
To capture the feeling of the verdant English landscape in Richard Adams's "Watership Down" (Atheneum, 496 pages, $29.99), first published in 1972, Aldo Galli painted in the real locations described in the story. In his finely wrought illustrations, the rabbits Hazel and Pipkin crouch beside the real Nuthanger Farm and Hazel, Bigwig and Fiver make their way across the real Hampshire downs. Mr. Galli brings a sense of intensified realism to his depictions in this 40th anniversary edition. Foliage is luxuriantly, impossibly green, and the edges of things—the feathers of birds, the fluff of dandelions—look as sharp as if they were cut from glass. As a gift, this edition would suit anyone over the age of 10, including adults.
From the Publisher
"Spellbinding...Marvelous...A taut tale of suspense, hot pursuit and derring-do."
Chicago Tribune

"A classic...A great book."
Los Angeles Times

"Quite marvelous...A powerful new vision of the great chain of being."
The New York Times Book Review

From Barnes & Noble
Fleeing the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their ancestral home, a band of rabbits encounters harrowing trials posed by predators and hostile warrens — driven only by their vision to create a perfect society in a mysterious promised land known to them as Watership Down. First published in 1972 to world-wide rave reviews and now a modern classic, this is a powerful tale about the destructive impact of our society on nature — written in the same vein as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380004287
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1976
  • Edition number: 20
  • Pages: 480

Meet the Author

The winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award for Children's Literature, Richard Adams currently lives in Hampshire, England.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The Notice Board



Chorus: Why do you cry out thus, unless at some vision of horror?
Cassandra: The house reeks of death and dripping blood.
Chorus: How so? 'Tis but the odor of the altar sacrifice.
Cassandra: The stench is like a breath from the tomb.


-- Aeschylus, Agamemnon

The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog's mercury and the oak-tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes. In places the grass was gone altogether and everywhere there were clusters of dry droppings, through which nothing but the ragwort would grow. A hundred yards away, at the bottom of the slope, ran the brook, no more than three feet wide, half choked with kingcups, watercress and blue brooklime. The cart track crossed by a brick culvert and climbed the opposite slope to a five-barred gate in the thorn hedge. The gate led into the lane.

The May sunset was red in clouds, and there was still half an hour to twilight. The dry slope was dotted with rabbits -- some nibbling at the thin grass near their holes, others pushing further down to look for dandelions or perhaps a cowslip that the rest had missed. Here and there one sat upright on an ant heap and looked about, with ears erect and nose in the wind. But a blackbird, singing undisturbed on the outskirts of the wood, showed that there was nothing alarming there, and in theother direction, along the brook, all was plain to be seen, empty and quiet. The warren was at peace.

At the top of the bank, close to the wild cherry where the blackbird sang, was a little group of holes almost hidden by brambles. In the green half-light, at the mouth of one of these holes, two rabbits were sitting together side by side. At length, the larger of the two came out, slipped along the bank under cover of the brambles and so down into the ditch and up into the field. A few moments later the other followed.

The first rabbit stopped in a sunny patch and scratched his ear with rapid movements of his hind leg. Although he was a yearling and still below fall weight, he had not the harassed look of most "outskirters"' -- that is, the rank and file of ordinary rabbits in their first year who, lacking either aristocratic parentage or unusual size and strength, get sat on by their elders and live as best they can -- often in the open -- on the edge of their warren. He looked as though he knew how to take care of himself. There was a shrewd, buoyant air about him as he sat up, looked around and rubbed both front paws over his nose. As soon as he was satisfied that all was well, he laid back his ears and set to work on the grass.

His companion seemed less at ease. He was small, with wide, staring eyes and a way of raising and turning his head which suggested not so much caution as a kind of ceaseless, nervous tension. His nose moved continually, and when a bumblebee flew humming to a thistle bloom behind him, he jumped and spun round with a start that sent two nearby rabbits scurrying for holes before the nearest, a buck with black-tipped ears, recognized him and returned to feeding.

"Oh, it's only Fiver," said the black-tipped rabbit, "jumping at bluebottles again. Come on, Buckthorn, what were you telling me?"

"Fiver?" said the other rabbit. "Why's he called that?"

"Five in the litter, you know: he was the last -- and the smallest. You'd wonder nothing had got him by now. I always say a man couldn't see him and a fox wouldn't want him. Still, I admit he seems to be able to keep out of harm's way."

The small rabbit came closer to his companion, lolloping on long hind legs.

"Let's go a bit further, Hazel," he said. "You know, there's something queer about the warren this evening, although I can't tell exactly what it is. Shall we go down to the brook?"

"All right," answered Hazel, "and you can find me a cowslip. If you can't find one, no one can."

He led the way down the slope, his shadow stretching behind him on the grass. They reached the brook and began nibbling and searching close beside the wheel ruts of the track.

It was not long before Fiver found what they were looking for. Cowslips are a delicacy among rabbits, and as a rule there are very few left by late May in the neighborhood of even a small warren. This one had not bloomed and its flat spread of leaves was almost hidden under the long grass. They were just sitting on it when two larger rabbits came running across from the other side of the nearby cattle wade.

"Cowslip?" said one. "All right -- just leave it to us. Come on, hurry up," he added, as Fiver hesitated. "You heard me, didn't you?"

"Fiver found it, Toadflax," said Hazel.

"And we'll eat it," replied Toadflax. "Cowslips are for Owsla -- don't you know that? If you don't, we can easily teach you."

Fiver had already turned away. Hazel caught him up by the culvert.

"I'm sick and tired of it," he said. "It's the same all the time. 'These are my claws, so this is my cowslip.' 'These are my teeth, so this is my burrow.' I'll tell you, if ever I get into the Owsla, I'll treat outskirters with a bit of decency."

"Well, you can at least expect to be in the Owsla one day," answered Fiver. "You've got some weight coming and that's more than I shall ever have."

Watership Down. Copyright © by R Adams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 536 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(371)

4 Star

(92)

3 Star

(28)

2 Star

(16)

1 Star

(29)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 539 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I've read this once a year since it came out!

    I love this story, it is wonderful, a whole world and it's history. It is a story of overcoming obstacles, and makes some powerful statements about community and being part of a team, yet shows the dangers of collectivism & socialism. I wish this hardback version had the illustrations and quotes that were in the original paperback... (or is the preview just not showing them?)

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent

    Watership Down is one of the best in classic literature. It is a novel about the lives of a small group of rabbits in search of a home after their warren is destroyed by humans. In the book, the leader of the rabbits, called Hazel, and his friend Fiver the mystic both lead their gang across rivers, escaping predators, and humans with their snares and traps. The rabbits finally find a good place to make their new warren, and after doing so are faced with the problem of there not being enough rabbits to keep the warren going. They attempt to solve the problem by trying to steal some pet rabbits from a farm nearby. When that doesn’t work to plan, they decide to find another warren and to convince some of their rabbits to come to the new warren. When they find a new warren, they find it under the tyrannical reign of a huge rabbit named General Woundwort. After they escape from his guards they plan on raiding his warren and taking some of his rabbits that are not as loyal. They succeed by a small margin, and the General pursues them. Soon they find themselves in a war, each side fighting for their lives. During the book they tell each other side stories of a mythical rabbit named El-ahrairah, yet do not realize their adventure is a legend in itself. I think part of the reason Richard Adams wrote this book was because he wanted to show how rabbits live, and how their lives are affected by humans. I liked the originality of this book, and the way it intertwines a view of the world through a rabbits eyes, within a human world. I also liked how the story tells of their journey, and when they finish the journey half way through the book it continues with a new problem. I did not like the way he used weird made up words to describe human things, because it made the story hard to read and awkward. Despite this, this book has earned itself a five star rating, above average. This is a book everyone should read, because it is such a great classic, and shows a new view on life. I would also like to recommend ‘The Dragons Nine Sons’, because after reading that, I vowed to recommend it to everyone I could. It is the best book I have ever read and will probably never be beaten. No one can go without reading it; it is a science fiction masterpiece.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

    A great work of literature!!!!!!

    I had to read Watership Down for my 7th grade English class, and started out disliking it immensely. I mean, I don't know a single seventh grader who would actually enjoy reading a 400+ page book about talking rabbits. As I read more and more in the book, though, my opinion of Watership Down changed drastically. I realized that the themes and characters in the book are powerful and more than they appear to be. The characters are vivid and strong, and I especially liked Hazel, the beloved and courageous chief rabbit who proves his worth again and again to his people. The ending in Watership Down was perfect, and it will have a lasting impression on me. My advice to possible readers is this: Watership Down is a great book. Yes, it was sometimes slow and tiresome, but it was also more than a book about talking rabbits. Don't let those rabbits stop you from such a wonderful story. I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates quality literature.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the new classics...

    This was the first novel that I stayed up late reading (with a flashlight under the covers so my folks wouldn't know I was up past my bedtime)! Worth reading again and again - an enchanting story.

    P.S. This is also a particularly good story for reading out loud to older children and adults (a chapter or two a night).

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I read this book years ago when I found this and plegue dogs at

    I read this book years ago when I found this and plegue dogs at my school's old and very limited library. I cannot see how individuals can rate this story under 3 stars; this is a classic like Wind in the Willows. Highly recommend this book.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    To thw clans.

    I love the Warriors series alot. But its riddicous to be posting stuff aboit it on a whole different books page. This book Wateship Down is an amazzing bok that deserves to get reviews on iys page about the book. So stop bein ridiculous and go write on some horrible books reviews, but please dont do it on and amazing book like this. Thank you

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    A book for my permanent Nook Library

    I have read this book at least every ten years; each time I read it, I visit old friends, and discover the new. I am now age 77, keeping the book in my Nook Library.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2012

    BET BOOK EVER WRITTEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The perfect book for any age group!you will fall in love with this book.it is adventurous,action,heart warming and many more.must read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Very good

    Adams is a literary genius! This one isn't as good as The Plague Dogs, but still a fantastic read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    A must read classic

    you may get turned off in the beginning but just keep reading it is truly an amazing book

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    This book is so good!

    Read this when i was nine and i still love it . awsome book

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Great book!

    Woth every penny a good read

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2012

    revisiting an old friend

    it was every bit as good as I remember it being. In a few years I'm going to share it to my grand daughter.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    Read this:) :)

    This book is great. It is about rabbits that have to move away. It is really long, but it is worth it. The main characters are hazel and fiver, two rabbits. Read it, its worth the money!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    Genius

    Richard Adams weaves beautiful diction with a story about a deep society from creatues you would't expect

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    One of the best

    I first read this book when i was nine and have re read it more than a few times in the last twenty years. It is still a good read and even after thirty years since itss original publishing it is still one of the most beloved books in american literature.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Richard Adams is a genius

    It does not take long to get atatched to this book. Adams brings the reader on an adventure starting early on in the book. Once Hazel and Fiver, start their journey, the book becomes extremely addictive. I am a consatnt reader, and this book is easily one of my top three novels I have ever read. As the characters were being introduced I found a strong connection to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This is a true adventure book, but I would also recommend this book to any peron that loves to read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    This book kept me reading late into the hours of the night.

    This is an excellent novel. I am a seventh grader so it may be surprising that I enjoyed and even understood this book,but I truly did. I found it to be a beautifully illustrated tale of adventure, courage,and teamwork. The descriptions were vivid and the characters well developed. It may be difficult to get into, but if you stick with it, it will become spellbinding. It is a taut tale of suspense, hot pursuit,and derring-do. I highly encourage reading this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Great book, great edition

    I have loved this book ever since I read it in the 6th grade. I decided my old and worn copy was due to be replaced. I really like this edition.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    Watership Down

    I am in sixth grade right now and I am reading this book.
    I first got Watership Down in third grade, when I finished an American Girl 450 page book in a matter of days. It was my mom's, and she says this is her favorite book. I didn't want to read this book. It looked boring; my copy is from 1775. Instead I read Tales From Watership Down, and it did not all make sense, but I remember one part was about some one wanting someone else to tell them a story that did not usually tell stories. I think this was Fiver, and he told a really unlikely story and every step of the way Bigwig (I think) was doubting Fiver. I look back now and laugh because it all makes sense.
    Now I am reading the actual story and I love it. Its amazing, but really hard to read. I am a really quick reader; I usually finish books really quickly. This book I have been reading for a week already. I think it is taking me so long because it is really hard to read.
    Not that I don't love it, of course. This is one of the best books ever. Its such a shame that its not very popular anymore... but I have a feeling that some day I'll have to read this for school. Its just that kind of book.
    All my friends, at first glance, think its really boring. But then again, that's just judging a book by it cover. It is the kind of book that will bore some people, though. The begining is very slow. Not everyone will like this book. I can see both points of views.
    Most people, I think, will like it, though. I love it. Why not try it? You'll never know until you read it.......

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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