Watership Down
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Watership Down

4.4 333
by Richard Adams, Aldo Galli

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Discover—or revisit—the enchanting world of the Sandleford Warren rabbits in this first-ever illustrated edition of a celebrated modern classic.

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for almost forty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs

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Discover—or revisit—the enchanting world of the Sandleford Warren rabbits in this first-ever illustrated edition of a celebrated modern classic.

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for almost forty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

A book that speaks to our society as vividly as it did nearly half a century ago, this keepsake Scribner Classic edition showcases more than twenty sumptuous, evocative tip-in paintings from Aldo Galli, an illustrator chosen by Richard Adams himself.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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
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

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Scribner Classics Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.38(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.78(d)
Age Range:
10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Watership Down


The Notice Board


Why do you cry out thus, unless at some vision of horror?


The house reeks of death and dripping blood.


How so? ’Tis but the odor of the altar sacrifice.


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 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 the other 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 full 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 round 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 starting 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.”

“You don’t suppose I’ll leave you to look after yourself, do you?” said Hazel. “But to tell you the truth, I sometimes feel like clearing out of this warren altogether. Still, let’s forget it now and try to enjoy the evening. I tell you what—shall we go across the brook? There’ll be fewer rabbits and we can have a bit of peace. Unless you feel it isn’t safe?” he added.

The way in which he asked suggested that he did in fact think that Fiver was likely to know better than himself, and it was clear from Fiver’s reply that this was accepted between them.

“No, it’s safe enough,” he answered. “If I start feeling there’s anything dangerous I’ll tell you. But it’s not exactly danger that I seem to feel about the place. It’s—oh, I don’t know—something oppressive, like thunder: I can’t tell what; but it worries me. All the same, I’ll come across with you.”

They ran over the culvert. The grass was wet and thick near the stream and they made their way up the opposite slope, looking for drier ground. Part of the slope was in shadow, for the sun was sinking ahead of them, and Hazel, who wanted a warm, sunny spot, went on until they were quite near the lane. As they approached the gate he stopped, staring.

“Fiver, what’s that? Look!”

A little way in front of them, the ground had been freshly disturbed. Two piles of earth lay on the grass. Heavy posts, reeking of creosote and paint, towered up as high as the holly trees in the hedge, and the board they carried threw a long shadow across the top of the field. Near one of the posts, a hammer and a few nails had been left behind.

The two rabbits went up to the board at a hopping run and crouched in a patch of nettles on the far side, wrinkling their noses at the smell of a dead cigarette end somewhere in the grass. Suddenly Fiver shivered and cowered down.

“Oh, Hazel! This is where it comes from! I know now—something very bad! Some terrible thing—coming closer and closer.”

He began to whimper with fear.

“What sort of thing—what do you mean? I thought you said there was no danger?”

“I don’t know what it is,” answered Fiver wretchedly. “There isn’t any danger here, at this moment. But it’s coming—it’s coming. Oh, Hazel, look! The field! It’s covered with blood!”

“Don’t be silly, it’s only the light of the sunset. Fiver, come on, don’t talk like this, you’re frightening me!”

Fiver sat trembling and crying among the nettles as Hazel tried to reassure him and to find out what it could be that had suddenly driven him beside himself. If he was terrified, why did he not run for safety, as any sensible rabbit would? But Fiver could not explain and only grew more and more distressed. At last Hazel said,

“Fiver, you can’t sit crying here. Anyway, it’s getting dark. We’d better go back to the burrow.”

“Back to the burrow?” whimpered Fiver. “It’ll come there—don’t think it won’t! I tell you, the field’s full of blood—”

“Now stop it,” said Hazel firmly. “Just let me look after you for a bit. Whatever the trouble is, it’s time we got back.”

He ran down the field and over the brook to the cattle wade. Here there was a delay, for Fiver—surrounded on all sides by the quiet summer evening—became helpless and almost paralyzed with fear. When at last Hazel had got him back to the ditch, he refused at first to go underground and Hazel had almost to push him down the hole.

The sun set behind the opposite slope. The wind turned colder, with a scatter of rain, and in less than an hour it was dark. All color had faded from the sky: and although the big board by the gate creaked slightly in the night wind (as though to insist that it had not disappeared in the darkness, but was still firmly where it had been put), there was no passer-by to read the sharp, hard letters that cut straight as black knives across its white surface. They said:



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What People are saying about this

Bruno Bettelheim
Delightful...have not read in many years a more enjoyable book for all children from eight to eighty.
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

Fuller R. Buckminster
One of those great ones that every once in a long while lets us know that the universe has something really great 'going' for humanity.

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Watership Down 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 333 reviews.
CrossWind More than 1 year ago
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?)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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&rsquo;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 &lsquo;The Dragons Nine Sons&rsquo;, 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.
KirstyHaining More than 1 year ago
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).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
you may get turned off in the beginning but just keep reading it is truly an amazing book
literature_king More than 1 year ago
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.
Maynard_N More than 1 year ago
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.
AthaliaStoneback More than 1 year ago
Richard Adams is a true genius. "Watership Down" is a captivating story, that kept me spellbound from start to finish. The lapine language was especially clever. I'm only sorry I don't know of more books by Adams. I would definitely recommend this book to friends and family.
CherieReads More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I went into it with some reservations. I'm very glad I stuck with it. On the surface it's an adventure story featuring some rabbits. Really, though this book is a social commentary. This book can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages.
MandyW11 More than 1 year ago
When people hear "epic", most people recall ancient Greek heroes such as Odysseus and Achilles. Some people might think of more modern epics like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars (I consider them epics, anyway). But why do all epics need to star humans (or hobbits)? Well they don't, as Richard Adams has shown with Watership Down, an epic novel set in the world of rabbits. Watership Down is a classic and a staple of high school English classes for a reason. Adams' first novel has wonderful characters and an exciting, fast-paced plot. The story begins in Sandleford Warren in England (all places in this story are real). Fiver, a small, prophetic rabbit tells his brother Hazel that he has been having strange feelings and that there is something terrible coming to the warren. Fiver and Hazel gather nine other rabbits, including the clever Blackberry, and the huge and strong Bigwig, and leave the warren. They run into many dangers along the way, but they eventually make it to the 300-foot tall Watership Down, the perfect home for rabbits. The story doesn't end there however. The Watership rabbits quickly realize that they forgot to recruit any does, but with the help of a boisterous gull named Kehaar, they make a raid on Efrafa, a militaristic warren led by cruel General Woundwort. One major mistake authors and moviemakers make when telling a story with animals is not letting animals be animals. A lot of times in these stories, animals act more like humans in fur. This isn't true with Watership Down. Hazel and his band of bunnies act like rabbits really act, know only what rabbits know. The best example of this is the way does are treated in the story. Many people would argue that does in Watership Down are treated as baby-making machines and nothing else. There aren't very many does that are developed as characters. If this story were about humans, this treatment would be terrible, but it isn't. Rabbits, and most animals in general, don't really have love and other emotions like humans. To a rabbit, a doe really is just a baby-making machine. These rabbits really act towards another the way real rabbits act towards each other, and I really appreciate that as a reader. We have too many Disney animals out there and realistic animal characters are refreshing. One might not think that a story about bunny rabbits could be exciting and action-packed, but Watership Down is exactly that. The story starts off with a creepy prediction of doom and ends with a final bloody battle. There are no slow parts and everything moves at an even pace. At the parts that seem the slowest, Adams adds stories of El-Ahrairah, a sort of Robin Hood character of rabbits. Perhaps my favorite thing about Watership Down is that it isn't an allegory of any kind. There are so many novels that have hidden meanings and symbolism, and those books are fine, but sometimes it's nice to read a book like this that is just a story. Many people claim that Watership Down is an allegory, saying that the Watership rabbits represent democracy and Efrafa represents fascism, but according to the author, it really is just an adventure novel. It makes the book more enjoyable to know that there are no hidden meanings to search for. Watership Down has been read for years, and I wish my high school required it. It may not be an allegory or a satire, but it is an exciting, epic adventure. I give it five stars out of five, and it is now one of my favorite books. I recomme
BlackRose4970 More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most beautiful versions of "Watership Down" I have ever seen. I am looking forward to sharing it with my daughter when she gets older.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watership Down is a very exciting book. In Watership Down, the rabbits&rsquo; home was about to be destroyed. They left and had to stay in many other burrows before settling in a new place. I can sympathize with Hazel who is a brave rabbit that earns his friends&rsquo; trust by getting through hard times. I can also understand Hazel&rsquo;s brother Fiver, who can foresee danger. Although the other rabbits are skeptical he continues to warn them. The message of this story is to protect nature. This is quickly conveyed even in the beginning of the book when the rabbits had to leave their burrow. This book would appeal to anyone who likes fantasy. It&rsquo;s imaginative and entertaining. I liked this book because it has an interesting plot line and creates a whole world of its own.
Genghis_Sean More than 1 year ago
Richard Adams writes a wonderful account of a band of rabbits forced to flee when their warren is destroyed. Replete with previously unimagined insights into the life of rabbits (i.e. they can only count to four - anything higher is called 'hrair' meaning a thousand), it is easy to get swept away. Because Adams is English, the novel is probably not for middling readers as it's possible to get bogged down navigating the unknown flora/fauna of an English countryside (i.e. brooklime, watercress, kingscup), but the story itself is excellent. Filled with endearing characters like Hazel, Fiver, and Bigwig, it's one of those rare tales that will carry you away. It is at times inspiring, terrifying, thrilling, and sentimental. This story will stay with you long after you put it down. You'll wish you hadn't read it, so you could have the priviledge of discovering it for the first time all over again. It's a fairy tale for the ages.
ladyhawke28 More than 1 year ago
Who would have thought reading the story about the life of a group of rabbits could be so entertaining? Adams came up with an excellent plot and holds your attention all the way through. Characters are well developed and you actually feel for the rabbits and what they are having to go through and what it is like living with the fear of man and other predators. I thought it was appropriately descriptive. I do believe this book is more than likely going to be more appreciated by the adult reader, although children could enjoy it too. It may be more appropriate for older children only because of some of the vocabulary used and the way sentences are worded. It is a lot of reading, but because of the plot it seems to be of the appropriate length. I think Adams is a genius! Next time you see a rabbit you may not think about them as you did before reading this book!
mustang7 More than 1 year ago
A super classic for kids of all ages. Heartwarming, better the second time around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love good books. In my lifetime I have probably reread 1000 books twice. Maybe twenty books on three occasions and one besides Watership Down five times. This book I have read as a child, a teenager, a college student, a young adult, a husband, a father, and as someone who is getting towards middle age. Certain sections of the book I have probably enjoyed over 100 times. I have read it cover to cover at least forty times including out loud to my daughter three times before she learned how to read. It was the first long novel she ever read for herself. Each time I read it I find something new. However, no matter what the new is I always find hope. The characters are amazing. I would tell you my favorite but so many come to mind as possibilities I would rather have you make your own decision. That this book is a classic is beyond doubt, go into it with your mind open and enjoy it ten percent as much as I have. If you do you will probably reread it over and over again.
Bookfever More than 1 year ago
Watership Down is one of my all time favorite books! I would recommend it to anyone! I tried to read it once but didn't really pay attention much and it didnt interest me either so I stopped reading it. When I finally decided to read it again I was amazed by how much I enjoyed reading it. This book was very exciting and I loved all the characters living on Watership Down. I really liked Kehaar, Bigwig, Hazel, and Fiver the most and they are some of my favorite characters that I've encountered when reading. If you are looking for an exciting and interesting book to read this would be the one!
kitykity More than 1 year ago
I have loved this book since I first read it, at about ten years old. I've probably read it at least a dozen times over again since then. This is a great book to buy for your kids to read, love, and grow up with.
carillon More than 1 year ago
This is one of the really great books--fascinating, deep, and worthy of several reads. I have read it half a dozen times myself, and also read it to my children. They loved it. The characters are intriguing and sympathetic; the plot, the classic epic journey, held my attention all the way through. In the ranks of fiction I have read, I would place this book near the top, just behind The Lord of the Rings, and that is about the highest praise I can give. I still read it once in a while, and I also listen to the audio book occasionally. Totally recommend it!
Babyrn325 More than 1 year ago
If you can put aside the fact that the characters are rabbits this is a good read. I read it first about 25 yrs ago & when I saw it recently I had to read it again. It is a character driven plot with hardships, adventures & a little bit of suspence. I have enjoyed several of Mr Adams books in the past & I am happy to find they can still be a pleasant diversion.
animus_of_procer_universi More than 1 year ago
I honestly doubted whether i would like this that much, but this was an amazing novel that almost moved me to tears. I recommend it to every one who loves fantasy and adventure. The characters are like actaul people, their characters are so deep and interesting (the majority of them anyways, some seem like they are just in the background) I cannot stress how much i recommend this.
bryanohio More than 1 year ago
There is no end to the superlatives that can be heaped upon this book. Richard Adams exhibits thrilling and knowledgable storytelling in this terrific novel that blends fantasy with reality seamlessly. Everyone i've lent it to, once they get past the idea that this is a book that centers on the adventure and folklore of some rabbits, has been completely blown away by the excitement and craftsmanship. the writing is superb, the story is gripping and touching and the world of rabbits is given tremendous depth and a rich mythology.
Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
Going into this book, all I knew was that it was a classic that was about talking bunnies. Now, I've never been a big fan of rabbits, but I decided to give this a try anyway. I mean a five hundred page book about rabbits? I had to see what this was all about. After the initial charm wore off, I was bored. I found all the rabbits to be interchangeable, and some of their folklore confusing. But, it got better as it went on, especially those final 200 hundred pages. I found some of their chapter-long fables distracting, as well as a sudden switch to the human world. There would be random comments about baseball or something to describe a situation, and it would draw me out of the story. I also didn't like the portrayal of does as just sex-objects, which would make me have less sympathy for the rabbits plight. I have to say, for the most part, I forgot they were bunnies. The writing was easily read, and it wasn't too hard to follow. If I was a tad smarter, I could figure out all the parallels between bunny warrens and human government, but I'm too lazy for that. Even though it is usually marketed as a young adult book, I think anyone can enjoy it. Overall, it was a enjoyable fantasy and quite epic.
helkiah More than 1 year ago
I read this for the first time when I was in the 6th grade, and it probably makes the top of my list for most re-reads.
kimmer11 More than 1 year ago
I read this book back in College in the early 80's and I loved it then and still love the book. I highly recommend this book.
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
Richard Adams is a great author. His books are all very unique. Watership Down is brilliant. It's a new world that sucks you inside. I actually have trouble explainging why I like this book so much. Just reading the synopsis doesn't do anything. Watership Down is so much more than anything I could say about it. It was reccomended to me by a friend who has no taste in books. My dad read it when he was young. My librarian friend who doesn't like fiction read it. My point being, it's a book for everyone.