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
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
“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