Thursday, October 27, 2005
Have you read Watership Down?
A coworker asked me that last night as we discussed this story. It was hard to answer - yes, I've read it, not recently, but it's one of the oldest building blocks in my mind. The first time I read it was in second grade after watching the cartoon. One of our teachers actually read it to the class, and I read it on my own either beforehand or concurrently. I remember the blank look on a classmate's face as the teacher defined the lapin term "hraka" as "droppings"; I already knew what it meant, and remember watching the blank face break up into second-grade merriment once he realized what "droppings" were. I've reread it once or twice but associate it the most with second grade. It was my favorite book for a long time, until I got to fifth grade or so and tackled "Gone with the Wind." (I always enjoyed giving withering looks to adults who said "That's a mighty big book you've got.")
I think I liked the survivalist aspect of the plot, and the rabbit mythology laid out in the book. I loved the idea that just a rabbit hopping across the lawn is part of its own epic struggle. It seems odd to label the book "fantasy" but it really is, in an agreeably down-to-earth way. You certainly also learn a lot about real-life rabbits. I didn't know females were called does, or that pregnant ones could reabsorb their litters from stress. Adams puts you in your place a couple times when the rabbits' world intersects with the human - I guess that's his call to respectful stewardship. It would be interesting to reread it as an adult, but it almost seems unnecessary. All the names and details are pretty deep down in my brain - as a deteriorating nonagenarian I fully expect to rant about Fiver and General Woundwort.
I'd never heard of this island before yesterday, though, and was interested to learn it's notable for its sea birds. That explains the oddly (I always thought) prominent role of Keehar.
Finally, while the cartoon appears to have spawned many annoying DVD spinoffs, I was hugely gratified to hear the "Bright Eyes" reference in the Wallace and Gromit movie.