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Watership Down

Watership Down was rejected seven times before it was accepted by Rex Collings.[15] The one-man London publisher Collings wrote to an associate, "I've just taken on a novel about rabbits, one of them with extra-sensory perception. Do you think I'm mad?" The associate did call it "a mad risk," in her obituary of Collings, to accept "a book as bizarre by an unknown writer which had been turned down by the major London publishers; but," she continued, "it was also dazzlingly brave and intuitive."[16] Collings had little capital and could not pay an advance but "he got a review copy onto every desk in London that mattered."[11] Adams wrote that it was Collings who gave Watership Down its title.[17] There was a second edition in 1973.

Watership Down

However, Holly's group has managed to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay, who wishes to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join in the escape. Hazel and Blackberry devise a plan to rescue Hyzenthlay's group and bring them to Watership Down. Bigwig is sent to do the mission, and infiltrates Efrafa in the guise of a member of the Owsla, while Hazel and the rest wait by a nearby river. With help from Kehaar, Bigwig manages to free Hyzenthlay and nine other does, as well as a condemned prisoner named Blackavar. Woundwort and his officers pursue, but the Watership rabbits and the escapees use a punt to escape down the River Test.

Floating down the river, the punt strikes a bridge, killing a doe. Once the rabbits are back on shore, they make the long journey home, losing one more rabbit to a fox along the way. They eventually reach Watership, unaware they are being shadowed by one of Woundwort's patrols, led by Captain Campion, who reports back to Efrafa. Later that summer, the Owsla of Efrafa, led by Woundwort himself, unexpectedly arrives to destroy the warren at Watership Down and take back the escapees. Through Bigwig's bravery and loyalty, Fiver's visions, and Hazel's ingenuity, the Watership Down rabbits repulse the attack and unleash Nuthanger Farm's Labrador on the Efrafans. Despite being gravely wounded by Bigwig, Woundwort refuses to back down; his followers flee the dog in terror, leaving Woundwort to stand his ground against the dog unobserved. His body is never found, and Groundsel, one of his former followers, continues to fervently believe in his survival. After releasing the dog, Hazel is nearly killed by one of the farmhouse cats. He is saved by young Lucy, the former owner of the escaped hutch rabbits. Upon returning to Watership, Hazel effects a lasting peace and friendship between the remaining Efrafans and his own rabbits. Some time later, Hazel and Campion, the intelligent new chief of Efrafa, send rabbits to start a new warren at Caesar's Belt, to relieve the effects of overcrowding at both their warrens.

As time goes on, the three warrens on the downs prosper under Hazel, Campion, and Groundsel (their respective chiefs). Woundwort never returns, and becomes a heroic legend to some rabbits, and a sort of bogeyman to frighten children, to others. Kehaar rejoins his flock, but continues to visit the rabbits every winter. However, he refuses to search for Woundwort, showing even he still fears him.

When asked in a 2007 BBC Radio interview about the religious symbolism in the novel, Adams said the story was "nothing like that at all". He said the rabbits in Watership Down did not worship; however, "they believed passionately in El-ahrairah." Adams explained that he meant the book to be "only a made-up story ... in no sense an allegory or parable or any kind of political myth. I simply wrote down a story I told to my little girls."[29] Instead, he explained, the "let-in" religious stories of El-ahrairah were meant more as legendary tales, similar to a rabbit Robin Hood, and these stories were interspersed throughout the book as humorous interjections to the often "grim" tales of the "real story".[30]

About a year after I read the novel, my boyfriend, Sam, gave me a collection of CDs. He and I lived in different states and were very lonely for each other. So, for months, in secret, he had been recording himself reading Watership Down as a way to be close to me. He lived in a cabin with wood-paneled walls, so at first the echo on the recording was terrible. But then he made himself a studio by hanging sheets down from the ceiling around the couch, and there he read for hours every night.

Later in the book the group finds a suitable place to settle down, however, they require female rabbits to continue their society. They approach Efrafra, a nearby warren run under the iron fist of a Chief Rabbit named General Woundwort, and after capture and a protracted battle, survive to start their own warren.

From 1999 to 2001, a Lighter and Softer TV series adaptation was broadcast on British and Canadian television, made in collaboration with Canadian network YTV. The series revolves around Hazel and his friends trying to settle down and protect Watership Down from outside threats and natural disasters. While this version was made for very young kids, it was praised for its mature story telling and world building, and also had an All-Star Cast with actors such as Stephen Fry, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Mangan, Richard Briers, and even John Hurt, this time playing General Woundwort. The show also uses an instrumental rendition of "Bright Eyes" for its opening and ending credits. Its page can be found here.

It's little wonder that Watership Down traumatized generations of children. Despite releasing in the United States as well, it never became quite the cultural phenomenon it was in the United Kingdom. Parents complained by the thousands that Watership Down's U age rating was not suitable for its content. Interestingly, despite the controversy surrounding its rating, the BBFC has never backed down on it, though it has "received complaints about the suitability of Watership Down at 'U' almost every year since its classification." The legacy of Watership Down is a unique one, with a film adaptation that's now more widely known than the book it was based on. It's doubtful that the film would have had as big an impact as it did without its, arguably misguided, age rating. After all, it's the generations of children traumatized by it that have kept the memory of this film alive. 041b061a72


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