Front cover of first edition
|Publication date||November 1972|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||413 pp (first edition) plus maps|
|LC Classification||PZ10.3.A197 Wat|
|Followed by||Tales from Watership Down|
Watership Down is a classic adventure novel, written by English author Richard Adams, published by Rex Collings Ltd of London in 1972. Set in south-central England, the story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel is the Aeneid of the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.
Watership Down was Richard Adams' first novel and it is by far his most successful to date. Although it was rejected by several publishers before Collings accepted it, It won the annual Carnegie Medal, annual Guardian Prize, and other book awards. It has been adapted as a 1978 animated film that is now a classic and as a 1999 to 2001 television series.
Adams completed a sequel almost 25 years later, Tales from Watership Down (Random House, 1996; Hutchinson and Alfred A. Knopf imprints). It is a collection of 19 short stories about El-ahrairah and the rabbits of the Watership Down warren, with "Notes on Pronunciation" and "Lapine Glossary".
- 1 Origin and publication history
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Characters
- 4 Lapine language
- 5 Themes
- 6 Reception
- 7 Adaptations
- 8 Parodies
- 9 References to Watership Down
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Origin and publication history
The title refers to the rabbits' destination, Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, England, near the area where Adams grew up. The story began as tales that Richard Adams told his young daughters Juliet and Rosamund during long car journeys. As he explained in 2007, he "began telling the story of the rabbits ... improvised off the top of my head, as we were driving along." He based the struggles of the animals on the struggles he and his friends encountered during the Battle of Oosterbeek, Arnhem, the Netherlands in 1944. The daughters insisted he write it down—"they were very, very persistent". After some delay he began writing in the evenings and completed it 18 months later. The book is dedicated to the two girls.
|"To Juliet and Rosamund,
the road to Stratford-on-Avon"
|—Dedication, Watership Down|
Adams's descriptions of wild rabbit behaviour were based on The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964), by British naturalist Ronald Lockley. The two later became friends; they went on an Antarctic tour that resulted in a joint writing venture and a co-authored book, Voyage Through the Antarctic (A. Lane, 1982).
Watership Down was rejected six times before it was accepted by Rex Collings. 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; "a book as bizarre by an unknown writer which had been turned down by the major London publishers; but it was also dazzlingly brave and intuitive." Collings had little capital and could not pay an advance but "he got a review copy onto every desk in London that mattered." Adams wrote that it was Collings who gave Watership Down its title. There was a second edition in 1973.
Macmillan USA, then a media giant, published the first U.S. edition in 1974 and a Dutch edition was also published that year by Het Spectrum. According to WorldCat, participating libraries hold copies in 18 languages of translation.
In the Sandleford warren, Fiver, a young runt rabbit who is a seer, receives a frightening vision of his warren's imminent destruction. When he and his brother Hazel fail to convince their chief rabbit of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own with a small band of rabbits to search for a new home, barely eluding the Owsla, the warren's military caste.
The travelling group of rabbits finds itself following the leadership of Hazel, previously an unimportant member of the warren. They travel through dangerous territory, with Bigwig and Silver, both former Owsla, as the strongest rabbits among them. Eventually they meet a rabbit named Cowslip, who invites them to join his warren. However, when Bigwig is nearly killed in a wire trap, the rabbits realize the residents of the new warren are simply using them to increase their own odds of survival, and they continue on their journey.
Fiver's visions promise a safe place in which to settle, and the group eventually finds Watership Down, an ideal location to set up their new warren. They are soon reunited with Holly and Bluebell, also from the Sandleford Warren, who reveal that Fiver's vision was true and the entire warren was destroyed by humans.
Although Watership Down is a peaceful habitat, Hazel realises there are no does (female rabbits), thus making the future of their new home uncertain. With the help of a seagull named Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren, Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does. Hazel sends a small emissary to Efrafa to present their request for does. While waiting for the group to return, Hazel and Pipkin scout the nearby Nuthanger Farm to find two pairs of hutch rabbits there; Hazel leads a raid on the farm the next day, returning with two does and a buck. When the emissary returns, Hazel and his rabbits learn Efrafa is a police state led by the despotic General Woundwort, and the squad of rabbits dispatched there manage to return with little more than their lives intact.
However, the group does manage to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay who wishes to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join in the escape as well. Hazel and Bigwig devise a plan to rescue the group and join them on Watership Down, after which the Efrafan escapees start their new life of freedom to do as they please.
Shortly thereafter the Owsla of Efrafa, led by Woundwort himself arrives to attack the newly formed warren at Watership Down, but through Bigwig's bravery and loyalty and Hazel's ingenuity, the Watership Down rabbits seal the fate of the Efrafan general by unleashing the Nuthanger Farm watchdog. Although a formidable fighter by rabbit standards Woundwort is apparently killed by the dog. His body however is never found and at least one of his former followers continues to believe in his survival. Hazel is nearly taken by a cat, but is saved by the farm girl Lucy, the owner of the escaped hutch rabbits.
The story's epilogue tells the reader of how Hazel, dozing in his burrow one "chilly, blustery morning in March" some years later, is visited by El-ahrairah, the rabbit-folk hero who invites Hazel to join his own Owsla. Leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down with the spirit-guide, "running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."
- Hazel: The protagonist, Fiver's brother; he leads the rabbits from Sandleford and eventually becomes Chief Rabbit. Though Hazel is not particularly large or powerful, he is loyal, brave, and a quick thinker. He sees the good in each individual, and what they bring to the table; in so doing, he makes sure that no one gets left behind, thus earning the respect and loyalty of his warren. He often relies on Fiver's advice, and trusts in his brother's instincts absolutely.
- Fiver: A runt rabbit whose name literally means "Little Thousand" (rabbits have a single word, "hrair", for all numbers greater than four; Fiver's name in Lapine, Hrairoo, indicates that he is the smallest of a litter of five or more rabbits) and Hazel's younger brother. As a seer, he has visions and very strong instincts. Fiver is one of the most intelligent rabbits in the group. He is quiet and intuitive, and though he does not directly act as a leader, the others listen to and follow his advice. Vilthuril becomes his mate.
- Bigwig: An ex-Owsla officer, and the largest rabbit of the group. His name in Lapine is Thlayli, which literally means "Fur-head" and refers to the shock of fur on the back of his head. Though he is powerful and fierce, he is shown to also be cunning in his own way when he devises a plan to defeat the larger and stronger General Woundwort.
- Blackberry: A clever buck rabbit with black-tipped ears. He is often capable of understanding concepts that the other rabbits find incomprehensible. He realises, for instance, that wood floats, and the rabbits use this tactic twice to traverse on water. He also works out how to dismantle the snare that almost kills Bigwig, saving him. He is one of Hazel's most trusted advisors, given the task to plan for a way to rescue does from Efrafra.
- Holly: Former captain of the Sandleford Warren Owsla, escapes with Bluebell when his warren is destroyed by men. He finds the warren at Watership Down near death, but is nursed back to health and becomes one of Hazel's most trusted companions.
- Dandelion: A buck rabbit notable for his storytelling ability and speed. He is instrumental in luring the Nuthanger Farm dog into the Efrafans during the siege of Watership Down.
- Silver: A strong buck rabbit, he fights alongside Bigwig and helps defends the rabbits during their journey.
- Pipkin: A small and timid buck rabbit, who looks to Hazel for guidance and protection. Hazel encourages him, and Pipkin grows very loyal to Hazel. He proves to be a constant comforter, particularly for Holly after the destruction of Sandleford warren. His name is Hlao in Lapine.
- Hyzenthlay: A rabbit who lives in Efrafa and assists Bigwig in arranging for the liberation of its inhabitants. General Woundwort, who suspects her of fomenting dissension, orders his guards to keep a close eye on her. She escapes Efrafa with Bigwig and becomes Hazel's mate. Like Fiver, she has visions. Her name means literally 'shine-dew-fur,' or 'fur shining like dew.'
- Blackavar: A rabbit with very dark fur who tries to escape from Efrafa but is apprehended, mutilated, and put on display to discourage further escape attempts. When he is liberated by Bigwig, he quickly proves himself as an expert tracker and ranger.
- Kehaar: A Black-headed Gull who is forced, by an injured wing, to take refuge on Watership Down. He is characterised by his frequent impatience, guttural accent and unusual phrasing. After discovering the Efrafa warren and helping the rabbits, he rejoins his colony. According to Adams, Kehaar was based on a fighter from the Norwegian Resistance in World War II.
- General Woundwort: The main antagonist: a fearless, single-minded, and brutally efficient rabbit who was orphaned at a young age, Woundwort founded the Efrafa warren and is its tyrannical chief. Though he is greater even than Bigwig in terms of his size and strength, he lacks the former's mercy and kindness. He even leads an attack to capture the Watership warren as an act of revenge against Bigwig. After his apparent death, he lives on in rabbit legend as a bogeyman.
- Frith: A god-figure who created the world and promised that rabbits would always be allowed to thrive. In Lapine, his name literally means "the sun".
- El-ahrairah: A rabbit trickster folk hero, who is the protagonist of nearly all of the rabbits' stories. He represents what every rabbit wants to be: smart, devious, tricky, and devoted to the well-being of his warren. In Lapine, his name is a contraction of the phrase Elil-hrair-rah, which means "prince with a thousand enemies". His stories of cleverness (and arrogance) are very similar to Br'er Rabbit and Anansi.
- Prince Rainbow: A god-figure who serves as a foil to El-ahrairah. He attempts to rein in El-ahrirah several times, but is always outsmarted by the rabbit.
- Rabscuttle: Another mythical folk hero, Rabscuttle is El-ahrairah's second in command and the Oswla leader. He participates in many of the El-ahrairah's capers. He is considered to be almost as clever as his chief.
- Black Rabbit of Inlé: A sinister phantom servant of the god Frith who appears in rabbit folklore. He is the rabbit equivalent of a grim reaper in human folklore, and similarly ensures all rabbits die at their predestined time. "Inlé" is the Lapine term for the moon or darkness.
"Lapine" is a fictional language created by author Richard Adams for the novel, where it is spoken by the rabbit characters. The fragments of language presented by Adams consist of a few dozen distinct words, and are chiefly used for the naming of rabbits, their mythological characters, and objects in their world.
Watership Down has been described as an allegory, with the labours of Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, and Silver "mirror[ing] the timeless struggles between tyranny and freedom, reason and blind emotion, and the individual and the corporate state." Adams draws on classical heroic and quest themes from Homer and Virgil, creating a story with epic motifs.
It has been suggested that Watership Down contains symbolism of several religions, or that the stories of El-ahrairah were meant to mimic some elements of real-world religion. When asked in a 2007 BBC Radio interview about the religious symbolism in the novel, Adams stated that the story was "nothing like that at all." Adams said that 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". Instead, he explained, the "let-in" religious stories of El-ahrairah were meant more as legendary tales, similar to a rabbit Robin Hood, and that these stories were interspersed throughout the book as humorous interjections to the often "grim" tales of the "real story".
The Hero, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid
The book explores the themes of exile, survival, heroism, political responsibility, and the "making of a hero and a community". Joan Bridgman's analysis of Adams's works in The Contemporary Review identifies the community and hero motifs: "[T]he hero's journey into a realm of terrors to bring back some boon to save himself and his people" is a powerful element in Adams's tale. This theme derives from the author's exposure to the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell, especially his study of comparative mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and in particular, Campbell's "monomyth" theory, also based on Carl Jung's view of the unconscious mind, that "all the stories in the world are really one story.".
The concept of the hero has invited comparisons between Watership Down's characters and those in Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. Hazel's courage, Bigwig's strength, Blackberry's ingenuity and craftiness, and Dandelion's and Bluebell's poetry and storytelling all have parallels in the epic poem Odyssey. Kenneth Kitchell declared, "Hazel stands in the tradition of Odysseus, Aeneas, and others". Tolkien scholar John Rateliff calls Adams's novel an Aeneid "what-if" book: what if the seer Cassandra (Fiver) had been believed and she and a company had fled Troy (Sandleford Warren) before its destruction? What if Hazel and his companions, like Aeneas, encounter a seductive home at Cowslip's Warren (Land of the Lotus Eaters)? Rateliff goes on to compare the rabbits' battle with Woundwort's Efrafans to Aeneas's fight with Turnus's Latins. "By basing his story on one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Adams taps into a very old myth: the flight from disaster, the heroic refugee in search of a new home, a story that was already over a thousand years old when Virgil told it in 19 BC."
The 1993 Puffin Modern Classics edition of the novel contains an afterword by Nicholas Tucker, who wrote that stories such as Watership Down "now fit rather uneasily into the modern world of consideration of both sexes". He contrasted Hazel's sensitivity to Fiver with the "far more mechanical" attitude of the bucks towards does, who Tucker considers are portrayed as "little more than passive baby-factories".
In "Male Chauvinist Rabbits," an essay originally published in the New York Times Book Review, Selma G. Lanes criticized Adams's treatment of gender. She observed that the first third of the story is a "celebration of male camaraderie, competence, bravery and loyalty as a scraggly bunch of yearling bucks ... arrive triumphant at a prospectively ideal spot", only to realize that they have no females for mating. "Fully the last two-thirds of Adams's saga," Lanes argued, "is devoted to what one male reviewer has blithely labelled 'The Rape of the Sabine Rabbits,' a ruthless, single-minded and rather mean-spirited search for females – not because Watership Down's males miss their companionship or yearn for love, but rather to perpetuate the existing band." For Adams, Lanes continued, the does are only "instruments of reproduction" to prevent the achievement of reaching Watership Down from "becoming a hollow victory." As evidence, Lanes pointed to Hazel and Holly's assessment of the rescued Nuthanger does' value: "it came naturally ... to consider the two Nuthanger does simply as breeding stock for the warren."
Lanes argued that this view of the female rabbits came from Adams himself rather than his source text, Ronald Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit. In Lockley's text, by contrast, the rabbit world is matriarchal, and new warrens are always initiated by dissatisfied, young females. Hence, Lanes concluded, Adams's novel is "marred by an attitude towards females that finds more confirmation in Hugh Hefner's Playboy than R. M. Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit."
In similar vein, literary critic Jane Resh Thomas stated that Watership Down "draws upon ... an anti-feminist social tradition which, removed from the usual human context and imposed upon rabbits, is eerie in its clarity." Thomas did find much to admire about Watership Down, calling it a "splendid story". For her, its "anti-feminist bias ... damages the novel in only a minor way." She later explained: "I wrote about Watership Down because I was angry and hurt when I read the book. ... I felt he [Adams] had treated me and my kind with a contempt I couldn't be silent about."
Adams' 1996 sequel, Tales from Watership Down includes stories where the does play a more prominent role in the Watership Down warren. It has been suggested that this might have been an attempt to modernise the story, to make it less politically incorrect for the 1990s in which it was published.
The Economist heralded the book's publication, saying "If there is no place for Watership Down in children’s bookshops, then children’s literature is dead." Peter Prescott, senior book reviewer at Newsweek, gave the novel a glowing review: "Adams handles his suspenseful narrative more dextrously than most authors who claim to write adventure novels, but his true achievement lies in the consistent, comprehensible and altogether enchanting civilisation that he has created." Kathleen J. Rothen and Beverly Langston identified the work as one that "subtly speaks to a child", with "engaging characters and fast-paced action [that] make it readable." This echoed Nicholas Tucker's praise for the story's suspense in the New Statesman: "Adams ... has bravely and successfully resurrected the big picaresque adventure story, with moments of such tension that the helplessly involved reader finds himself checking whether things are going to work out all right on the next page before daring to finish the preceding one."
The "enchanting" world Prescott admired was not as well received upon its 1974 American publication. Although again the object of general approval, reception in the United States was more mixed, unlike the predominantly positive reviews of 1972. D. Keith Mano, a science fiction writer and conservative social commentator writing in the National Review, declared that the novel was "pleasant enough, but it has about the same intellectual firepower as Dumbo." He pilloried it further: "Watership Down is an adventure story, no more than that: rather a swashbuckling crude one to boot. There are virtuous rabbits and bad rabbits: if that’s allegory, Bonanza is an allegory."
John Rowe Townsend notes that the book quickly achieved such a high popularity despite the fact that it "came out at a high price and in an unattractive jacket from a publisher who had hardly been heard of." Fred Inglis, in his book The Promise of Happiness: Value and meaning in children's fiction, praises the author’s use of prose to express the strangeness of ordinary human inventions from the rabbits' perspective.
Watership Down's universal motifs of liberation and self-determination have led to the tendency of minority groups to read their own narrative into the novel, despite the author's assurance that it "was never intended to become some sort of allegory or parable." Rachel Kadish, reflecting on her own superimposition of the founding of Israel onto Watership Down, has remarked "Turns out plenty of other people have seen their histories in that book...some people see it as an allegory for struggles against the Cold War, fascism, extremism...a protest against materialism, against the corporate state. Watership Down can be Ireland after the famine, Rwanda after the massacres." Kadish has praised both the fantasy genre and Watership Down for its "motifs [that] hit home in every culture...all passersby are welcome to bring their own subplots and plug into the archetype."
Adams won the 1972 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. He also won the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a similar award that authors may not win twice.[a] In 1977 California schoolchildren selected it for the inaugural California Young Reader Medal in the Young Adult category, which annually honours one book from the last four years. In The Big Read, a 2003 survey of the British public, it was voted the forty-second greatest book of all time.
In 1978 Martin Rosen wrote and directed an animated film adaptation of Watership Down. The voice cast included John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne, and Roy Kinnear. The film featured the song "Bright Eyes", sung by Art Garfunkel. Released as a single, the song became a UK number one hit.
Although the essentials of the plot remained relatively unchanged, the film omits several side plots. Though the Watership Down warren eventually grew to seventeen rabbits, with the additions of Strawberry, Holly, Bluebell, and three hutch rabbits liberated from the farm, the movie only includes a band of eight. Rosen's adaptation was praised for "cutting through Adams' book ... to get to the beating heart".
The film has also seen some positive critical attention. In 1979 the film received a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Additionally, British television station Channel 4's 2006 documentary 100 Greatest Cartoons named it the 86th greatest cartoon of all time.
From 1999 to 2001, the book was also adapted as an animated television series, broadcast on CITV in the UK and on YTV in Canada. It was produced by Martin Rosen and starred several well-known British actors, including Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, Dawn French, John Hurt, and Richard Briers, running for a total of 39 episodes over three seasons. Although the story was broadly based on that of the novel and most characters and events retained, some of the story lines and characters (especially in later episodes) were entirely new. In 2003, the second season was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Series.
In 2006, Watership Down was adapted into a theatrical production by Rona Munro for the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Directed by Melly Still, the cast included Matthew Burgess, Joseph Traynor, and Richard Simons, and ran from November 2006 through January 2007. The tone of the production was inspired by the tension of war: in an interview with The Guardian, Still commented, "The closest humans come to feeling like rabbits is under war conditions ... We've tried to capture that anxiety." A reviewer at The Times called the play "an exciting, often brutal tale of survival" and said that "even when it’s a muddle, it’s a glorious one."
Watership Down inspired the creation of Bunnies & Burrows, a role-playing game centred around talking rabbits, published in 1976 by Fantasy Games Unlimited. It introduced several innovations to role-playing game design, being the first game to allow players to have non-humanoid roles, as well as the first with detailed martial arts and skill systems. Fantasy Games Unlimited published a second edition of the game in 1982, and the game was modified and republished by Steve Jackson Games as an official GURPS supplement in 1992.
Numerous bands or musicians have made reference to Watership Down in their music:
- Italian power metal band Trick or Treat released the first of their planned two Watership Down concept albums in 2012. The album is called Rabbits' Hill Pt. 1. The tracklist includes a cover of the song "Bright Eyes" originally written by Mike Batt.
- American folk rock trio America performed a song titled "Watership Down", released by Warner Bros. Records in April 1976 on their Hideaway album. Composed by singer/songwriter Gerry Beckley, the song's lyrics refer obliquely to the story elements, including the phrase "you might hear them in the distance, if your ear's to the ground."
- Swedish progressive rock musician Bo Hansson recorded a suite named "Rabbit Music" which was based on the book, as part of his 1975 album Attic Thoughts. Two years later, Hansson released an entire album devoted to the novel, titled Music Inspired by Watership Down.
- The British Post-hardcore band Fall of Efrafa is a concept band who has recorded a trilogy of albums based loosely around the mythology of Watership Down. This trilogy is known as The Warren of Snares and consists of the albums Owsla (2006), Elil (2007) and Inlé (2009).
- The British electro group Ladytron shot a music video for their single "Ghosts", off their 2008 album Velocifero, which featured many references to Watership Down.
- American art-rock band ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead has one song on their self-titled album, released in 1998, called "Prince with a Thousand Enemies".
- American hip-hop group Common Market recorded a song called "Watership Down" on their 2008 EP Black Patch War.
- The Paul McCartney and Wings album Band on the Run (1973) has the song "Band on the Run" referencing this work in the line "And the bell was ringing in the village square for the rabbits on the run".
- New Jersey-based hardcore punk band Bigwig takes its name from the character in the novel. The cover art of its first album, Unmerry Melodies, features a rabbit resembling Bigwig, and the song "Best of Me" features a sample from the film Watership Down.
- American Rapper Sole, on his album Selling Live Water, references the story of Hazel in the tunnel in the chorus of his song "Tokyo", ending with "Run Rabbit: When They Catch You They'll Kill You".
- American singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton's 2011 album Rabbits on the Run was inspired by Watership Down and A Brief History of Time.
- The song "Honey and the Bee" by Owl City contains the lyrics "The crow and the beanfield", referencing the title of chapter 9.
- The song "Bright Eyes" was written by Mike Batt and performed by Art Garfunkel for the 1978 film adaptation of the book Watership Down.
In 1984, Watership Down was adapted into a 4-cassette audiobook by John Maher in association with the Australian Broadcasting Company's Renaissance Players. Produced by John Hannaford and narrated by Kerry Francis, the audiobook was distributed by The Mind's Eye.
In 1990, a 16-hour, 11-cassette recording read by John MacDonald was published by Books on Tape, Inc. of Santa Ana, CA. ISBN0-7366-1700-0
In an episode of the British comedy show The Goodies, entitled Animals, nature presenters from the BBC are forced to escape in rabbit suits from the fury of animals now granted equal rights with humans. It features the music and animation in the style of the movies.
References to Watership Down
Watership Down has been referenced in other media.
- In Stephen King's novel "The Wastelands" Eddie references "Watership Down" when they discover the bear, Shardik, in the woods, explaining the name reminds him of rabbits but he cannot recall why.
- In Stephen King's novel The Stand, protagonist Stu Redman reads Watership Down non-stop for two days.
- In ABC TV's show Lost, one of the main characters, Sawyer, is shown several times reading the book.
- In the film Donnie Darko, the book and its film adaptation are viewed and discussed.
- In the Gundam metaseries, especially the manga Advance of Zeta: The Flag of Titans, the Titans test team use a rabbit in their logo and name their units after characters from the book.
- In The Vicar of Dibley BBC television series, "The Easter Bunny" episode.
- In the book The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal, Qwilleran tries several times to read Watership Down, but never gets past the first sentence.
- In the popular sitcom Lead Balloon, references are made to Watership Down when they describe the book without rabbits but people.
- In the Doug Worgul novel "Thin Blue Smoke", a mentally ill character named Warren regards Richard Adams as a prophet, and often speaks or writes in Lapine.
- In the Hillary Jordan novel “When She Woke”, the main characters reference the secret of Cowslip's warren in regards to their situation.
- In the Alexandra Bracken novel The Darkest Minds, a character is shown reading Watership Down.
- In the 2008 direct-to-video film "Conspiracy (2008 film)" starring Val Kilmer, the book, Watership Down, is discussed.
- According to the Jazz Jackrabbit game manual, "Watership Down" is the main protagonist's favorite book.
- In the episode "Buster's Book Battle" in season 16 of the television series Arthur, it is mentioned that Watership Down is not listed in the IRP program.
- In a 1981 episode of the British soap Coronation Street, Mavis Riley objects to a scheme devised by Eddie Yeats involving the breeding of rabbits for food and sale, due to the fact that she recently read Watership Down.
- The NJ band Bigwig uses samples from the movie on their 1997 debut album UnMerry Melodies.
- Six books have won both award in 45 years through 2011; alternatively, six authors have won the Carnegie Medal in Literature for their Guardian Prize-winning books. Professional librarians confer the Carnegie and select the winner from all British children's books. The Guardian newspaper's prize winner is selected by British children's writers, "peers" of the author who has not yet won it, for one children's (age 7+) or young-adult fiction book. Details regarding author and publisher nationality have varied.
- "Watership Down" (library catalog record for a copy of the first edition). WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- "Watership Down (by) Richard Adams". Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- "Watership Down (by) Richard Adams" (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- Richard Adams: Forever animated by the life of animals. The Independent (online). Retrieved 2012-12-23.
- Rateliff, John D. "Classics of Fantasy". Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- BBC Berkshire (16 March 2007). "Interview: Richard Adams". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- Tales from Watership Down (first edition) publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Tales from Watership Down at the Internet Book List
- Sally Eckhoff (26 November 1996). "Tales from Watership Down". Salon.com. Retrieved 2008-03-15.
- Swaim, Don (10 April 1985). "Audio Interview with Richard Adams" (audio). Book Beat. CBS Radio Stations News Service. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
- Richard Adams (1972). Watership Down. United Kingdom: Rex Collings.
- "Ronald Lockley: Find More Like This". The Economist 355 (8168): 84. 29 April 2000. "In 1964 he had published The Private Life of the Rabbit. This study of the habits of the wild rabbit gathered by Mr Lockley persuaded Richard Adams to write Watership Down, a kind of Disney story for adults, which became an immediate bestseller."
- Douglas Martin (4 April 2000). "Ronald Lockley, of Rabbit Fame, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-26. "In his acknowledgments, Mr. Adams credited Mr. Lockley's book for his own description of bunny behavior in his tale of wandering rabbits."
- Quigly, Isabel (8 June 1996). "Obituary: Rex Collings". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Adams, Richard. "Introduction." Watership Down, Scribner U.S. edition, 2005. ISBN 0-7432-7770-8.
- Watership Down title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- "Formats and editions of Watership Down". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- Adams, Richard (2005). Watership Down (1st Scribner trade paperback ed.). New York: Scribner. p. 5. ISBN 0-7432-7770-8. "There were probably more than five rabbits in the litter when Fiver was born, but his name, Hrairoo, means "Little Thousand"--i.e., the little one of a lot or, as they say of pigs, the "runt.""
- "Watership Down". Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction Series. Salem Press, Inc. 1991
- Bridgman, Joan (August 2000). "Richard Adams at Eighty". The Contemporary Review (The Contemporary Review Company Limited). 277.1615: 108. ISSN 0010-7565.
- Interview: Richard Adams. BBC Berkshire Website. 16 March 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-22.
- Prescott, Peter S. (18 March 1974). "Rabbit, Read". Newsweek: 114.
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- Watership Down publication history at the Internet Book List
- Watership Down publication history at The Internet Book Database of Fiction
- Watership Down title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- "Life and Society on Watership Down" editorial by Rich Policz
- Review of Watership Down by John D. Rateliff
- Review of Watership Down by Jo Walton
- Analysis of Watership Down on Lit React
|Carnegie Medal recipient
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe