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Mainely Tipping Points

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: WATERSHIP DOWN, Richard Adams

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Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  January 4, 2014

Watership Down

Richard Adams


The second audio book I streamed from the Maine library system was Richard Adams’ Watership Down.

I’ve always been a prolific reader, but I think this book fell into a period of my life when I was working a lot and had small children.

I think I was working retail, which included some nights.  And I think I was tired as I was juggling a lot.

So, it was really fun to circle back and “read” this book while I quilted through this daunting Maine winter.

It’s kind of fun to see some of the many Watership Down covers that this wildly successful book has had:  Watership Down cover – Google Search.

It’s even more fun to listen to the introduction where the narrator describes how difficult it was to get the story–written for the author’s two children–published.

I really enjoyed the book.

Why wouldn’t I?  It’s one of those stories we in what we call “Western Civilization” tell ourselves over and over.

There is a foretold life-threatening crisis, and only a few of the “rabbits” take heed when the rabbit with second sight warns.  There is a leader who is wise, thoughtful, and brave.  There is a warrior who puts himself into situations where his life (and the good of the tribe) is threatened over and over.  There are timid rabbits who rise to the occasion.  The wisdom of tricks, not always brute force, wins out in the end  Freedom is an issue here.  Freedom and a safe “home” ground.  The sacrifices of these few and brave “rabbits” ensure the well-being of countless generations that follow them.

What there is NOT is a female rabbit with more than a slightly supporting role.  This society is fun by males, but males who cherish their females.  Hmmmmm.  And this story was written for two little girls.

I told my oldest grandson, who is already a deep reader, that I thought he’d love this book.

And he would.

And I plan to discuss the lack of a female role with him after he’s read it.

Written by louisaenright

January 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t think Richard Adams meant anything anti-feminist in his story! But good point about female roles – except for Hyzenthlay maybe?

    • Hi. Thanks for commenting. I don’t think Adams meant to be anti-feminist either. He was writing, as I recall, for his two little girls. I should say “telling.” But his cultural context is still very male dominated. I think he wrote at a time (late 1960s-early 1970s) before female roles in stories were very…present…beyond sexual stimulation of trouble for men, the good mother/sister/wife, the witch-like woman, and so forth. I married in 1966, and a woman could not get a credit card in her own name, vote without her husband in many places, take out a loan, etc. It was pretty bleak. Hyzenthlay is interesting, yes. But, unable, as was the male rabbit who protested, too, to make change happen. In the end, she is relegated to the domestic sphere–having the babies and creating the home/tunnels. The story, in part, reflects cold-war tropes, doesn’t it? The evil, powerful dictatorship… Organized, but soulless. So, it takes valiant outsiders to make change–in that way the story follows narratives of outsiders who rescue, like SHANE. And while there is a group of rescuers, there is one strong male rabbit warrior who does the work. That’s deeply cultural…in the era Adams wrote. Thank heavens things have changed for women.


      February 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

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