Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. Forgotten Children's Books and Watership Down - Reading the End
Richard Adams, the creator of Watership Down, has now died at the age of . Well, this leaves children in a sad state. Does he fear the end?. How many happy endings involve the death of a main character? Not many, we think, but that's just what happens here. But we'll get to that in a second. I too find the ending uplifting, but I tear up at it as well. If people think Watership Down is sad it's a good thing that they have likely never seen.
The two are nursing severe injuries which, they reveal, were inflicted as they escaped the violent human destruction of Sandleford and then later at Cowslip's warren. Holly also confesses that it was he who had tried to stop them leaving that first night, but Fiver's vision coming true has left him a changed rabbit and he is there to join them in whatever way they will have him. Nuthanger Farm, Hampshire, England, in Although Watership Down is a peaceful habitat, Hazel realizes there are no does female rabbitsmaking the future of the warren certain to end with the inevitable death of the rabbits present.
With the help of their useful new friend, a black-headed gull named Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren called Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does.
Hazel sends a small embassy, led by Holly, to Efrafa to present their request for does. Meanwhile, Hazel and Pipkin, the smallest member of the group, scout the nearby Nuthanger Farm, where they find two pairs of hutch rabbits. Despite their uncertainty about living wild, the hutch rabbits are willing to come to Watership.
Hazel leads a raid on the farm the next day, during which he rescues both does but only one of the bucks. When the emissary returns soon after, Hazel and his rabbits learn that Efrafa is a police state led by the despotic General Woundwort. Holly and the other rabbits dispatched there have managed to return with little more than their lives intact.
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 Bigwig devise a plan to rescue Hyzenthlay's group and bring them to Watership Down, after which the Efrafan escapees start their new life of freedom. Shortly thereafter, however, the Owsla of Efrafa, led by Woundwort himself arrives to attack the newly formed warren at Watership Down. 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.
As the Efrafans flee in terror, Woundwort, despite being greatly wounded in his battle with Bigwig, refuses to back down and leaps at the dog. His body is never found, and at least one of his former followers continues to believe in his survival. Hazel is nearly killed by a cat, but he 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 spiritual overseer of all rabbits, and hero of many rabbit stories.
El-ahrairah invites Hazel to join his own Owsla, reassuring him of his warren's success and its future. Leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down with the spirit guide. This section needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. February Main article: List of Watership Down characters Hazel: The protagonistFiver's older brother; he leads the rabbits from Sandleford and eventually becomes the 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 immensely. 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 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. An ex-Owsla officer, and the largest and bravest 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 also shown to be cunning in his own way when he devises a plan to defeat the larger and stronger General Woundwort. His final battle with Woundwort leaves him severely wounded, but he survives and becomes the leader of Hazel's Owsla. 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 travel 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 a way to rescue does from Efrafa. They got this rather difficult and savage novel. Shardik is a hard book to read. A lot of people have said that. They had to struggle with it. But I like it and I read it often.
He ponders for a moment. Indeed, he is inclined to speak of the long dead as still alive. I ask him his favourite contemporary author.
She died in The greatest English novelist? This blithering Catholicism is a bit annoying. I never consider the readers. I stumbled upon frightening literature. The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was well received but not a runaway hit. Like the creepy warren is. And here is the moment that I was referring to. Because they scratched Fiver! So they talk throughout the book about that rabbits have a thousand enemies.
They always talk about them as being the Thousand. And I think one of the other things this book does really well is rabbit culture. Like, they call it the enemy the thousand, and they have these proverbs, and they have this storytelling history. It definitely felt like a separate rabbit world, which is great. Yeah, it never feels like a gimmick. OK, so they get away from the very, very creepy, creepy rabbits.
Richard Adams: 'Perhaps I made Watership Down too dark' - interview
Hooray, everything is great! Rabbits can live and thrive there. But no sooner do they get there, than here come two survivors from Sandleford warren to tell them what happened to their old warren.
And it is so frightening. It is unironically traumatic to read. Because what happens is that men came and gassed the warren. So these two rabbits are the only survivors, and most of them are killed by the gas. Yeah, it was awful. I mean it really— it is. But so they have these two survivors who have come to be with them. Captain Holly and Bluebell.
And Bluebell is kind of a joker, and Captain Holly was in charge of the rabbit army back at Sandleford. The thing that I do love about when they arrive is, Bluebell keeps making all these jokes when they first get there. This is a lot. So they get through hearing that story, which is really rough.
And then something genuinely lovely happens, which is that they meet a wonderful bird named Kehaar. Oh, god, the seagull. Because Hazel is a beautiful genius, the best Chief Rabbit in the whole world. And the other rabbits are like, what are you doing? And my favorite thing is that Kehaar and Bigwig become best of friends. He calls them mudders, and I really like that. Because his speech is rendered in sort of an accent in the book.
Which is so cute.
So I always read Kehaar as a Russian accent in my head. Is that how you interpreted it? It made it really great. Yeah, like a Boris and Natasha accent. Well, Kehaar tells them— this plan works.
Kehaar does become their friend. And he tells them about a big warren not too, too far from them with tons of rabbits. It is not great. And they are not friends. The new scary warren. It pops up way earlier in the book that I was expecting. But the stuff with Watership Down and Efrafa takes like three quarters of the book itself, right? Or maybe two thirds. It just popped up way sooner than I was remembering.
What do people think of Watership Down? : movies
Loomed large in your memory? Not that Efrafa is not also creepy and terrifying in a different way. So before we talk about Efrafa, though, I think we should mention what Hazel does in the meantime. So Hazel thinks that Efrafa is going to be great. And so he sends a small group of rabbits to go make their overtures.
And he decides to go down there and let them out of the hutch and bring them back to Watership Down. It is about that, guys.
He cares a lot about being a good leader, which is mostly awesome, but sometimes it leads him into trouble. And it goes really badly. One of the rabbits gets recaptured. And most importantly, Hazel gets shot and wounded. And that stays with him. He walks with a limp for the rest of the book. But every time after that happens, I just want to be like, will you please start listening to Fiver now? Will you just listen to him? I will never again not listen to you.
OK, but to be fair to Hazel, he sort of listens. He just has a different opinion about whether this is a good idea or not.
Well, no, he says he has a feeling. Hazel kind of tries to compromise. Do you want to tell what happens next, Whiskey Jenny? So the expedition rabbits get back from their mission at Efrafa. You have to stay with your group your whole life, and you have special feeding hours based on your group. And you have special pooping times and special pooping places.
You can never leave. The military police can mate with whoever they want, and they have to mate with them. As they often do. And definitely Efrafa is not going to let any does leave if they can help it. Some does, in fact, from Efrafa, even before the Watership Down envoy got there, wanted to leave, and requested to leave, but were not allowed to leave.
We have no other plan. We have to go back. They refuse to go back. You have to come up with a new plan. We gotta do it. This is the plan. Here are three objectives. And they have to get there, and get away, and not be followed.
Those are the three objectives. Blackberry comes up with an amazing plan, and it all hinges on Bigwig. Bigwig has to go undercover. And he has to commit to this plan. Completely on his own. That is one of the most high-anxiety sequences I remember reading as a child in a book.
It is a lot. But they are able to escape. Kehaar helps them, which is amazing. And even then, things go wrong. And Bigwig says something like, may Frith strike you down! That finally things may be turning on their side, and then the bird comes out of nowhere! And they escape on a boat. Because Blackberry figured out what boats are! And then, so they escape from Efrafa. They get home with all these does.
Efrafa comes after them to Watership Down! And then they have this big showdown battle at the end. But, Whiskey Jenny, what I love about this big showdown battle is that so much of it is just psychological.
But he has to win this war, right now, or his leadership is going to falter. Yeah and also, he wants to do everything himself. And they have this big fight. And at one point, Woundwort tries to talk Bigwig into betraying his warren. And Bigwig tells him in rabbit language to eat shit, which is amazing.
He curses at him. OK, no, I have two parts. My second favorite part is General Woundwort loses. Could you just finish him off for me? So this has developed over the course of the book, with him becoming more resourceful, and having to face all these different enemies. And he was really hotheaded at the beginning of the book, I would say, and has tamed that streak. And I wrote the whole sentence down. This is his response. All he values is strength. And then Hazel puts his amazing plan into action, which is so good.
Which is that he goes down to the farm. Where the hutch rabbits were. And then he gets Blackberry and Dandelion to run from the dog, bringing the dog towards the warren, so that the dog will come and scatter the Efrafan rabbits who are on the top. Dandelion and Blackberry just give it their all. And the rabbits of Efrafa to take this to mean that the Watership Down warren has dog allies, bird allies, who knows what else? Stay here and fight! And he kind of walks off into the forest alone, I think.
And Hazel got trapped at the farm where he was chewing through the rope to release the dog, by a cat. Yeah, the cat got him. Yeah, but the little girl at the farm finds him, and they drive him back up to Watership Down and let him free. You can get up now. We saved the warren. They all have such a good life in the warren, and they have made friends with Efrafa now that General Woundwort is gone.
And as I was reading this, I think partly the reason that I was so high on Bigwig this time— not that I ever was not high on Bigwig. I always love Bigwig. But I was also picturing John Boyega doing his voice this time. So that was super amazing. Bigwig, we love you, tell us a story!
Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I loved all those little folktales mixed in. Those are really fun. And Hazel asks him, like, you have to be the only non-anxious one and tell us a story to distract us. And I really liked that they all get to show their courage at some point, no matter what their skill is. As if El-ahrairah was Hazel. As if it was a tale from the past of El-ahrairah. I just like it so much. And I know, even— like, we just went all through that.
And they grow, and change, and form grudging respect, and show how you build a good family and a good society, and not a totalitarian one or a morally complicit one. This was a lot of fun. And it is about a year-old who lives in Mexico City. She loves reading mystery novels, and her little sister died many years ago, and her mother left. It has a beautiful cover, too. It has such a great cover.
All right, well, this has been the Reading the End bookcast with the demographically similar Jennys. You can visit the blog at readingtheend. You can follow us on Twitter at readingtheend. And you can email us, please do, at readingtheend gmail. It makes us super happy and helps other people find the podcast.
And until next time, a quote from one of my favorite comfort reads, Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. The warm, intimate magic, born of being in an enclosed particular place, and simultaneously being nowhere, passing through.