Stories involving talking animals are considered juvenile by many, but I love reading them. That’s probably because I love animals and I find them absolutely adorable to read about. I grew up on Champak and Panchtantra and Narnia, among others. Though I never really lost interest in those stories, I began to read other stuff later, primarily to widen by range.
Then arrived Watership Down. This charming little book came highly recommended by George RR Martin, that undisputed king of fantasy. I’ve never been disappointed with his recommendations that are available on his site and blog, so I almost immediately started reading.
Watership Down is a tale of a bunch of rabbits who search for a new place to live after a clairvoyant (!) rabbit warns of a disaster about to strike their warren. The novel has a lot of action, but it must be kept in mind that ‘action’ is normalcy in the lives of wild
rabbits. They face dangers everyday in the form of foxes, dogs, and, of course, humans, and . Dangerous is synonymous to routine for them.
The book is not only well-written, the characters are drawn up so beautifully that at times you forget you’re reading about beings who can’t speak. There are some adorable ‘rabbitspeak’ words that just warm the heart. A small rabbit is called Hlao-roo by fellow rabbits where ‘Roo’ means small and ‘Hlao’ is his name in rabbitspeak. Similarly ‘hrair’ means a lot, or more than three as rabbits cannot count beyond three.
Without spoiling the story, Watership Down has heroes and villains, but it is thankfully not as straightforward black and white as Narnia. It revolves around themes like friendship, sacrifice, and kindness, and is engaging almost throughout. A fine read.