Book Review: Watership Down


This book is said to be a celebrated British Classic. It is a tale of survival of a group of wild rabbits. These rabbits migrate from their warren (rabbit colony) in search of a safer haven. They eventually establish their own warren called Watership Down.

This book is written by Richard Adams, who first recounted this tale to his two daughters to pass time. His daughters urged him to write this book. The book was later converted into a movie, which I am told, did not work. It was also adapted into a television series.

The rabbit characters in are Watership Down lovable. They are all human-like, that is writer has anthropomorphised. It was interesting to read about a man from rabbit’s point of view. Bigwig and Hazel were my favourite characters.

Adams based his descriptions of wild rabbit behaviour on British naturalist Ronald Lockley’s book The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964). Adams has also credited Lockley in his book.

The rabbits in Adam’s book have their own culture, a rich folk lore with a brave hero called El-ahrairah, their own lapine language. Few words that I picked up from the lapine vocabulary are elil (enemies), Firth (Sun or God), Homba (Fox), Ni-Firth (noon), Inle (Moon) and lendri (badger). Here is a video clip from movie about rabbit folklore:

[Youtube =

Do not mistake Watership Down as just another children’s book, there’s much we adults can learn from the book about teamwork and leadership. Think of Watership Down, the rabbits’ new home, as a start-up by some enterprising youths. Making a start-up work is all about a teamwork and leadership as depicted in the book. Here are few teamwork/leadership lessons summed from Adam’s Watership Down:

  1. Teamwork is not a one-man-show. Every team depends on unique abilities of each team member. If Hazel had leadership and Bigwig had brawn, it was Fiver’s intuition, and Silver’s speed that saved their lives at times.
  2. As a leader, you can’t just assign unwanted, difficult tasks to your team members. You lead by example. Hazel, the leader, took many risky tasks on him to lead by example.
  3. Every change may seem like crossing the mountain in the beginning. But you must weigh and take risks. Making change saved the lives of rabbits, as is evident in the book.
  4. You don’t need everyone to be a leader in team, followers are also needed. Pipkin was the weakest rabbit, but he was always made part of a plan by Hazel, the leader.
  5. Bravado and enthusiasm do not always help. Think before you leap. You can also replace ‘Think’ with ‘Strategise’ in the sentence. Have a plan, think of contingencies, most of the times it will work.
  6. You read right in the last point. Plans work most of the time, but not all the times. There will always be times when you will need to think on feet. Keep your cool.
  7. It always pays to make friends and contacts. In the book, Kehaar, the seagull and rat proved to be unlikely allies of rabbits. It may not be worth having enemies over skirmishes.
  8. It never pays to be satisfied. After they had their place under sun, rabbits of Watership Down warren wanted does. (This had though outraged the feminists.)
  9. Brawn and direct-attack doesn’t work always. Rabbits are creature of tricks; they do it for survival everyday.
  10. This is blank for you to add your own takeaway. I am sure you would come with few after reading the book.  🙂

Rating: 4/5 (There is a wonderful, flowing story of resilience and adventure.)

P.S: Please visit here to take a movie quiz.

21 Responses to “Book Review: Watership Down”

  1. 1 Indyeah March 6, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for that review Poonam:)
    THis is the first time I have heard of this book and it seems really interesting from the way you have described it.

    and the lessons seem to be really worth it in real life .
    And all this from a book?:)
    This makes me yet more curious.

    PS:-I thought Hazel was a ‘she’ 😀

    I got it from the Sunday market for 20 bucks. Naah, Hazel is a ‘he’. all of them are, except does. 🙂

  2. 3 Chirag Chamoli March 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks Poonam a good review :), I am right now reading “Blue Sweater”. Guess, Watership Down is next.

  3. 4 praneshachar March 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    wonderful review and the way you have linked it to leadership and team work is amazing you have got a great vision and this is not a review you have done a search and research of the characters and in nutshell given it to us. thanks for the wonderful review as put up you. keep going and growing tall taller in the art of writing, reviews and ………………so on and on…………

    Yeah, I thought I would review it in a diffeerent way, something more than mere story. I am glad you liked it, thanks as always for the wishes! 🙂

  4. 5 sakhi March 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    okkkkk.. it would be good to get this one and tell it to my kiddo too! 🙂 thanks for the review 🙂

    Yes, it is a story worth telling kiddo, also the movie is something kids would love 🙂

  5. 6 Smita March 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Fantastic review, specially liked the lessons that you have summed up 🙂

    I will try getting this book, this for sure looks interesting…

    Thank you, Smita! This is different, kind of interesting book. 🙂 I am sure you would be able to draw some more lessons that I missed. I wrote review a month after finishing the book. My memory is nt good these days.

  6. 7 vimal March 6, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    A kids book review at last !!! I should probably try this one! Does it have pics on both sides?? 😉

    Ahem..well, the one I was reading hads no pictures, at all. You could be content by watching the movie Watership Down, the video I have posted here is first 10 minutes of it. Entire movie is avilable on youtube.

  7. 8 Amit March 7, 2009 at 1:37 am

    This seems to be something similar to Animal Farm. Do read that book too!

    Sure, Animal Farm is on my to-read list!

  8. 9 moviemaniax March 7, 2009 at 4:10 am

    Nice review, book prolly too would be; but not my kind of stuff.

    And look who says brevity is not Vee’s virtue. Sigh!

    What is your kinda stuff? And I certainly write smaller reviews than Vee. 😛

  9. 10 Nita March 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Seems like a sweet book. I haven’t read a book in about 2 months! It seems a strange feeling. just haven’t got down to a routine yet.

    Just as writing, to get into a routine of reading book, you have to start by reading a good one. Hope you read one soon! 🙂

  10. 11 dinu March 7, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    4/5 hmm 🙂 seems like a nice read …
    can you post the price of the book too ?

    I got the book in a very new condition for just 20 bucks from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk Sunday book market. 🙂

  11. 12 Aathira March 9, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Sounds like a nice book.

    Presently reading Complete stories of Hercule Poirot, I guess when I am done with that, this is on next!

    PS: New here, hopped over from Anshul’s page.

    Finally, Anshul has referred someone from his blog! 😛 Thanks Aathira, for coming over. 🙂

  12. 13 Vikas Gupta March 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I read only half of this post. I have the film and will watch it later (so avoiding spoilers).

    I hardly read books because I have this fear that I will lose my imagination if I read the great authors. I want to write first everything that I have to say (without getting influenced by the genius of others; So maintaining cerebral hygiene).

    BTW, I broke a New Year resolution and watched three films! 😦

    Button, Reader (both awesome) and Dev D (very average! Sir dukh gaya!)

    I have a truly huge collection of movies (including many of the greatest ever made ) from 1920s to 2009. 🙂

    I have travelled so little in life. Two days ago went to JNU caves and documented it:

    May go river-rafting to Rishikesh on 13th (undecided presently) for 2 days!

    Reading enhances imagination. 🙂 ?Yeah, some people have said that about DevD, though I enjoyed it. You made an entire blog about JNU caves, I had a brief glipse of it. More later. River rafting is godd, I had fin doind it. I have been there twice. 🙂

  13. 14 Solilo March 10, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Poonam, thanks for the review. I haven’t read it but it reminded me of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’. The story isn’t similar but quest is the same. Have you read it? One of my favorites as a child.

    Nope, I have not read this book. 😦 Let me see if I can find it.

  14. 15 museditions March 10, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you, Poonam! Somehow, I never did read this, and I kind of forgot about it until your post. I have put it on my list now, and I think it will be a wonderful diversion in a busy day. 🙂

    Do read it and let me know how you find it. 🙂

  15. 16 whatsinaname March 11, 2009 at 11:45 am

    hmm seems a very interesting book. I am reminded of Animal Farm. Will keep the book in mind

    Yes, this was a gud book. I am still to read Animal Fram. Thanks for coming by, WIAN 🙂

  16. 17 LeFox February 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, was not Dandelion the one with the speed? Silver was a nephew of the Chief at Sandleford who had gotten a bad time for his given position in the Owsla and his his lightly colored fur? Plus it was a mouse that Hazel saved from the kestrel that provided the vital info about the approaching Efrafan army. Not criticizing just pointing out.

  17. 18 jenin February 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    silly human this isn’t american. IT’s BRITISH. watership down is an actual hill where adams grew up. Please get your facts right >.<

  18. 19 Student July 6, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Worst book EVER. dont read it AT ALL.

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