A number of children’s favourites feature on the BBC Big Read – many of which I enjoyed as a child. From Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, to The Chronicles of Narnia and some of Roald Dahls’ best loved books, revisiting them as I worked my way through the list of a hundred books has offered a wonderful sense of nostalgia. Coming to Watership Down however, was a different story. While I knew of Richard Adam’s best known story, it wasn’t one I was over familiar with.
Published in 1972, Watership Down was rejected seven times before finally being accepted for publication, and soon became a much loved children’s classic. A story made up by its author to scare his children, Watership Down is a classic adventure novel that features a small group of 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.
Full of rich characters, the rabbits of Watership Down have their own language (with words and concepts derived from their understanding of the world), and perhaps most engagingly, they tell stories and myths based on their beloved folk-hero El-ahrairah. These stories, peppered throughout the book as chapters, are some of the most enjoyable parts of the tale and add a depth and interest to the rabbits and their ‘culture’ that is very endearing.
Certainly more sinister than the other children’ books on the list, Watershed Down is equally appropriate for an adult audience and is a satisfying and fulfilling tale well worthy of the title “classic”.