Watership Down, Richard Adams’ highly praised fantasy, begins in a rabbit warren, Cowslip, on the South English downs. A young rabbit, Fiver, has premonitions of danger and warns his brother Hazel. Together with several other of the younger rabbits, they begin to consider leaving Cowslip. Fiver’s psychic power is established, but his warning is difficult for the others to heed: as rabbits, they are so much bound by tradition that an irrevocable break is not easy to contemplate. Fortunately for them, their final decision to leave the old warren is thrust upon them, just before Cowslip is gassed by humans who want to build a housing development in the area. The rabbits’ adventures in this first part of the story teach them to rely on their rabbit traditions and on one another; the value of these traditions is highlighted when they encounter a warren that has abandoned its inherited wisdom.
After some adventures along the way, the band eventually finds a dry and secure place to dig a new warren: Watership Down. This second part of the story emphasizes adjustment and change. The rabbits learn that their habits and traditions sometimes need to be changed: without losing their heritage, they must adapt it to novel situations. The migration of the bucks is now over, but since the band is exclusively male, they must find does in order for their warren to continue. They depart from tradition on two occasions, both of which will eventually be crucial...
(The entire section is 470 words.)