The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Richard Adams’ Watership Down is an anthropomorphic story showing the effect of humans on nature. As rabbits, heroes Hazel and Fiver are dependent on the countryside for shelter and food, and they live in concert with all other life. Hazel and his companions initially flee their burrows because a developer has decided to build homes on the site of their warren, but they see the effects of human involvement through other encounters, including those with a domesticated warren, a rabbit hutch at a local farm, and a warren that lives in fear of discovery by humans. Only the Watership Down seems protected from human encroachment.

Fiver, a young rabbit in the Sandleford warren, sees a vision of his home, the Sandleford fields, awash with blood. After a futile attempt to convince the chief rabbit of the impending destruction, he and his brother Hazel gather as many rabbits as possible to seek a safer home in the hills. The rabbits who join their ragtag band are primarily of lower status, among them Dandelion, Buckthorn, Pipkin, Blackberry, Hawkbit, Speedwell, and Acorn. The group manages to acquire the help of two members of the warren’s police force (the Owsla), Bigwig and Silver.

Their immediate danger is “the thousand,” the enemies that prey on rabbits, but there are other, subtler, threats. In their flight from the Sandleford warren, they are forced to rely not on their instincts but on their adaptability. At one point, they use...

(The entire section is 509 words.)