Richard Adams and the Political Allegory of “Watership Down”

by Gillian Puma, Staff Writer

Richard Adams discusses the issues in society in his 1972 novel titled “Watership Down.” However, Adams discusses these issues through the eyes of rabbits giving the story allegorical symbolism.

The story begins when a young rabbit named Fiver envisions his home and warren being brutally destroyed. This vision shows that the area in which the warren inhabits is going to be turned into homes for humans. When he tells his older brother Hazel this news, they decide to warn the chief rabbit that they need to relocate.

When the chief ignores their request, Fiver and Hazel, along with nine other rabbits, decide to travel to find a safer area to settle.

As the rabbits embark on their journey, they face encounters that unthinkable for rabbits to go through. These encounters include struggles to find females to start their own warren, meeting a warren that is believed to be safe, but is actually giving in to human needs and even saving other rabbits from their own police state-ridden warren.

While the book is told through the rabbits’ perspective, it gives the most human like view on what it is like to survive as rebels escaping from their corrupt society.

Despite having talking animals, this book was very far from just a children’s novel and its dark themes could be more understandable amongst adults. Adams also creates a whole vocabulary for these rabbits as well as their own religion; the book also has side stories about their god known as El-ahrairah.

There’s so much more applied to this book than just rabbits escaping from home to find a new place to live. Even once the rabbits settle down in their new peaceful land at Watership Down, Adams continues to show their struggle of survival as a new colony.

The novel was later adapted into film format in October of 1978. The film gained controversy for it’s disturbing imagery and gore despite being an animated film.

However, the film was very different than most animated films made at the time. Not to mention, the film also had the same adult themes that the book had and could have been confusing for young audiences to understand. The film’s legacy still lives on and has been praised for its animation style and message to viewers.

This novel is a bizarre yet interesting representation on the view of a corrupt society. It  reminded me of another classic known as William Golding’s “Lord Of The Flies.” It was a more kid friendly approach than “Lord Of The Flies,” but can also be enjoyed by adults. I recommend this book to people who were fans of Golding’s classic, as well as people looking to find an allegorical read on societal views.