#011 - The S&L Podcast: We're tharn over Watership Down

Hey everyone! We're back, and recording from the New Media Expo in Las Vegas (OK, we were there last week, it took me some time to get this posted...). We've just finished up Watership Down, and we hope you enjoyed it. Tom is going all dictator on us next time around, so he'll be posting his choice for the next book soon! Here are the show notes:

Bunnies as a community
The interactions are based on real rabbit behavior, but there is a lot of humanity in them to make us able to grasp their situations/feelings etc.
What do you think of the blend?

The stories of El-Haraihrah
Mike - I think my favorite segments of the book are the stories about El-Ahrairah. He is quick and clever, not above a prank or two and fiercely loyal to his people. In many ways his stories reminded me of Sūn Wùkōng (Monkey King) from Journey to the West (although to be fair El-Ahrairah is a little less irrepressable).

Why do you think Adams put these segments in? Do they just fill more pages? Does the addition of the mythology add depth and meaning to the rabbit society and characters? What do you think?

Sh1mm3r - I thought of the mythological trickster at first, but I think El-Ahrairah is unique in that he uses his trickster abilities to protect his "people." I like how the stories add a mythology to the rabbit culture, but also seem to encourage and inspire them to solve their own problems creatively.

Disappointed in Fiver
Sam! -  I feel like Adams made a promise to us as his audience. He's presented us with a warren of rabbits, living in what seem to be our world, doing all of the things that real rabbits do... except for Fiver. He's the one who starts us on our journey and ultimately moves us along throughout the entire novel. (sandelford, cowslip, the fox, hazel's shooting and rescue, even his blessing of the trip to efrafa). In each scenario, his predictions turn out to be spot on. Adams' promise was that this one outside force (fiver) was there for a reason that would be made clear before the story finished.

My question is simply.. Did he keep to his promise? Do we, as an audience, believe in fiver as a rabbit of the watership down warren... or do we view him as a storytelling mechanic used to take us from act to act? Why is it that Fiver alone (with the arguable exception of one of the efrafan does) has this magic ability? And, further, is the ability justified?

Nick W - I found fiver added a large amount of interest to the story due to how very dark his predictions were, the hill covered in blood, the ceiling held up with bones, but even though he added interest he did seem simply like a tool to guide the story along.

It seems like Adams tossed the other doe in efrafa in so as to say "See, he's not the only one that can do this". I would of believed his abilities more (and seen him less as a tool) if all of the rabbits had some psychic ability, Fiver's just being extra strong.

Perhaps Fiver discovered a worm that excreted a powerful spice.

Adams has said he did not intend Watership Down as a metaphor.  But many paralels can be drawn?
Totalitarian/Militaristic Society

The Heroes Journey
Wikipedia entry draws parallels to hero journey stories like the Odyssey.

Tolkien scholar John Rateliff calls Adams's novel an Aeneid "what-if" book: what if the seer Cassandra (Fiver) had been believed and she and a company had fled Troy (Sandleford Warren) before its destruction? What if Hazel and his companions, like Aeneas, encounter a seductive home at Cowslip's Warren (Land of the Lotus Eaters)? Rateliff goes on to compare the rabbits' battle withWoundwort's Efrafans to Aeneas's fight with Turnus's Latins. "By basing his story on one of the most popular books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Adams taps into a very old myth: the flight from disaster, the heroic refugee in search of a new home, a story that was already over a thousand years old when Vergil [sic] told it in 19 BC."[1]

Further Reading
Sequel - Tales from Watership Down
The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964), by British naturalist Ronald Lockley
Movie - Watership Down

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#011 - The S&L Podcast: We're tharn over Watership Down