Watership Down is one of those books that helped shape my entire worldview. It came to me, like so many of my favorites, during the horrible years we call junior high, when I would escape into books and was lucky enough to be in an advanced reading class taught by Virginia Atchinson, the librarian at Longfellow Junior High in Enid, Okla. Watership Down, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, and The Book of Three proved to be some of the most important books of my life, and they were all assigned by Mrs. Atchinson.
This story about the rabbits who follow the vague warning of Fiver and abandon their home warren has much to say about trust, friendship, believing in yourself, and standing up for what is right no matter the odds. The rabbits have several adventures before settling into a new warren on Watership Down, the most memorable to me always being the stop in Cowslip’s warren, where the loss of a rabbit here and there is considered an acceptable price for the security his rabbits enjoy.
The plotting and battle to secure the does makes up about the last third of the book and is my favorite part since Bigwig is my favorite character.
I can still remember how a handful of us seventh graders sat around a table with Mrs. Atchinson after finishing this book and she gave us our (okay, at least my) first introduction to a feminist school of literary thought as she explained that women’s rights groups hadn’t liked the book because the does were valued only for breeding purposes.
This one will always be among my favorites. I look forward to going back to Watership Down many more times before I stop running.