First Edition: Watership Down

It is a book which begun as a tale told by a father to his two daughters. Surely everyone has read Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Watership Down

[photo: Wikipedia]

The story
In Southern England lives at Sandleford Warren, a community of rabbits. They live in their natural environment but anthropomorphized so they have their own voices, culture, language, proverbs and mythology. This is a book which rewards re-reading. Fiver, the runt of the litter, is also a seer. When he forsees the destruction of their warren, Fiver and and his brother Hazel try to convince the other rabbits to flee with them. Unsuccessful, they set out on their own with 11 other rabbits to search for a new home. Hazel, previously an unimportant member of the warren, finds himself leader of the group. Fiver has visions about a safe place to settle, and so they find Watership Down. But still, they are not safe.

First UK edition Watership DownThe first UK edition was published in November 1972 by Rex Collings. At the time, Collings famously wrote to an associate, “I’ve just taken on a novel about rabbits, one of them with extra-sensory perception. Do you think I’m mad?”

The book took Adams two years to write and went on to win two children’s fiction awards for Adams – the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, one of only six authors to do the double.

The film Watership DownIn 1978 there was an animated film, well-known for two things: Hazel, voiced by John Hurt, and Art Garfunkel’s hit single Bright Eyes. Watch the trailer here.

The current UK edition
The current UK edition, published by Puffin Books in 2014, features illustrations by David Parkins. This [below] is the original 1973 Puffin paperback edition. Watership DownOther books by Richard Adams
Tales from Watership Down – the sequel, published 25 years later.

The Plague Dogs [1977] – about two dogs which escape animal testing. The first edition features location maps  by Alfred Wainwright, fellwalker and author.

Shardik [1974] – Kelderek is a young hunter who pursues a bear believing it to be Shardik, the giant bear god. Hunter and bear are unwillingly drawn into the politics of the Beklan Empire. Shardik, the height of two men, has curved claws longer than a man’s head.

Watership Down


‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams [UK: Puffin] Buy here

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles
‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
First Edition: WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams #oldbooks via @SandraDanby

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