The deeper meaning behind Watership Down

Rabbiting on: The new two-part adaptation will star John Boyega from Star Wars.

Is Watership Down “just a story about rabbits”? Richard Adams’s much-loved tale will soon be back on our screens in a new film. For decades, fans have tried to work out its true meaning.

What’s happening

Over Christmas, BBC One is showing a new animation of Watership Down, based on the book by Richard Adams.

It tells the story of a small group of rabbits who must find a new home when their warren is destroyed by humans.

Find out more

Fans of the book have lots of different ideas about the real meaning of the story. Some even think the rabbit called Hazel represents Jesus Christ.

However, Adams’s daughters say the truth is a lot simpler: “It is just a story about rabbits.”

The book was first made into a film in 1978, but many people think it is very scary.

The BBC says the new episodes will be less violent. It will also be more funny and have more female characters.

Is Watership Down really “just a story about rabbits”?

Some say…

Yes! We should not make things too complicated. It is better to sit back and enjoy this exciting adventure about a group of rabbits. We can get to know the characters and not think too hard.

Others think…

No! Adams’s daughters agree that the story is also about humans “destroying the environment and endangering” animals. The best stories have extra meanings beneath the surface.

You Decide

  1. What makes a great story?

Activities

  1. Write your own story using animal characters that has a hidden meaning. It could be about how people should treat each other, looking after the environment, or any other important lesson you can think of.

Some People Say...

“Men will never rest till they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals.”

Holly the rabbit in Watership Down, by Richard Adams

What do you think?

Word Watch

Animation
When drawings or computer images are used to make a film or show.
Warren
Connected tunnels that rabbits live in.
Represents
Stands for or means something other than itself.
Violent
Behaviour that is physically hurtful to others, like punching and kicking.
Female
Women and girls.
Endangering
Put it at risk of being destroyed or dying out.

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