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Watership Down

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Watership Down
Watershipdown
Author
Richard Adams
Publisher
Rex Collings
Publish Date
1972

Watership Down is a novel by Richard Adams and was published in 1972. It is often seen as a social commentary done using a group of rabbits as the main characters, and chronicling their search for a new place to live after they narrowly escape the poisoning and excavation of their warren by men.

In the course of their search for a new warren, they encounter a supposed utopia, where the rabbits are nurtured and fed into apathy by the local farmer. However the newcomers come to realize that this strange warren is a trap, as the farmer has set snares all around the area.

Later in the book the group finds a suitable place to settle down, however, they require female rabbits to continue their society. They approach Efrafra, a nearby warren run under the iron fist of a Chief Rabbit named General Woundwort, and after capture and a protracted battle, survive to start their own warren.

In Lost

Similarities and shared themes

  • The protagonists of the book are rabbits, which have become a recurring theme on the show.
  • Just as the Tempest was used to poison the entire island, at the beginning of the book the rabbits are poisoned and only a few remain to escape.
  • Establishment of a Utopian social community (the protagonist rabbits are reevaluating the rules by which they will choose to run their society).
  • Kidnapping/rescuing members (most notably, females) of one community in order to fill ranks of a second community (the protagonist all-male rabbits must liberate some does from a neighboring, fascist warren).
  • Psychic abilities (one of the rabbit protagonists has a vision of the doom of their warren, which later comes true).
  • The theme of feeling uprooted from "home", and ongoing search for a new place (physical and metaphorical) to replant themselves in a distant land.
  • One of the chapters in the book is also named "Dea Ex Machina" (much like "Deus Ex Machina"), after the literary device used to unexpectedly untangle plot situations. In this case, Dea is the feminine counterpart of the masculine Deus.
  • "The remedy is worse than the disease", one of several possible translations of the Latin phrase "Aegrescit medendo", which is written on the blast door map, is a direct quote from Watership Down. It is spoken by the Chief Rabbit in the chapter "For El-Ahrairah to Cry", in Part Two. He means that it would be easier for the community to stay where they are and hope to survive the catastrophe that threatens them, rather than evacuate.
  • In the 1978 animated movie of Watership Down, the opening scene focuses on a close-up of the lead character's eye, just as in the TV series.
  • In the novel, a doe knows she is dying and leaves the group to do it away from them. This mirrors the "live together, die alone" concept.
  • In the story, the concept of death is symbolically represented by a black cloud in the form of a rabbit (see The Black Rabbit of Inlé, below). The presence of the Monster on the Island could be seen as a tribute to this idea.
  • In one section of the book, a group of rabbits are escaping the Efrafan pursuers and are thrown into confusion by a "Monster of smoke and fire" this monster, which is a normal train, kills off the evil pursuers and saves the good rabbits. This is not only like Lost's Smoke Monster, but also is a symbol of the Judgment on the island.
  • There are numerous references to female rabbits having difficulties carrying their kittens to term (similarly to how females on the island are unable to carry their babies to term). Stressed does often "reabsorb" their babies, as was the case in Efrafa.
  • In the Watership Down movie, Fiver warns his warren of the coming danger. He erratically says "let's go, let's go!" etc. etc. In Season 3, episode 4 (Every Man for Himself), Ben has a pacemaker installed in Sawyer that will make his heart explode if his pulse gets too high. To demonstrate, Ben shakes a cage over Sawyer yelling "Hey, let's move it, let's go, c'mon" to scare the rabbit until it ceases moving. The two dialogs are similar. Later in the episode, Ben and Sawyer quote "Of Mice and Men" challenging each other's knowledge of literature by saying "Don't you read?"
  • The totalitarian nature of the Others' camp resembles the totalitarian warren that the good rabbits liberate the female rabbits from.
  • This story explores the themes of exile, survival, heroism, political responsibility, and the "making of a hero and a community". These themes are developed from the author's exposure to the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell.[1] Lost creator J.J. Abrams, also gained exposure to the works and teachings of Joseph Campbell while attending Sarah Lawrence College, where Joseph Campbell taught for 38 years.[2]

The Black Rabbit of Inlé

In Lapine Lore, the Black Rabbit of Inlé bears many striking similarities to Lost's Man in Black:

  • He is described as "fear and everlasting darkness", and it is noted that The Black Rabbit "brings sickness" wherever he goes. In Lapine lore, he is conceptualized as the 'destroyer' figure.
  • El-ahrairah, the mythical protagonist of rabbit lore, confronts the Black Rabbit of Inlé where he lives in a cave on the side of black, stone cliffs - similar in setting to where Jack later confronts the Man in Black.
  • El-ahrairah goes to meet the fearsome Black Rabbit to cut a deal to save the rest of his warren - in particular, to give his life in exchange for sparing those of his warren.
  • The Black Rabbit of Inlé is fond of playing bob-stones, a rabbit game in which one player casts stones and hides them from the other, who must then guess the nature of the pieces. Rabbits often must guess whether the hidden pieces are light colored or dark colored.
  • When the Black Rabbit of Inlé offers El-ahrairah drink, the protagonist refuses, as he surmises that "his secret thoughts would become plain and there would be an end to tricks". This offering and conscious acceptance/refusal bears resemblance to one of the ways Jacob or the Man in Black "claims" an individual.
  • The Black Rabbit of Inlé's shadowy council/Owlsa can only exert their power through fear - similar to how the Man in Black manipulates his quarry through intimidation and fear.
  • Rabbits become infected and contract the sickness ("White Blindness") within the Black Rabbit of Inlé's tunnels underground. This bears similarities to Rousseau's experience of her science team's contraction of "sickness" after being pulled beneath the temple by the Smoke Monster/Man in Black.
  • Time doesn't exist in the Black Rabbit's Warren: "There is no time here". In the series finale when Jack meets his father in the church, Christian explains to Jack that "there is no now . . . here".

See also

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