Book 4 for Once Upon a Time…..
My first audio book!
Watership Down by Richard Adams: Read by Roy Dotrice.
In the Sandleford warren, Fiver, a young runt rabbit who is a seer , receives a frightening vision of his warren's imminent destruction. When he and his brother Hazel fail to convince their chief rabbit of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own with a small band of rabbits to search for a new home, barely eluding the Owsla, the warren's military caste.
The travelling group of rabbits find themselves following the leadership of Hazel, previously an unimportant member of the warren. They travel through dangerous territory, with Bigwig and Silver, both former Owsla, as the strongest rabbits among them.
Fiver's visions promise a safe place in which to settle, and the group eventually finds Watership Down, an ideal location to set up their new warren. They are soon reunited with Holly and Bluebell, also from the Sandleford Warren, who reveal that Fiver's vision was true and the entire warren was destroyed by humans.
Although Watership Down is a peaceful habitat, Hazel realises there are no does (female rabbits), thus making the future of their new home uncertain. With the help of a seagull named Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren, Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does. Hazel sends a small emissary to Efrafa to present their request for does. While waiting for the group to return, Hazel and Pipkin scout the nearby Nuthanger Farm to find two pairs of hutch rabbits there; Hazel leads a raid on the farm the next day, returning with two does and a buck. When the emissary returns, Hazel and his rabbits learn Efrafa is a police state led by the despotic General Woundwort, and the squad of rabbits dispatched there manage to return with little more than their lives intact.
However, the group does manage to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay who wishes to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join in the escape as well. Hazel and Bigwig devise a plan to rescue the group and join them on Watership Down, after which the Efrafan escapees start their new life of freedom to do as they please.
Shortly thereafter the Owsla of Efrafa, led by Woundwort himself arrives to attack the newly formed warren at Watership Down, but through Bigwig's bravery and loyalty and Hazel's ingenuity, the Watership Down rabbits seal the fate of the Efrafan general by unleashing the Nuthanger Farm watchdog. Although a formidable fighter by rabbit standards Woundwort is apparently killed by the dog. His body however is never found and at least one of his former followers continues to believe in his survival. Hazel is nearly taken by a cat, but is saved by the farm girl Lucy, the owner of the escaped hutch rabbits.
The story's epilogue tells the reader of how Hazel, dozing in his burrow one "chilly, blustery morning in March" some years later, is visited by El-ahrairah, the rabbit-folk hero who invites Hazel to join his own Owsla. Leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down with the spirit-guide, "running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."
First let me say that I adore Roy Dotrice. He’s a marvelous British actor who I was thrilled to have met a number of times, but mostly when I first met him and his wife, Kay and one of his daughters, Karen at a tennis match in Florida.
The most wonderful people you’d want to meet. Roy has been in many movies, but my introduction to him was in a television series called Beauty and the Beast starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. Roy played the character of “Father”, and I took an instant liking to him. Roy’s daughter Karen was a child actor and began her career being the little blonde girl in Mary Poppins.
Anyway.. I love Roy and am enchanted with his voice. My “sis”, Cath, across the pond knew one of the things that I searched for was the audio book of Watership Down because Roy was the one reading it. And so this year, for my birthday, what appears in my mail from Cath but a package containing an original (1974) recording of Roy reading Watership Down!!
When I put the first audio tape in to listen I broke into this huge smile. There was Roy! Albeit a younger voice than I remembered but… it was Roy!!! I was once again smitten just listening to his voice.
It didn’t take long however until I was hearing the story and not just his voice. He would change reflection and tones for different the different rabbits as he read Richard Adams classical story. The first hour of audio went quickly. Each tape is about an hour long and I loved every minute of it!
I wish I could tell you that anyone could get this particular audio but I know that isn’t true.. but there are other audio’s of this book, should you choose to listen to it instead of reading.
I will admit that since I am home most of the time it’s not easy to sit and listen rather then holding a book in my hands and reading. But in this case it was a rare treat indeed. :o) (Thanks again Cath!)
I read Watership Down eons ago and remembered very little of the book so I got to enjoy it as if this were the first time I ever knew of it.
This is a classic story. It may not be for everyone, but it is one that has stood the test of time, and so is one that should be read at least once in ones life.