Nostalgia or Childhood Scars: Watership Down

I've read several news stories that Richard Adams's Watership Down will be adapted for film once again. This time for Netflix audiences. This news takes me back to my 80's childhood. My family didn't have cable, but we had three channels, one in French, including the CBC.

Every year Watership Down appeared on our TV as part of the CBC schedule. It's been years since I've seen the movie. What I remember was a brutal realism mixed with rabbits trippin' out while in the throes of death as the Black Rabbit took them off to rabbit heaven.



Has there ever been anything like Watership Down since it was released in 1978? I can't think of anything quite as disturbing marketed to children (I think The Secret of NIMH comes close). If you know of something, go ahead and voice your opinion in the comments.



As a kid, I didn't understand half of what was happening. The rabbits died horrible deaths and that was frightening, but whatever else was going on went over my head. I know that it still affected me. The rabbits were heroic and not all of them made it to the end and the safe haven they were searching for. This was a revelation to young me that even happy endings can have sadness mixed in. Maybe it's the reason why I like an ambiguous ending now.

I finally read the book in 2009. It was such a moving story. Just rereading my review makes me feel a bit emotional. Maybe a reread is in order.

The new film's producers say that this version won't be as violent as the 1978 version. I'm a mom myself now, and I have been known to skim over the gore in fairy tales when reading to my daughter when she was little. I'm not sure how I feel about this kinder-gentler version of Watership Down right now. It could be a good thing, if it allows squeamish parents to share this beautiful adventure story with their kids. I don't think it could be remade today if it kept all the gore of the first film. Even though nature is brutal, as watchers of an Eagle Cam found out this week, we don't always want it in our faces.

What do you think of this news? Have you read Watership Down? Seen the movie? Will you watch the remake? 

9 comments:

  1. I loved the book so much that I never wanted to see the movie. I didn't read the awful fairy tales to my kids despite all the press that says they are good for kids. I think the world is scary enough and stories should be nicer!

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  2. I've never thought that Watership Down was (or should be) a children's book. I have never seen the first movie and won't see the new one. I think it's a ludicrous idea to make an animated film (obviously for kids) of this book! I read it as an adult and I was "deeply disturbed"!

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    1. I think it depends on the age. My daughter is almost 14 and I wouldn't have a problem with her reading it now. I was reading the entire Stephen King catalogue by the time I was 16 so I have a bit of a bias.

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  3. I'd heard of Watership Down, but I have to admit I always thought it was about the Vietnam War and had no idea it was about rabbits and a children's story. The TV movie based on a book that traumatized me as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit. Rabbits again!

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    1. I can't read The Velveteen Rabbit without crying. Ugh!

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  4. Honestly, I've never read the book nor seen any movie version. If you do a re-read, would you be willing to make it a readalong? I don't read enough classics since our Classics Club ended.

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    1. I was actually thinking of a readalong! Let's see if we can get any interest. I think people would have a lot to say about it. If not, we could buddy read it. If you have a preference for when to start it, let me know.

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  5. I read it three times in a row back when I was in sixth grade. I re-read it a few years ago and did not find it all that good. Good, yes, but not all that good. I honestly don't recall anything terribly traumatic. Some scary bits, but nothing that gave me nightmares.

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