Friday, July 11, 2014

Watership Down Recap Chapter 22

Watership Down Chapter 22: The Story of the Trial of El-whatsit

Okay. Bear with me this week because not only am I late in posting I'm doing one chapter because I've been having Thoughts about Watership Down that's been nagging at me. Let's do a quick recap of the chapter first.

Which won't be long because it's another @#$*(&%ing folk tale for humans rabbits. So as everybody lets the horror of the destruction of the warren sink in they look for a distraction. Holly is really messed up from his fight with the Weirdo bunnies so Hazel and the others tend to him while searching for conversation.

So they talk about the mouse whose help they have recruited

Then the talk eventually slides into the folk tale of El-Hazard (ahrairahahriahhahaha - whatever, I don't feel like typing it out every time) the Prince of the Cottontails and his clever ways.

Yeah, okay. You know how I feel about inserting super long-ass stories WITHIN the story. I don't have patience for it. So that's essentially it. El-what-ever is clever and the rabbits survive, bla bla bla. But.

I was looking up reviews, cliff notes (remember those?) blog posts about Watership Down. There are obvious themes in the story, obvious allusions towards war, soldiers, community, camaraderie and over and over I hear about what a fantastic epic book this is. But.

Is it?

Do we change our definition of what Epic is over time?

This is obviously written along the same lines of Lord of the Rings, but even the golden standard of LOTR can be questioned - it undoubtedly has issues of race and sexism. Some of the same themes I am seeing with this book.

Where the hell are the female rabbits? We are more than twenty chapters in and there are no mention of any female presence.

Are you seriously trying to tell me that when rabbits migrate (DO they migrate??) that the does just chill in a hole somewhere, doing lady things until the big strong men bucks come back for their feeble lady selves? Really?

There is an issue with how the 'mouse' was being treated. It really may be my overactive imagination but did it NOT sound like a racial issue? Obviously our cottontails are British - white, stout, superior. In the hierarchy of prey animals what does the mouse represent, I WONDER?

The mice speak in a sort of pidgin broken English while the rabbits use phrases like, 'my dear chap'.

The mice are 'despised rather than relied upon...' written as obviously less than, not as bright as, beneath the rabbits.

This is certainly a book of it's time - not so long ago when men were manly and women were...well, background decorations with no narrative, no story, no personal passion except for gender approved things like cooking and babies. I guess women don't have Epic adventures, just periods.

You know, a world where only straight white men got a voice in anything and blacks, minorities and everybody else just...didn't.

So. What makes a story Epic? Are only narratives with straight, white men rabbits worth reading?

Plenty of people still exonerate Watership Down as one of the greatest epic adventures EVAH. It just makes me wonder, how do we define an epic story? Would it change if it were bucks AND does? What if it were the exact same story but JUST does? If it were grasshoppers, mice, a pigeon and rabbits? Is it still Epic?

Things to think about. Apologies - two more chapters next week with no (well, hardly any) personal musings.


  1. If it were mice, moles, badgers and rabbits it would be Redwall, which is pretty darn epic too. It took several books before there were any adventure girls, and they're 100% species essentialist, if that's the wright word for all moles having mole-like personalities. Still, the first three books were good. After that they stagnated fast.

  2. um, actually by 'mice, grasshopper and a pigeon' I meant what if there was diversity in these 'Epic' novels written by straight, white men. Like, what if there were women, dark skinned people and handicapped people, would the story be any less good for it? This goes back to people suck, and are sexist, racist and generally homogeneous towards their tastes and what constitutes as an 'Epic' story. Kind of a step back for humankind when only straight white men's stories are important.