Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Rare Priviledge 
This year, I have the distinct honor and rare priviledge of presenting a 15-year-old young woman with a Christmas gift of a copy of Watership Down.

I have not reread it since I myself was about 15. But I credit it with being one of the formative literary and intellectual experiences in later becoming a military officer.

Watership Down is much, much more than a children's novel about a group of rabbits seeking a new home. Watership Down is a brilliant allegory of leadership in the face of adversity, written by a man who served in the British Army from 1940 to 1946.

I heartily recommend this novel to any young person, and I believe it has a place on professional reading lists in precommissioning programs as well.


Yes, the author of Watership Down served as the equivalent of a Support Platoon Leader in the Royal Corps of Transport. According to several authors he used the personalities of his commanders and sergeants for the characters in the book. The situation is the analogy of the author's experience being trapped in the Oosterbeek "kessel" as a member of the 1st (Br) Airborne Division in the Battle of Arnhem ("A Bridge Too Far"). One should understand the experience of the author as he attempts to recover the supplies air-dropped outside the perimeter, dodging and running from the enormous Panzers that patrolled the roads, dragging the ever-increasing number of wounded back as the lines collapsed and then abandoning them to make their escape across the river. The book is clearly a beautiful and cathartic relating of his hellish experience.

One of the authors at Grim's Hall (Joseph W.) recently posted about the same thing. I never read the book, although I remember seeing the animated cartoon of it when I was a kid. I am adding it to my reading list (currently reading a just-started book I received last Christmas, but had been put out-of-sight and out-of-mind for some reason, that is nearly 1000 pages: Breath of Snow and Ashes; plan to follow that up with a children's book I received this Christmas: Peter and the Shadow Thieves. I'll actually have to go out and purchase Watership Down,...
While Watership Down was many things, in my memory all positive, it was never, ever, considered a "children's book".
Closest comparison, and nowhere as fun a read, would be Orwell's "Animal Farm".
Oh yeah? If it's not a children's book, what's up with all the talking bunnies? Hmmmmm?

Seriously... I couldn't care less what the critics have to say. Check the "customers who bought this book also bought" section at Amazon to see whether the real world considers it a "children's book" or not.

I consider it a book.
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