First Read: 3rd/4th grade
I first read Watership Down after seeing the cartoon. I was dusting my parents’ bookcase, and boom there the book was. So, I read it and loved it. Except for that one chapter.
The basic plot of Watership is a quest by a group of rabbits as they try to find, first, a home and then female rabbits. The rabbits have a trickster god called El-ahrairah. The chapter that freaked me out when I first read it was a story about El-ahrairah going to the Black Rabbit (death). El-ahrairah wanted to save his people so he gambled with the Black Rabbit. Each time he lost, he lost body parts. His ears were replaced with cabbage leaves and so on. It freaked me out. Really freaked me out. It was the only time I ever needed a night light.
It was the cabbage leaves.
Yet, even this chapter couldn’t kill my love for the book. I re-read pretty much every year though college. Until high school, I skipped that scary chapter. But then I read it again and loved it.
The great thing about Watership Down is the whole language. The whole world building. The characters – Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Dandelion, Blackberry, Pippin, and Keehar (who is not a rabbit).
I love those characters. I love this book.
Rabbits taught me much.