Watership Down and the Displaced People in Our World.
Tree of Life
June 30, 2012
Watership Down, written by Richard Adams, is an adventurous story of some very brave and inquisitive rabbits that are outcasts from their own warren. They chose to leave and to find a new place to live. Hunted by predators and other rabbits they have to learn to survive in the wilderness while looking for a new, safe home. Facing harsh weather, predator attacks, and trying to get along, they embark on the journey of their lives. Watership Down is an example of the plight of displaced people in our world in that the characters in the story, when in search for a new home, experience danger in the hopes of finding freedom.
A displaced person is a person who has been forced to leave his or her native place. The rabbits in this story knew they needed to leave because one of them envisioned something very bad was going to happen. Fiver had a feeling, “but it’s not exactly danger that I seem to feel about the place. It’s–oh, I don’t know–something oppressive, like thunder: I can’t tell you what; but it worries me.” From a reader’s perspective, we know that they were going to be displaced by a housing development.
An example in history would be the Jews during WWII. Some knew something was going to happen to them because they saw it in their cities and towns so they decided to leave. The rabbits from Hazel’s home warren died from being gassed in their burrows and the Jews that stayed were caught and gassed in chambers. Their own warren wouldn’t listen to Fiver and Hazel’s warnings so they had to take whoever would come and escape to face other problems along the way.
They met up with another warren with strong, healthy rabbits. These rabbits were nice at first and showed them their interesting way of life. The warren filled with big healthy rabbits was confusing to Fiver and Hazel. It seemed that somebody put food for them in a field not too far away. “Sometimes there is nothing at all, especially in good summer weather. But in hard weather, in winter, there’s nearly always something.” They sometimes carried food back to the burrows for easier feeding and in case there was bad weather. Hazel and his companions found this weird at first but eventually came to see that it was a good idea.
Fiver had a feeling that something was wrong. Once in awhile, a farmer would trap one of them. He put the food out as bait and he was careful only to trap one every so often as not to scare the other ones away. The healthy rabbits were complacent. As long as it wasn’t their turn to be snared, they didn’t care. Hazel didn’t understand Fiver’s feelings and tried to convince him to stay. “No, said Fiver very quickly. You are closer to death than I.” Hazel decided to trust Fiver because he had been right in the past.
They also were in danger of the Efrafan rabbits. Many other rabbits tried and failed at escaping and it was very dangerous. The Efrafan warren had plenty of rabbits, lots of land and they were very organized, but the bad things outweigh the good. The leadership was very authoritarian. Once you were in, you could not get out. When Bigwig realized that, “they thought of us as their prisoners,” it shook him awake for him to realize what was happening.
If a person was taken away from everything they’ve known and are looking for a place to feel comfortable, Efrafa would seem like a good place to stay. If the person was welcomed and lead to feel like they were needed, they would want to stay. They would be willing to give up their freedom to gain food, shelter, and security. If there are strict rules, it would give a sense of security to a person if they were in danger. But, as in Burma, “many in opposition are either imprisoned or killed. In most of the country there is a false peace due to the dictators’ ability to control dissent”. This would lead to a false feeling of home.
The rabbits also faced danger from man. The rabbits from the home warren were killed by men just because they were in the way of the housing development. In the big healthy warren, the men tried to catch and snare the rabbits a few at a time. Hazel also rescued four rabbits hutch rabbits that belonged to humans and almost got caught and killed for trying to help them escape.
Displaced people face many predators. Women and children are especially vulnerable. “Around 58% of the displaced population are women. In welfare centres, women have been subject to sexual harassment, abuse and rape by the security forces and paramilitary groups as well as by other men. Women are also affected by domestic violence. ” “Children displaced by both natural disasters and conflicts are often more susceptible to recruitment by armed forces.” Human predators are the most dangerous.
The group of rabbits had some problems overcoming obstacles while traveling. They had to do things that rabbits don’t usually do like swim across a river. “Like all wild animals, rabbits can swim if they have to: And some even swim when it suits them. …But most rabbits avoid swimming.” They had to endure rain, lack of food and rest. “There is nothing like bad weather to reveal the shortcomings of a dwelling, particularly if it is too small.” They didn’t always get along or a agree on everything. “Cold and damp, Hazel felt impatient. He had always been accustomed to rely on Fiver and now, when he really needed him, he was letting them down… they had an anxious time and were all weary.” It was also hard finding shelter sometimes.
Displaced Rwandans had a similar problem. “There were thousands of makeshift shelters along rural roads. Many have walls of leaves and soil and roofs of plastic sheeting giving very limited protection against rain and temperatures which can drop to 10C.” Displaced Somalis found help from the U.N, supplying emergency shelter items, to these people they can be life-saving: plastic sheets so they can put a roof over their head, blankets and sleeping mats so they can sleep and put their children down, jerry cans for water and kitchen sets, pots, pans, plates and cutlery.” This gives the displaced people more hope for a new home.
As displaced rabbits, once Hazel and his companions got to Watership Down, they thought everything would be ok. Watership Down was easily defensible, had good food, a good burrow, and was far away from Efrafa and other warrens so that they wouldn’t have to worry about getting attacked. They brought more rabbits from Efrafa back with them so that they could have a bigger warren. Any displaced person would want the same thing. A safe place to live, food and water, and far enough away from enemies. They also would want companionship; someone else who was going through the same thing to go with them on their journey.
Watership Down is a novel about displaced rabbits and can be compared to displaced people in our world and what they might go through. Displaced people can face danger from anywhere at any time, whether prepared or unprepared, displacement is hard no matter what. Nothing can prevent it from happening, but it’s a thing that nobody should go through. Never let the hope to live in freedom die.
Adams, Richard George. Watership Down. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc, 1972.
“Burma Overview.” 2007 Free Burma Rangers Online. http://www.freeburmarangers.org/Features/burma_overview.html
“Displacement, Natural Disasters, and Human Rights.” October 17, 2008. Online. http://www.brookings.edu/research/speeches/2008/10/17-natural-disasters-ferris
Ensuring durable solutions for Rwanda’s displaced people: a chapter closed too early www.internal-displacement.org/…/Rwanda_indepth_report_July_05
“The Refugee Council”, September 2003, p.26