Watership Down (Rosen, 1978) is, without a doubt, one of the pivotal cinematic experiences in my life. It captivated me at a very young age with its danger and darkness. It also taught me a number of valuable lessons, things I have thought about ever since. Fortune favoring the bold is an idea that is high on that list. Bravery, even recklessness, has to be a part of our journey if we are going to have epic adventures. Another lesson I gleaned is that kindness is crucial in forging bonds and resulting in gaining unlikely friends and allies. The most important thing it taught me, though, is to come to terms with the idea that I will not go on forever. It was humbling and necessary. Mortality can be a confusing and thorny concept for a kid to process, but these rabbits and their quest helped me with that. I found great comfort in the idea that a benevolent black rabbit would shepherd his brethren across that threshold. After many trials and travails, we would receive a well deserved rest.
Watership Down remains a favorite because the power of those lessons never diminishes. The beauty of the watercolor animation never fades. It’s there like an old friend any time I want to return to it. I hope others find it as wonderful and instructive and we all get to the top of that hill where it feels like we can see the whole world.
What you’ll find in this episode: trauma versus catharsis in kids’ entertainment, lessons big and small, man’s encroachment on the natural world, fairy tale, myth, and fable, and rabbits with a Cassandra complex.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Watership Down on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Charlotte’s Web.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Pink Floyd: The Wall.
A breakdown of Native American rabbit mythology.
A young person’s guide to the work of Watership Down contributor John Hubley.