I just finished Watership Down by Richard Adams, and I do believe it is one of the best animal fantasy books ever written. The story focuses on a group of rabbits who set out on a journey to find a safe place to live. This is a very simplified plot summary, and much, much more happens than I am willing to give away here! The characters are wonderfully rabbity with tons of little rabbit idiosyncrasies. Even though there are quite a few rabbits (imagine that!), Adams gives them each distinct personalities, and I grew to care about each one.
Rabbits, as it turns out, love to hear and tell stories, and Adams uses this storytelling device to weave in wonderful rabbit mythologies of creation and trickster tales. One of my favorite tales explains how rabbit got long legs, a white tail, and a thousand enemies.
But don’t think this is just a fluffy tale about cute rabbits hopping out to silflay at dusk, for this book is not without some violence. Fights amongst rabbits, threats of dog, cat, and fox are scattered throughout the rabbits’ journey. An animal fantasy it is, but the reality of life looms large in this wonderful adventure.