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All adaptations

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Frith, the Sun God and creator of the world.
    • Even within the stories themselves, Prince Rainbow's role varies — sometimes he'll be against El-ahrairah, other times he'll help him with good advice.
  • Bowdlerize: The author tells us many Lapidian words...but not one for what rabbits...do like rabbits.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Watership Down vs. The Animals of Farthing Wood.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Sandleford might end up getting flattened to make way for new housing for real.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the Japanese dub of the Netflix adaptation of the novel, Hazel is voiced by Chikahiro Kobayashi, who later ends voicing Legosi, a wolf, in the animated adaption of Beastars, who, in turn, falls in love with a rabbit girl (Haru).
  • He's Just Hiding!: Rabbits from Efrafa, even after joining Hazel's company, thought that about Woundwort.
  • Iron Woobie: Captain Holly in the film and especially the book. Survives his warren's destruction, gathers together a small group of survivors, only to have all but one of them die anyway, gets his ear ripped to shreds, and almost goes mad before he finally reaches Watership Down. And then he gets sent to Efrafa and just barely manages to lead his group out, though most of them are badly off. But he pulls through each trauma, shares the story for catharsis, and after he recovers he goes right back to work.
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  • Narm: You shouldn't name the savage, fierce and evil dog "Bob" if you want to be taken seriously.
  • The Woobie:
    • Fiver, especially in the film and TV series. Then again, it's hard to imagine how an adorable little rabbit who is totally lost without his big brother and who suffers from violent hallucinations wouldn't be a Woobie. He used to get kicked around a lot apparently, and the rabbits who follow him need quite some time until they believe he DOES see things. And after the fight against the Efrafrans very detached from their world, probably an after-effect of the powers and spirits he channelled. Just the type of wild rabbit you would pick up, cuddle and take home if you'd find him half tharn in a meadow.
    • In the novel, Pipkin, as well. Even smaller and weaker than Fiver.
    • In the TV series, Campion also fits the bill. Sometimes.
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  • Values Dissonance: The treatment of gender roles in the book sadly hasn't aged well. Although Hyzenthlay is a reasonably developed character, the story is entirely male-centred. The crisis in the second part is driven by the fact that the rabbits need females to mate with. Naturally the TV series tries to remedy this by making Blackberry female, expanding the role of Primrose (Hyzenthlay's Expy) and introducing a female mouse character called Hannah; the Netflix series does its own take by gender flipping Strawberry instead and making Clover more prominent, albeit at the expense of Hyzenthlay's actions and screetime, and actually uses even more sexist language and gender roles. Likewise the book's sequel features considerably more female presence in an attempt to avoid this.

Novel

  • Angst? What Angst?: Described as a characteristic of rabbits — whatever horrors or sorrows come along, rabbits feel them intensely at the moment but then bounce back and get on with their lives.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Bigwig and Hyzenthlay. Though the book states that the rabbits have no concept of romantic feelings. Hyzenthlay likely became Hazel's mate because they were the male and female alphas.
  • Mary Suetopia: What Watership Down seems to have become in Tales. The warren is a pioneer in democratic government, the protagonists are always ready to help any animal who comes to them with a problem, and they're always right.
  • Narm: Hyzenthlay telling a poem while Bigwig is spying in Efrafa is suitably dramatic and sad because it's a poem about how she can't produce a litter of kittens due to the warren being overcrowded. She finishes, and there's a moment of silence...then a bunch of bird poop drops down in front of them.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The White Blindness (Myxomatosis.) Keep in mind that it was deliberately introduced by humans to control the rabbit population.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Black Rabbit of Inle only appears in one of Dandelion's stories, but it's one you'll never forget.
  • Paranoia Fuel: The book does an excellent job of making you know what it feels like to be an object of prey.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Despite the graphic depictions of... everything, Watership Down is a children's novel. It's based on stories the author told his two young daughters on long car journeys (the oldest was eight), is dedicated to them, and won the Carnegie Award for children's fiction when published.
  • Woolseyism: The translations from Lapine are sometimes presented this way. For example: Bigwig's name in Lapine is Thlayli. The literal meaning is "Fur-head", but "Bigwig" is an even more apt way of putting it, since he's also a senior officer of the warren.

Film

  • Anvilicious: After hearing about the gassing of the warren: "Humans won't stop until they destroy the whole world!"
  • Awesome Music: The score - and it's impossible to find.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The absolutely random part of the trip to Efrafa where Bigwig abruptly runs off from the group, we see a few pigeons getting scattered and he then rejoins them. He gives them a big story about his reasons for doing so and takes longer to explain the events than the scenario did to actually play out. It contributes nothing to the overall plot of the film and serves literally no purpose.
    • Bigwig was leading a fox away from the main group and unintentionally led it onto an Efrafan patrol and the fox killed one of them. It's explained better in the novel, but with this casualty plus the patrol run down by the train in their attempt to recapture Holly, Efrafa is running low on top quality Owsla. Hence it's easier for Bigwig as a newcomer to talk his way into a position.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Kehaar for bringing well-needed comic relief into the story.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Though he outlived Mostel by about a decade, Denholm Elliot would pass away in 1992 due to a mix of AIDS and tuberculosis. This makes the scene where Cowslip recites the poem about death and the Black Rabbit and the character's overall sickly, thin appearance very hard to watch.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Especially the flashback of when the Doomed Hometown Sandelford was gassed and filled in.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: The few times you hear about the film (especially on the Internet) it's about how violent it is rather than any plot details, to the point where people argue that it's a straight up bad film as a result.
  • Tear Jerker: The "Bright Eyes" sequence where everyone but Fiver thinks that Hazel is dead. Then there's Hazel's actual death at the end.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The addition of colour, sound, and movement makes several parts of the experience even more uncomfortable to sit through than the original novel, but the target demographic remains unchanged. The big thing that brings down criticism is that characters actually bleed when injured or killed rather than using Bloodless Carnage.

TV Series

  • Awesome Music: Mike Batt, who wrote "Bright Eyes" in the film, returned to make some awesome tracks.
  • Creepy Cute: Silverweed. Creepy mystic, invades Fiver's mind yet somehow he's adorable at the same time.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Hawkbit usually complains and makes sarcastic remarks and at one point even calls Fiver a curse on the warren but considering Bigwig works him to near exhaustion and he's reduced to panicked sobbing in one episode, it's hard not to feel sorry for him.
    • Vervain of all characters could be seen as this. He's a lying, rude and paranoid scumbag throughout the series but by the third season, he's completely terrified most of the time and is pretty much the Butt-Monkey of Woundwort's army.
  • The Scrappy: A lot of fans hate Primrose for being manipulative, self-centered, and good at nothing else. Particularly jarring if you realize that she's supposed to be Hyzenthlay, who in the book was intelligent, had a great deal of common sense and was a seer on top of it. Primose, in contrast, has few of those Hidden Depths, though she has her moments.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Campion and Blackberry. In the season 2 finale, they meet very briefly and barely have time to speak to each other before Campion's apparent death and their consequential separation. Of course, they pine for each other, and all the other characters, who are strangely aware the two's feelings for each other, try to comfort them for their losses.
  • The Woobie: In addition to the examples above, there's Bark the rather needy badger - the Sole Survivor of her clan, living in a sett and terribly lonely.note 
    Fiver: Get it over with! Stop tormenting me! Just go ahead and kill me!
    Bark: Bark...not kill. Bark help.
    Fiver (startled): ...Why?
    Bark: You...hurt. Bark, knows hurt. No-one help Bark when she hurt. Sad to hurt. Sad, to be lonely. Let Bark help. *offers paw*
    • Corporal Aspen from the 3rd season is introduced as an adorable Kindhearted Simpleton. He's only there for one episode and the only character he interacts with is Vervain before He gets killed off by a weasel.

Lapine mythology

  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Since these are prey animals, a bit of Values Dissonance may be present.
    • Which is sometimes Lampshaded by the narration, as when it's pointed out that rabbits feel no guilt or shame about using physical force to push weaker rabbits around.
    • And the two nightmare warrens are both, in different ways, attempts to beat a rabbit's harsh life as a prey animal. In one, the rabbits are protected from predators and have all the food they need—and are constantly culled by the silver wires. In the other, the rabbits successfully hide from predators and humans alike, at the cost of a horrible fascism. The lesson seems to be that death by one of the Thousand is a day-to-day possibility when you are a rabbit. You'd better keep your wits sharp and your legs strong, because those are the only advantages you have.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Several. The Black Rabbit of Inlé, The Hole in the Sky, the Terrible Hay-Making...
    • The Hole in the Sky involves El-ahrairah hearing of the titular phenomenon and going in search of it. After losing a fight with a weasel and falling into an infection-driven fever, he unexpectedly finds it:
    "Then he began to tremble with fear. In the blue curve of the sky he saw a great rent, a cleft which, he perceived, was an open, gaping wound. The two irregular edges were jagged as though it had been made with something blunt, something which had first cut and then ripped and torn. Here and there shreds of flesh, still attached to the edges, stuck out across the wound, obscuring whatever was behind. All that he could see in the suppurating depth of the wound was blood and pus, a glistening, viscous, uneven surface like a marsh. The edges were messy too, fringed all along with blood and yellow matter on which flies were walking. As he stared in horror, the dead body of a rabbit fell out of the wound, but disappeared as it fell."
    Embleer Frith.

The 2018 series:

  • Awesome Music: Sam Smith's "Fire on Fire", which is a hauntingly beautiful song.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Efrafan does busting out in an Irish lament to distract their captors just as Bigwig is outed as a mole. Being almost like a musical number, it is never brought up again and seems to only be in the film so that Emeli Sande can contribute to the soundtrack.
  • Critical Research Failure: The animators appear to have based the characters on hares, not rabbits. Rabbits have shorter legs and differently-shaped bodies than the characters who appear in the series. Possibly justified; the longer legs made the rabbits easier to differentiate and their longer faces easier to animate.
    • The rabbits have pawpads. As anyone who has ever held a real rabbit can tell you, they don't. The bottoms of their feet are covered in coarse, fluffy fur instead. It's very jarring compared to the otherwise realistic-looking (besides the proportions) models.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The miniseries deviates from the novel by having Hyzenthlay become Holly's love interest instead of Hazel's mate. As Hazel and Hyzenthlay are voiced by James McAvoy and Anne Marie-Duff, respectively, one cannot help but wonder if this change was made due to their real-life divorce not long before production on the miniseries began.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general consensus is that the series' talented voice cast and good script are let down by questionable directional decisions and the awkward animation.
  • Special Effects Failure: The crows in episode 1 don't really 'fly' as much as they awkwardly 'float'.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
  • Uncanny Valley: The backgrounds are photo-realistic and fluid, which makes the jerky character animation all the more jarring. So does the fact that the rabbits all have human eyes (to give them eye color and help differentiate them).
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Most of the voice actors are spot-on, but seriously, Peter Capaldi as Kehaar? Not helped by Cpaldi using his natural Scottish accent instead of putting on a Norwegian one.
    • Since it was announced, many fans of the book questioned the decision to cast John Boyega as Bigwig, due to him being deemed too young and high-pitched for a character commonly portrayed as grizzled and experienced. In the miniseries itself, Boyega does manage to do a deeper voice for the character, but can sound as if he is trying to sound older and tougher than he actually is, which sounds unintentionally hilarious at times.
    • Zig-zagged with Sir Ben Kingsley as Woundwort. As talented and respected he is as an actor, and despite how well he did in playing the callous and cruel side to the character's nature, Kingsley does not bring to the voice the nasty level of viciousness and bloodlust that Harry Andrews and John Hurt famously did for their incarnations.

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