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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: 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.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: With a 2012 housing proposal, Sandleford might end up getting flattened to make way for new housing for real. As of 2021, the plan has been rejected but is under appeal by developers.
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  • 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.
  • Narm: You shouldn't name the savage and fierce 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.
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    • In the novel, Pipkin, as well. Even smaller and weaker than Fiver.
  • Values Dissonance: The treatment of gender roles in the book feels quite awkward to modern readers. 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, and most of the does, particularly the hutch-bred ones, are treated rather dismissively. However, the issue is played with slightly by pointing out that the lack of female characters in the main party, something that the reader at the time might not have thought was noteworthy, is actually a serious problem, and in fact a mistake that human society has occasionally made.
    • 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 screentime, and actually uses even more sexist language and gender roles. Likewise the book's sequel features considerably more female presence.

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Novel

  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The book was rejected seven times before it was accepted by Rex Collings. The one-man London publisher Collings wrote to an associate, "I've just taken on a novel about rabbits, one of them with extra-sensory perception. Do you think I'm mad?" The associate did call it "a mad risk," in her obituary of Collings, to accept "a book as bizarre by an unknown writer which had been turned down by the major London publishers; but," she continued, "it was also dazzlingly brave and intuitive."
  • 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.
  • Contested Sequel: Tales From Watership Down had a mixed reception from the fans. While it's generally agreed to not be as good as the original, opinions differ on whether it's a charming collection of tales and a nice opportunity to learn more about El-ahrairah and about life at Watership Down after the novel's story ended, or whether it's a disappointing, meandering mess without the charm of the original. The one part of the book that everyone seems to agree is great is the nonsense chapter Speedwell's Story.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Bigwig and Hyzenthlay. Though the book states that the rabbits have no concept of romantic feelings, in reality rabbits, while obviously not monogamous, can and do form extremely close pairbonds. 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

  • Awesome Music: Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson's score is unforgettable, with the main theme expressing both lapine nobility as well as the pastoral English countryside. The Leitmotif is worked into an ethereal version of Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" (the regular version is more grounded but no less wistful.)
  • Can't Un-Hear It: Most of the cast, but especially John Hurt and Richard Briers as Hazel and Fiver.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Kehaar’s portrayal in the film makes him among the most popular characters from Watership Down in general for bringing well-needed comic relief into the story.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Though he outlived Zero Mostel by about a decade, Denholm Elliott 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.
    • The “Bright Eyes” scene becomes even sadder to watch in Latin America when you realize that Fiver was voiced in said region by Ricardo Mendoza, whose brother and also voice actor Luis Alfonso Mendoza was shot in February 2020. Sadly, unlike Hazel in said scene, he didn’t survive.
  • Memetic Mutation: "I just wanted a movie about bunnies!"Explanation 
  • Never Live It Down: Usually most people nowadays (especially from the Internet) first hear and talk about the film due to how violent it is rather than any plot details. As a result, despite receiving good critical reception and being considered as one of the greatest British animated films, this has been overridden for its reputation as being among the absolute most violent and horrifying children’s works of all time and has permanently affected the source material’s reputation as well as everything spun from it, though it sometimes falls into Broken Base (there’s a reason why the TV series’ last season became Darker and Edgier).
  • Signature Line: “The field! It’s covered in blood!”
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: It provides the trope image for a reason. 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.

Lapine mythology

  • 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.

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