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Why Watership Down belongs alongside Narnia and Middle-Earth

Among the many artists we lost in 2016, the one who influenced me the most passed away on Christmas Eve. Without his imagination, I might have lived a very different life.

The great Richard Adams, who died on Dec. 24 at the age of 96, first imagined Watership Down as a way to entertain his daughters during a road trip. The narrative grew into a novel beloved by generations and influential in countless creative works (including my own fantasy series).

watershipdown1Whenever I open my timeworn copy, I’m reminded of why it has commanded my attention since I was 10. It was so much more frightening, dire, and — for lack of a better word — realistic than anything else I’d read. While Watership Down is a story of talking rabbits, it isn’t a cute nursery story about bunnies. It’s a substantial literary achievement, one as rich in philosophical and political subtext as it is thick with literary allusions. It deserves serious critical attention, including theological exegesis.

Today, in my first appearance at Think Christian (thanks to Josh Larsen for the invitation), I make my case for Watership Down’s spiritual significance, arguing that it belongs alongside The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia as an essential example of fantasy’s capacity for speaking to us about things true, sublime, and eternal.

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  1. Suzanne Wilson
    January 6, 2017 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    When are you posting your review of Silence?

  2. Scott Stiegemeyer
    June 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm — Reply

    Jeffrey, I read Watership Down when I was a teenage. Loved it. Haven’t looked at it since. Having read your piece at Think Christian, I just ordered a hard copy.

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Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet

Novelist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet teaches writing (Seattle Pacific University) and film studies (Northwest University and Houston Baptist University). He's written a memoir of moviegoing and faith (Through a Screen Darkly, Baker, 2007) and a fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, Random House, 2007-11). He's worked since 2001 as a film critic and columnist at Christianity Today, and he's been a regular contributor to Image, Paste, and Christ & Pop Culture. His writing has been recognized by The New Yorker and The Seattle Times. He regularly speaks at universities, conferences, and churches in the U.S. and abroad. Want to invite him to teach or speak? Email