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Watership Down

Watership Down


by Richard Adams

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Epigraph Shout-Outs in Chapter Order

(1) Classic Greek playwright Aeschylus; his play Agamemnon about Agamemnon; the character Cassandra
(2) Welsh poet Henry Vaughan; his poem "The World"
(3) Classic Greek soldier/author Xenophon; his book Anabasis
(4) Famous English playwright Shakespeare; his play Hamlet
(5) British naturalist R. M. Lockley; his book The Private Life of the Rabbit
(6) Anglo-Irish poet W.B. Yeats; his poem "A Woman Young and Old"
(7) French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (and also history)
(8) The Biblical book, Acts of the Apostles
(9) British poet Robert Browning; his poem "De Gustibus"
(10) English author John Bunyan; his allegory The Pilgrim's Progress
(11) English author Thomas Malory; his book about King Arthur, Le Morte d'Arthur
(12) Another R.M. Lockley quote (see above, note 5)
(13) British poet Lord Alfred Tennyson; his poem "The Lotus-Eaters" (which is a reference to the Greek Odyssey)
(14) British Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Stanhope (1694-1773); and the advice he wrote in his Letters to His Son
(15) Italian lyricist Lorenzo da Ponte; his collaboration with Mozart, the opera Così fan Tutte (which means "Thus do they all," which is kind saying "people are jerks all over")
(16) English poet (and World War II veteran) Sidney Keyes; his poem "The Four Postures of Death"
(17) British poet W.H. Auden; his poem "The Witnesses"
(18) English poet William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (with Blake's own crazy illustrations)
(19) English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy and his "Who's in the Next Room?"
(20) Ancient Babylonian epic poem The Epic of Gilgamesh
(21) Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky and his giant book, The Brothers Karamazov
(21) For W. H. Auden, see note 17 above (and "The Ascent of F.6" is a play about climbing a mountain)
(22) British playwright William Congreve; his comedy Love for Love (1695) (and when he says "Tyburn-face," he's referring to Tyburn, a village where they used to have a famous gallows—so a "Tyburn-face" is a face that looks criminal)
(23) American poet Robinson Jeffers (who often wrote on environmental themes) and his poem "Hurt Hawks"
(24) "Robin Hood and the Monk" is an old ballad; so it's a story in song-form; Child's Ballads is a book of folksongs and ballads collected by Francis Child, who was an adult
(25) British author Mary Renault, who wrote novel versions of Greek myths; her book The King Must Die was all about Theseus
(26) Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which is all about comparing myths and finding similar structures (and George Lucas used this structure for Star Wars)
(27) Cecilia Thrale was an English woman whose mother married Signor Piozzi, which was a big scandal back in the day
(28) English poet Walter de la Mare; his poem "The Pilgrim"
(29) Shakespeare again (see note 4) and his Henry V
(30) The South Sea Company was a company organized for business in, well, the South Sea, but which went bankrupt. It's the famous example of how financial bubbles form and burst
(31) Another Robert Browning quote (see note 9); his poem "Prospice"
(32) General Jourdan was one of Napoleon's generals and wrote a memoir of his time in the military
(33) British author Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows (which involves animals talking and driving cars)
(34) German author and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, whose book On War is still read today
(35) British literary figure Dr. Samuel Johnson is always very quotable
(36) Music hall songs are songs sung in music halls, though we don't have any more info on this particular song
(37) American author Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote the Uncle Remus stories of Brer Rabbit (or wrote them down from what he heard)
(38) Another Shakespeare quote (see note 4), this time from Julius Caesar
(39) The American folk song here is "The Boatman Dance", which has a long history—even Aaron Copland worked on a version of it
(40) Another Walter de la Mare quote (see note 28); his poem "Dame Hickory"
(41) Psalm 59, from the Bible
(42) Classic Greek philosopher Plato, whose dialogue "Euthyphro" is about defining holiness
(43) Another Walter de la Mare quote (see note 28); his poem "Napoleon"
(44) Robin Fedden's Crusader Castles is pretty clearly about castles during the Crusades
(45) Another Shakespeare quote (see note 4), also from Julius Caesar (see note 38)
(46) The Duke of Wellington fought and beat Napoleon at Waterloo
(47) British novelist and poet Flora Thompson, whose novel Lark Rise is the first in a trilogy
(48) Welsh poet Dylan Thomas; his poem "Fern Hill"
(49) British novelist and poet Robert Graves; his poem "Two Fusiliers"
(50) British author Jane Austen; her novel Northanger Abbey
(Epilogue) Another Shakespeare quote (see note 4), All's Well That Ends Well
(Epilogue) British author Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass 

Other Allusions

El-ahrairah gets compared to Robin Hood, legendary British vigilante; to John Henry, American folk figure who competes against technology; to Brer Rabbit, whose stories are told by "Uncle Remus" (see note 37); and to Greek mythological figure Odysseus, who gets sent on the original Odyssey (5.11)
Odysseus gets mentioned, along with his, uh, adventures with Calypso while his wife Penelope waits at home (22.1)
British artist George Stubbs not only painted horses, but dissected them so he could paint them better (22.28)
Kehaar tells a story that sounds a lot like the story of Noah's Ark: "a man built a great floating hutch that held all the animals and birds until Frith returned and let them out" (25.27)
Salamanca was another battlefield during the Napoleonic wars (25.69)
Marco Polo (33.13) was an important explorer and Cathay was an old way people used to refer to China
British poet William Cowper wrote an "Epitaph on a Hare," which is all about a rabbit that never really got tame (34.4), which sounds a lot like Woundwort
Brer Fox is another character in Uncle Remus's stories (48.55)

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