Ode to a Perfect First Chapter: Why the Opening of ‘Watership Down’ Is So Indelible

Watership Down is likely the only children’s adventure novel that begins with a section from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (from The Oresteia.) Recalling Richard Adams’ Watership Down — which I, like many others, read obligatorily in middle school — it is not specific scenes of rabid rabbit-on-rabbit violence (of which there are many) of which I have a vivid sense memory (despite not, myself, having ever been a rabbit), but rather the deeply unsettling calm of the opening chapter.

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