Watership Down portrays the issues of survival and trust from a variety of perspectives. The story begins in the threatened rabbit warren, Sandleford. It is an ordinary society, pleasant but imperfect, neither an Eden nor a tyranny. Its doom comes from without, not within; only a half-dozen rabbits, sensing some ill-omen, flee the warren and survive its destruction. Now in a hostile environment, the band, led by Hazel, must rebuild the rabbit community even as it travels. To survive, the group pools its wisdom, and each individual takes responsibility for what he does best: the fastest scouts ahead, the biggest confronts enemies, the most cunning chooses a place to rest.
Adams pays particular attention to the landscape in Watership Down. By providing a detailed map of the land around Nuthanger Farm and frequent descriptions of the countryside and climate, Adams creates a tactile, three dimensional Setting, so convincing that eavesdropping on the conversation or thoughts of rabbits seems natural. All of the places in the novel, including Watership Down itself, are actual locations in England. By using specific geographical details, Adams adds a sense of reality to his fantastic tale. In addition, he ends the book with a “Lapine Glossary” which further recognizes the rabbits as having a culture and language all their own.