In the mid-1970s British Author Richard Adams forever re-defined the talking animal fantasy with Watership Down. “A group of adventurers flee their doomed city… and they are rabbits” was one of the taglines. Thrust into the wider world, they encounter predators, roads, hostile or indifferent humans, and unfamiliar territory as they search for a place to call their own. When they find it, it’s threatened by the militaristic rule of General Woundwart, a rabbit “as big as a hare” who rules a nearby rabbit warren. It’s a huge doorstopper of a book, yet suitable for all ages so that it often pops up on YA and Middle Grade reading lists. It’s readable, profound, and touching. (Read my review of the sequel, Tales from Watership Down, here.)
Naming conventions for the rabbits were based on gender. Male rabbits had the names of plants or plant features: Acorn, Hazel, Blackberry; while female rabbits had Lapine (Adams’s name for the rabbit’s language) names that meant something pretty or delicate, such Nildro-Hain (Blackbird’s Song) or Hyzenthlay (Fur shining like dew). Yet, the system was not followed to the letter. Bigwig, Hazel’s second-in-command, had a Lapine name, Thlayli, that meant Fur-head, and two of the domestic female rabbits met on the journey had the non-Lapine names of Clover and Haystack. In the sequel, the system of male-plant / female-Lapine names appears again, but for this round the does’ names are less elaborate (Tilpha, Milmown) and their meanings not explained. A few of the male rabbits have Lapine names as well. Perhaps this was an effort by the author to show that each rabbit warren had different naming conventions and they changed over time, but it could also mean he was forgetful or lazy.
Any, should anyone wish to write Watership Down fanfic, here’s a list of abstracted Lapine names for male and female rabbits.
Watership Down Rabbit Names