Lapine, the language of rabbits, is introduced in Richard Adams classic adventure novel Watership Down, published by Rex Collings Ltd of London in 1972.
The fragments of language presented by Adams consist of a few dozen distinct words, and are chiefly used for the naming of rabbits, their mythological characters, and objects in their world. The name “Lapine” comes from the French word for rabbit, lapin, and can also be used to describe rabbit society.
The novel It is set in south-central England, the story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel follows the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.
Watership Down was Richard Adams’ first novel and it is by far his most successful to date. Although it was rejected by several publishers before Collings accepted it, it won the annual Carnegie Medal, annual Guardian Prize, and other book awards. It has been adapted as a 1978 animated film that is now a classic and as a 1999 to 2001 television series.
Adams completed a sequel almost 25 years later, Tales from Watership Down (Random House, 1996; Hutchinson and Alfred A. Knopf imprints). It is a collection of 19 short stories about El-ahrairah and the rabbits of the Watership Down warren, with “Notes on Pronunciation” and “Lapine Glossary”.