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Watership Down

Richard Adams

Chapters 36–38

Chapters 33–35

Chapters 39–41

Summary

Chapter 36: Approaching Thunder

One of the officers wakes Bigwig up, and he heads out to feed with his Mark. Outside, he sees Kehaar and, while eating, talks to the bird. He tells Kehaar that the rabbits must be ready at sunset and that he must attack the sentries. Bigwig goes to tell Hyzenthlay and her friend Thethuthinnang about the plan. Just as Bigwig gets ready to make the break that night, General Woundwort calls him aside to talk to him.

Chapter 37: The Thunder Builds Up

Woundwort questions Bigwig because one of the officers from the patrol Bigwig encountered while running from the fox has recognized him. Bigwig explains to Woundwort that he did not bring the fox on them intentionally. Woundwort asks him if he knows anything about the other rabbits that his Patrol was tracking. Bigwig says that he saw their tracks, but otherwise has no idea where they went. Woundwort invites Bigwig to go on a Wide Patrol with him two days later and then tells him to keep an eye on Hyzenthlay because there may be more trouble.

Hazel and the other rabbits realize that something must have gone wrong. They return to the other side of the river, trying to keep their spirits up. Bigwig is very worried, and to add to his troubles he learns that Hyzenthlay and Thethuthinnang have told the other does to be ready. He is worried that one of them will talk and that they will be found out. The next morning, Bigwig finds a way to send a message to Kehaar by using another officer as his unwitting pawn. He tells the bird to come back that night. Later, Bigwig finds Blackavar apart from his escort for a moment and tells him to be ready to break later that night.

Chapter 38: The Thunder Breaks

Hazel and the others get Bigwig's message through Kehaar and prepare to meet him. Hyzenthlay wakes Bigwig up to tell him that a doe has been arrested. He tells her to gather the others quickly and goes to get Blackavar. Bigwig attacks one of Blackavar's escorts, while the prisoner fights with the other. Bigwig knocks down both escorts and then takes off with Blackavar and the does right behind him. They hear stamping and know that the Efrafans have spotted their escape.

Woundwort learns what has happened and takes off after them. Campion tries to get Bigwig to stop, but they continue on. Soon, however, the General and his men catch up to them. Just when the escapees turn to fight, lightning flashes, giving everyone pause. It begins to pour, and then Kehaar attacks out of nowhere. The other rabbits come to Bigwig and the does' aid, and they make a hasty retreat towards the river.

Woundwort and his rabbits come at them from one side while Campion comes from the other. Now all the rabbits are on the boat except Dandelion, who is hiding in the bushes, and Woundwort comes to kill them all. Hazel says they must leave, but Bigwig cries out that Kehaar is there. Woundwort leaps back, and Dandelion jumps on the boat. The force breaks the already frayed rope, and the rabbits drift away from Woundwort and Efrafa.

Analysis

General Woundwort is not only a huge, powerful rabbit, he is also a very savvy opponent, and he almost figures out Bigwig's plot before it gets off the ground. However, Bigwig plays his role perfectly, and Woundwort never suspects him until it is too late. Bigwig is forced to improvise because Woundwort unknowingly upsets their original plan. Bigwig acts quickly and decisively, knocking down Blackavar's escorts and then taking off for the river with the escapees behind him. Bigwig leads them to safety. At the end, when all of the rabbits are safe except for Dandelion, he uses one last trick to make sure that they all get on the boat. Much like Hazel, Bigwig thinks very quickly on his feet, and in this case his trick saves Dandelion's life. Bigwig pulls the whole thing off despite everything that goes wrong, and his bravery and cunning saves the lives of many rabbits.

Woundwort and Bigwig are similar in several ways. Both are physically imposing, more than a match for most rabbits in a fight. They both possess tremendous courage that inspires rabbits around them to do more. Bigwig outwits Woundwort, but the General is clearly very intelligent, and while chasing Bigwig and the others he comes up with a spontaneous plan to surround and destroy them. Woundwort thinks on his feet just as quickly as Hazel or Bigwig, the only difference being that Woundwort does not care about his own losses—he wants only to destroy his enemies. While Bigwig wants to retreat and escape without any further encounters, Woundwort wants to kill as many of the escapees as he can; he is looking to attack even though his forces are outnumbered. But he has discipline and training on his side, and the Efrafan does and most of Hazel's rabbits would be no match for Woundwort's best officers. However, Bigwig stands his ground against Woundwort. In the end, both rabbits rely upon themselves more than anything else. Woundwort wants to attack because he knows that he himself can break Bigwig's group apart. Bigwig does the same thing when he frees Blackavar, knocking down both of the escorts himself.

However, the one difference between Bigwig and the General is that Woundwort is the leader of his rabbits. Bigwig has Hazel for a leader and Blackberry as a planner. Woundwort is not used to rabbits taking decisive action that does not involve fighting. In fact, his political power stems directly from his physical power. Hazel's rabbits do not think in the same way. Bigwig's strength and fighting prowess gain him the rabbits' gratitude and confidence, but first and foremost they think their way into and out of situations. They do not seek to dominate the land, as Woundwort does, but to adapt to it. Because the rabbits shift the way they act according to the situation, Blackberry is able to come up with the idea of using the boat to get across the water. The ingenuity of Hazel's rabbits saves the day in the end.

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