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Watership Down

Richard Adams

Chapters 47–Epilogue

Chapters 42–46

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Chapter 47: The Sky Suspended

Dandelion takes off with the dog behind him. After a brief rest in the cattle shed, he manages to keep the dog following him up to where Blackberry is waiting. He draws the dog out of the gate, but then it seems to lose interest. Finally it starts up the hill at a slow trot. Dandelion catches up, and together the two rabbits get the dog's attention. It charges after them.

Woundwort tries to get Bigwig to move, but Bigwig knows that even his dead body will be a major obstacle, as it will block the way. Finally Woundwort jumps at Bigwig and pushes him backwards. Bigwig struggles, but is slowly pushed back, when suddenly Woundwort loses strength. Bigwig's blows have caused Woundwort's nose to bleed, and he cannot breathe as he tries pushing Bigwig. Finally the General lets go and retreats. His troops are incredulous, and when he sends one rabbit in to finish off Bigwig, the rabbit is too scared to go. Woundwort decides to work from another angle, leaving Bigwig there. He goes above ground to work out a new digging plan. Just then, Campion comes running and screams for them all to flee. The dog appears, running fast, and only Woundwort stands his ground, urging the others to stay and fight.

Chapter 48: Dea ex Machina

Lucy, the little girl who lives on the farm, hears squealing and rescues Hazel from her cat. She wants to show the hurt rabbit to the doctor, who comes over just as the dog comes back, with a bad scratch on his nose and a bite on his leg. The doctor says the rabbit is fine, and he offers to give Lucy a ride to somewhere they can let it go. She lets it go right at the base of Watership Down.

Chapter 49: Hazel Comes Home

Woundwort's standing up to the dog has probably saved the lives of many rabbits by giving them time to run away. Campion decides that the Efrafans should go home, and with his guidance most of them make it back alive. Several Efrafans ran into the hole when the dog came and surrendered immediately to Fiver. Bigwig is hurt badly, but he seems to recover, and Hazel comes running up to tell his story.

Chapter 50: And Last

It is October. Two more of the does have had litters, and everyone is living well. The Efrafans who surrendered have joined the warren and get along fine, although they believe Woundwort is still alive somewhere. Hazel thinks they should start a new warren between theirs and Efrafa. The young kittens are growing up, hearing stories of adventure and receiving training from Bigwig in how to attack cats.

Epilogue

It is several years later. The new warren was started and things went well with all three warrens. Woundwort was never seen again, but his legend lived on. Hazel has lived long, much longer than rabbits live. One cold morning in March, a rabbit with shining light in his ears comes for Hazel. They walk out into the day, and Hazel leaves his body behind him, looking back only to see that all is well before moving on to his new world.

Analysis

Woundwort truly is something more than a rabbit. Although it seems clear that he is killed by the dog, at least his last act may have saved the lives of some of the Efrafans. In the end it is his refusal to ever back down that does him in, as rabbits do not always stand and fight—they sometimes run. However, at least his memory provides the rabbits with a legend—a tale of the one rabbit who can stand up to elil and fight them on his own.

Somehow it seems fitting that after everything Hazel is saved by a girl. Things have come full circle in the story: even though humans have destroyed the rabbits' original warren, it is an act of kindness from a human that stops the cat from killing Hazel. Perhaps humans and animals can interact after all. People will probably not stop destroying animals' lives and homes at their fancy, but it is also possible that they will save animals on a whim. There is no telling what the impact of people will be upon a group of animals; the odds are that it will be bad, but there is always the possibility that a person will get an animal out of an impossible situation simply because they want to. After all, humans are not entirely bad.

Hazel's vision of a happy relationship between Efrafa and his warren is fulfilled, and the new warren between the two other warrens also prospers. Hazel has proved himself a great leader, and all of the rabbits live out their lives in peace and happiness. Although they have faced many obstacles, in the end the rabbits are better off than they could have ever imagined. Hazel's last great trick is to loose the dog on the Efrafans, and it works. Although he is not a great fighter like Bigwig or Woundwort, with a single action he destroys the entire raid and saves the warren. Of course, the warren is still there to save thanks to Bigwig's courage and daring. Just as Hazel achieves the impossible by getting a dog to fight for them, Bigwig defeats the fiercest rabbit that has ever lived. Rabbits cannot survive on wits and trickery alone, nor solely on brute force, but when good minds are combined with brave hearts, they prosper as never before.

All along, the stories of El-ahrairah parallel the daring escapes and moves that Hazel and his rabbits make. Some of the schemes Hazel comes up with seem almost divinely inspired, and it would not be too far-fetched to compare him to the rabbit folk hero. In the end, it appears that El-ahrairah himself comes to Hazel to take him out into a new world. Death finally catches up to Hazel, but it is not sorrowful or painful, but rather beautiful. Hazel steps into a different world, one with which his brother Fiver was always familiar and one where rabbits never cease running. This vision of death provides the end of the novel with a special kind of hope. Not only can the rabbits leave their lives well, but death may come to them softly, and they may go to it willingly.

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