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Watership Down

Richard Adams

Chapters 8–11

Chapters 1–7

Chapters 12–14

Summary

Chapter 8: The Crossing

Hazel knows that the other rabbits may not want to cross the river, but Fiver tells him that they must. Bigwig wants to know what they are going to do, and Blackberry convinces him to swim across and take a look at the other side to make sure it is safe. Bigwig comes hurrying back to tell them that there is a dog loose in their wood. Hazel realizes they must get across, but Pipkin is hurt and will not be able to swim. Blackberry figures out a way to float Fiver and Pipkin on a piece of wood, and they all get across safely. Blackberry's discovery mystifies all of the other rabbits except Fiver, who understands what happened.

Chapter 9: The Crow and the Beanfield

While most of the others sleep, Hazel goes to find a safer place for them, and he discovers a field of bean plants that will provide cover and hide their smell from predators. Everyone sets off to reach the bean field, and they spread out as they climb up a slope. Suddenly a crow attacks Pipkin and Fiver, who are struggling behind the others. Hazel, Bigwig, and Silver rush to help, and Bigwig knocks the crow over. The bird flies off, angry, and the rabbits continue to the bean field, where they drop off to rest. Hazel takes the first watch and removes the thorn from Pipkin's paw that has been making him limp.

Chapter 10: The Road and the Common

The rabbits are awakened from their sleep by the sound of a gunshot, and they scatter all about the field. Hazel and Silver return to the spot where they were all sleeping, and slowly the others come back as well. They set off across the field, but Hazel soon stops when he sees a car coming along a road. He does not know about roads, and Bigwig explains to him that the hrududil (cars) are not dangerous during the day, but that at night their lights are so bright that they make it impossible to move.

The rabbits continue on for some time in unfamiliar terrain until Hawkbit, Acorn, and Speedwell come to Hazel and tell him that they want to go back. Hazel tells them how ridiculous such an idea is, and before he can explain why they cannot go back Fiver comes to talk to him. Bigwig yells at the three insubordinates. Fiver, in a trance, tells Hazel his vision of where they need to go, to some hills that are very far away. Fiver says they are in for trouble on the way but that they need to get to the hills. Hazel is dubious because of the distance and worried about what they will do. When Fiver comes to himself and asks what he was talking about Hazel tells him to forget it.

Chapter 11: Hard Going

Hazel knows that Acorn, Speedwell, and Hawkbit are unhappy because of the way Bigwig has kept them in line, and he knows they need to rest and find a place to settle down. Although Hazel is unsure of himself, he promises he will take the others to a better place soon. They travel through difficult terrain for hours, and just when it seems they can go no further, they come upon a perfect field.

Analysis

Hazel does his best to lead the other rabbits, and though he is generally successful, he sometimes he comes up against obstacles that he cannot tackle. He knew that he needs to get the group across the river, but he is not sure if Pipkin can make it. Blackberry's idea saves the day, and even though Hazel does not understand what Blackberry intends, he is still more than willing to try it, especially since he has no ideas of his own. Hazel is the leader, and he takes risks in order to protect the others—he is not leader because he bullies the others. He is the leader because he knows how to best use each of the others and because he understands how the group functions.

Hazel knows that Blackberry is the smartest of them all, so he when faces a situation that he cannot figure out, he turns to Blackberry. Likewise, Bigwig is the strongest rabbit and the one who knows the most about predators and the world outside of the warren. Hazel looks to Bigwig for advice and respects his opinions, but he also knows that sometimes subtlety is needed, while Bigwig is a very direct rabbit. Furthermore, Hazel listens to Fiver's advice and lets the visionary set the destination for the group, even if he himself must find the path to get there. Hazel carefully thinks out his moves and tries to do things that will make everyone happy. However, there are still times when no one knows what to do or where to go, and it is in these moments that Hazel proves his mettle. At the river, Hazel is confused, but Blackberry figures out a way to get them all across. Hazel is the first to run at the crow, but it is Bigwig who does the damage, while Hazel himself might not fare so well. Yet when everyone is in low spirits and it seems that they will never leave the woodlands behind, Hazel drives the group on by his strength of will alone and makes them believe that they must keep going. He is vindicated when the rabbits come upon an ideal- looking field.

Hazel has the intangible qualities that make a good leader, and it is already clear that his group of rabbits is a very different one from the group they left behind. Hazel does not privilege any member of the group, and he is not willing to leave anyone. He uses the strengths of each as best he can to enhance the progress of the group, but he is also willing to listen to whatever any of the other rabbits have to say. Hazel makes Bigwig explain to him about the cars and the road because he is aware of the fact that he must learn as much as he can in order to be prepared in the future. His goal is not the establishment of personal power, but rather the establishment of a new home for himself and the others.

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