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Watership Down

Richard Adams

Chapters 12–14

Chapters 8–11

Chapters 15–17

Summary

Chapter 12: The Stranger in the Field

The rabbits laze about contentedly in the field and begin to scratch out a few holes. They do not work very seriously, however, since serious digging is done by does (female rabbits) and they are all bucks. Soon they see a strange rabbit looking at them. Hazel and Blackberry go to speak to him. They are puzzled by the very large rabbit, who seems unconcerned that they wish to stay and comes over to meet the rest of the group. His name is Cowslip, and he invites them to stay in his warren, which has many empty burrows. He runs off before the rain comes, and the group talks it over. Everyone thinks that there is no danger, except Fiver, who believes they should stay away. Hazel decides they will go to Cowslip's warren.

Chapter 13: Hospitality

Cowslip's warren is strangely conspicuous, and Hazel leads his rabbits down into it. They come to a huge burrow where all of the rabbits from the warren are gathered. Hazel's group quickly mixes among them, except Fiver, who sits apart. Hazel goes off with a rabbit named Strawberry, who tells him that they never have to deal with any elil (enemies), because the man who lives nearby often shoots them. Strawberry shows Hazel around but seems to dodge Hazel's questions and shows him a form of stone artwork that bewilders Hazel, as most rabbits do not create art. He realizes that Strawberry will not answer any question beginning with the word "where."

Chapter 14: "Like Trees in November"

They return to the big hall and Hazel wants to talk to Blackberry alone. He tells Cowslip they are going to silflay (eat outside), but Cowslip tells them that they have plenty of food inside and that it is raining outside anyway. When Hazel insists, Cowslip laughs at them. Laughter is foreign to rabbits, and Hazel and Blackberry run outside, puzzled. They meet Pipkin and the three of them discuss how strange these rabbits seem to be. They go back downstairs and fall asleep.

The rabbits are awakened by Strawberry stamping and calling out to wake everyone. He explains that there is flayrah (good food) outside. The rabbits all go outside and find carrots in the field. They eat their fill, and then Cowslip explains how to carry some food back to the warren for later. Hazel sees the angry Fiver, who tells him that there is something unnatural about the warren. Fiver slept outside and will not join them, and Hazel is worried.

Hazel sees Bigwig later, and although they both agree the warren is strange, they have been treated well and they see no reason to alter things. Bigwig forces Fiver to come down into the burrow with them. The other rabbits ask for a story, and, after a discussion, Blackberry says that Hazel will describe their adventures. The rabbits are silent, and Hazel's group confers again and decides that Dandelion should tell another story of El-ahrairah.

Analysis

Fiver's comment that there is something unnatural about the rabbits and their warren appears to be right on target. Certainly the fact that Fiver—whose vision Hazel's group has relied upon during their journey—does not feel comfortable in the new warren suggests that there is something wrong with it. Yet Hazel, Bigwig, Blackberry, Pipkin and all of the others also notice some strange things. The art that Strawberry shows Hazel is extremely puzzling, as art is something that other rabbits simply do not make. The fact that these rabbits refuse to answer questions beginning with the word "where" is very puzzling, as is the fact that they live in a warren that is not concealed and that they seem to have no enemies. Beyond this, a man leaves large amounts of food in the field that the rabbits eat. On the whole, it appears to good to be true, and Fiver's sixth sense warns us that it probably is.

However, it is difficult to blame Hazel for not siding with Fiver this time. Unlike back in their home warren, where many of the rabbits were unhappy to begin with, this time everyone except Fiver is very content. Although the rabbits who live in the warren seem strange and are given to odd habits, such as Cowslip's laughter, they treat Hazel's group with extreme hospitality. Everyone eats well and lives comfortably, which makes it much more difficult to believe that something is wrong. Fiver sticks with his convictions, and Hazel almost always trusts him, but this time he is being asked to give up the best living conditions they have ever encountered based only upon his brother's hunch that something is wrong. Furthermore, Fiver does not even know exactly what it is that is wrong. Hazel and the other rabbits know that something is not right, but so many other things are right that they are unwilling to listen to Fiver.

The rabbits act very much like people again here in that they are willing to look past many things that would normally trouble them because they feel that they are living well. The rabbits who live in the warren demonstrate many strange traits that Hazel's group has never seen before, but those traits seem forgivable when everyone spends the day eating carrots with seemingly no dangers to worry about. Hazel and the others are not concerned by whatever it is that troubles Fiver and is likely the cause of the strangeness of the warren, as it cannot be seen and therefore does not seem to them to exist. The rabbits trust Fiver when he gives them advice about how to get away from situations in which they do not want to be, but they are much less receptive when he suggests that good food and hospitality should be forsaken in order to struggle again through the wilderness.

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