Chapter 23: Kehaar
Bigwig and Silver find an injured bird in a hollow. The bird is a black- headed gull, something the rabbits have never seen before. Hazel goes with them to look at the bird, talks to it in the same dialect that he used with the mouse, and decides that it is hungry. They collect worms and other insects and bring them to the gull. After feeding the bird, Hazel tries to convince it that they want to help it. The bird wants nothing to do with them, however, so they leave.
Later that afternoon, Hazel convinces the bird to come and stay in a hole that they could build for it. While the other rabbits dig the hole, Hazel explains to the bird the way they live. By the next day, the bird is much better and much friendlier, and Bigwig becomes its constant companion. Bigwig tells the others that a cat injured the bird's wing, and that the bird comes from a place far away where the earth stops and is followed by so much water that no land can be seen. The rabbits are impressed and incredulous, but Bigwig is sure the bird, whose name is Kehaar, is not lying.
As they learn about the bird, Hazel tells the others of his plan. He points out that they have no does in the warren and, unless they find some, their new warren will have been built in vain. Hazel wants Kehaar to find some does, as the bird can travel farther much faster than the rabbits could. Bigwig says he will work on it.
A few days later, when Kehaar is better, he comes to Hazel and presents his plan—the bird will go and find females for the rabbits. Kehaar leaves and returns after several days, telling them that there are rabbits in a farm at the bottom of the hill. He also tells of a warren he found that would take them a few days to reach. They decide to send an expedition to the warren to try to bring back some does. Holly, Silver, Buckthorn, and Strawberry set off the next morning.
That night, Hazel decides that he should see about securing a few does before the expedition comes back. He sets off with Pipkin to look at the rabbits on the farm. Inside the shed with the rabbits, Hazel has Pipkin keep watch for cats while Hazel talks to the rabbits. He meets Boxwood, who tells him there are two does and two bucks. Hazel tells them he wants them to join the warren, and he promises to come back and free them. Just then, Pipkin warns him that a cat is outside. Hazel waits for the cat to approach and then goads it into jumping at them. The rabbits take off, getting away just in the nick of time. Pipkin asks Hazel why he went to talk to the rabbits, and Hazel says that he will explain later.
Hazel's plan to befriend animals who are not enemies works wonders. Kehaar is even more helpful than the mouse, as his power of flight allows him to travel great distances in short periods of time. He finds the rabbits at the farm and the other rabbit warren in a few days of searching, when Hazel and his group may have never found them. The rabbits deal with Kehaar very intelligently, first feeding him and helping him. Bigwig comes up with a way to suggest the idea of finding does for the warren in such a way that Kehaar feels that he himself has come up with it. Psychology is not just a human science, it seems, as the bird is very pleased to have seemingly come up with such a scheme to aid the rabbits. It is unlikely that Kehaar would be anywhere near as happy with the idea if Hazel or Bigwig had simply asked him outright. Kehaar is also able to tell the rabbits about things that they have never seen before. He describes an ocean to them, and he has seen many more things than they will ever see. Although none of the rabbits had considered the full implications of befriending other animals, the fact is that other animals have different types of knowledge that the rabbits simply could not gain access to on their own. Kehaar's world is much bigger than the rabbits could possibly imagine, and as a consequence he can easily traverse what to them seem like large distances.
The episode with the cat also demonstrates Hazel's cool demeanor and knowledge of psychology. Hazel thinks quickly and, although Pipkin is nervous, Hazel realizes that if he can get the cat to spring at them, they can get away. Therefore, he insults the cat enough to make it lunge. Hazel's trick is very simple, but it is effective. Such an ability to stay calm under pressure is what Hazel needs in order to be a good leader for the warren. His actions may sometimes be daring, but they are calculated, indicating that he has thought out the best course of action. Perhaps most important is the fact that Hazel thinks very quickly on his feet. Bigwig does the same, but the difference is that while Hazel often avoids confrontation, Bigwig relishes it.
The fact that the rabbits build the warren, and then only afterward stop to think about the fact that they need does, is somewhat surprising. What this indicates is that they are ready to start living a real rabbit existence. Since they left their home warren they have met with many obstacles and have had a large number of adventures, but now that they have found a place to settle down they can think about everything else that a rabbit needs. They have living on bare necessity for a fair amount of time, but now their concerns are no longer simply those of short-term survival. Hazel and his gang must figure out a way to ensure that the warren is the home to rabbits for more than just a single generation.
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