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Watership Down

Richard Adams

Chapters 27–29

Chapters 25–26

Chapters 30–32

Summary

Chapter 27: "You Can't Imagine It Unless You've Been There"

Deprived of their leader, the rabbits are uncertain of themselves and do not know what to do. Holly tells the story of what happened on their journey to the warren that Kehaar told them about. They bumped into a rabbit who told them not to go to Efrara (the warren), but just then three big rabbits approached them and escorted them in.

The Owsla in Efrafa are in complete control, along with a Council of advisors, and a rabbit named General Woundwort is the leader. Each of the rabbits is marked and then put in a group with a similar mark, and they only go above ground with their group. The warren is designed to avoid detection because the rabbits fear humans. The Owsla run a "Wide Patrol"—they move far away from the warren looking for enemies or wandering rabbits.

A rabbit called Captain Campion took Holly and the others into a burrow, where they learned about the warren by talking to the rabbits, especially a doe named Hyzenthlay, who told them that the warren was overcrowded. They were brought before the Council, and Holly tried to explain that they just wanted a few does for their own warren. However, General Woundwort explained to them that they were to stay in Efrafa—they quickly realized that they were prisoners, not guests.

Holly came up with a plan to escape, and they ran away while their guard was eating outside. They were soon pursued, however, and they knew they would be overtaken. They were saved only by climbing over one side of a railroad track, although Holly did not know what the track was. The train came through and cut them off from the Efrafan Owsla. Holly describes the train as a giant hrududu sent by Lord Frith himself to save them. They managed to make their way back to the warren, only to learn that Hazel was killed in the raid on the barn.

Chapter 28: At the Foot of the Hill

Blackberry comes and tells them that Hazel is alive and that he is with Fiver at the bottom of the hill. Bigwig runs down to help and finds Hazel sleeping. The next morning, Kehaar comes down and pulls the shotgun pellets out of Hazel's leg. Hazel spends three days resting and tells Holly and the rest what they need to do. They need to return to Efrafa and bring back some does, and Hazel wants Blackberry to figure out how to do it.

Chapter 29: Return and Departure

Hazel returns the next morning and tells the rabbits that he plans to go to Efrafa and get some does. Holly speaks out against the plan, saying it is suicide. But then Fiver says that he will go and claims that he thinks it will work. Bigwig also says that he is going and that Kehaar is coming with them. Silver and Pipkin volunteer, and then Blackberry comes in and says that the plan is better than he originally thought. Kehaar tells Hazel he will help them to find the does, but that he must leave afterwards. He promises to return another time in the future.

Analysis

The Efrafan rabbits run their warren in a completely different manner from the other warrens Hazel and his rabbits have seen. The Efrafan warren is extremely hierarchical, with power resting in the hands of very few; the majority are dominated by a small, militant minority. They treat strangers unkindly, and Holly and the others are lucky to escape with their lives. General Woundwort runs his warren in such a manner because he does not want it to be discovered by humans. The problem is that his method of saving his rabbits from humans also makes the rabbits' lives miserable. The only way a rabbit can be happy in Efrafa is by becoming a member of the small, privileged elite. Unlike the warren of the snares, where all the rabbits are equal in their self-deception, Efrafa is close to a totalitarian rabbit warren. The Wide Patrols that the Efrafan Owsla run are military groups designed to find predators and other wandering rabbits who might draw attention.

Given all that they know about the Efrafans, it does seem crazy of Hazel to want to return to the Efrafan warren. The rabbits maintain an almost unshakable faith in Hazel, however; not only has he led them through every obstacle, he has also survived being shot and left for dead. Now he comes to them with what he claims is a plan that will bring them more does. Hazel already has succeeded in obtaining the only two does that they have. It is Hazel's leadership that convinces the rabbits that they can succeed in such a daring act. Furthermore, Fiver—the one rabbit whom they all realize they should listen to—says that he is going and that he thinks the plan will work. Moreover, there is yet another reason why they are willing to entertain their leader's plan, even if they do not yet know what it is—they need to. They have only two does, and these two are hutch rabbits who may not survive. If the warren is to last much longer, they will need to find more does, and the only place that they can get them is in the Efrafan warren.

It is therefore not a question of what they need to do, but rather how they will do it. They have a few advantages that may take even the militant Efrafans by surprise. First, Kehaar is a great ally who can help in numerous ways. Additionally, Bigwig's fighting prowess has become almost legendary; the others have seen him attack and beat off a cat, and they know that with him in the lead they have a chancen at surviving almost anything. Once again, Hazel is attempting to do something extremely difficult, and he hopes to be able to do it by utilizing all of the rabbits' resources to the fullest. Blackberry will provide the plan, Bigwig the strength and daring, Kehaar the element of surprise, Fiver the guidance, and Hazel the coordination and leadership. The fact that Hazel gets the warren to agree to the mission against Holly's wishes indicates Hazel's charisma and the esteem with which the rest of the warren holds him.

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