Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.


The rabbits are repeatedly forced to adapt to situations that they could have never anticipated, and, to their credit, they do so quite well. Sometimes Fiver helps them when they are afraid of the unknown; at other times Hazel or Blackberry figures out how to deal with the situation. What is important is that one or two members of the group are always prepared to look at things in a different way and figure out how they will do what they need to do. They take a boat ride, befriend other animals, and dig out their own warren—all things that other rabbits have not done, but things that they must do in order to survive.


El-ahrairah provides the model for rabbit trickery, but Hazel and his rabbits do their best to compete with him. Trickery is often considered wrong because it is deceitful, but for the rabbits it is a matter of survival. Bigwig tricks the Efrafa into believing that he is acting alone and then he escapes with the does. Hazel tricks a cat into attacking he and Pipkin so that they can escape. Trickery does not mean unnecessary deceit; rather, it means using one's wits to escape a situation that is otherwise inescapable. It involves finding a method other than force because sometimes force is not an option.


Humans play a large role in Watership Down, and for the most part this role is a detrimental one. Humans alone, of all the creatures in the world, break certain rules that the rest of nature follows. Humans kill at a whim rather than out of necessity. They decimate populations rather than kill a few at a time. In building up their own habitats, they destroy the very living space that other animals need to survive. However, when the little girl saves Hazel in the end, we see that humans are not unequivocally bad. They are a step apart from the rest of nature, and they do have tremendous power to destroy, but they can also step in and help in ways that no other creatures in nature can.