Literature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 1 Chapters 10 11 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 1, Chapters 10–11 : The Journey | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 10: The Road and the Common

The epigraph is from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, about meeting with so much danger that it is better to turn around. Hazel's group comes to an unfamiliar place where they see a hrududu (vehicle) zoom past. It is smaller than a tractor, and Bigwig, who has seen roads before, explains what they are like. The rabbits can smell the tar on the road and another car goes by, scaring them but not paying any attention to them. They see a yona (hedgehog) by the side of the road, dead from having been hit by a car. Bigwig explains that at night, roads are especially dangerous because the hrududil have "great lights, brighter than Frith himself." The lights draw animals in, and "you can't see or think which way to go." Bigwig says that this is how animals get crushed in the road.

The group crosses the road quickly and heads through Newtown Churchyard to Newtown Common, where some of the rabbits begin to think they should turn back. Hawkbit says to Hazel, "We don't believe you know where we are going." Fiver asks to have a word with Hazel, and Bigwig turns to the three rabbits planning to turn back and gives them an angry lecture. Fiver shows Hazel the hills where he thinks the group should go, but the hills are four miles away. Fiver also sees trouble ahead, a "mist" that he can't figure out, but knows is dangerous.

Part 1, Chapter 11: Hard Going

The epigraph is from Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur about Sir Beaumains riding through dark woods to a "green way." Hazel and Fiver come back to the group and discover that Bigwig has bitten Hawkbit. Hazel says, "There are too few of us for giving orders and biting people." Hazel promises the group that he will have them out of trouble by sunrise, though he doesn't know if he can really do it. The group travels through the night, stopping frequently at noises or smells of dangerous predators. Luckily for Hazel, as the dawn light rises, the rabbits can see "a green field between two copses" and they believe that Hazel has brought them to safety. Hazel isn't sure that this is the case, so he stomps to keep them all from running down to the field separately. Once everyone is together, they all go "into the thick grass of the meadow," hidden from predators, near the edge of a row of birches and rowan trees.

Analysis

The new danger of a road exemplified by the dead yona on the side of the road terrifies the rabbits, and they cross quickly. However, the remaining journey through the woods at night tests the rabbits' loyalty to Hazel. Everything the rabbits encounter scares them, even the sound of their own footfalls. There is no clear goal because it isn't possible for Hazel to know exactly where to take the rabbits, but several of them seem to think if Hazel is unclear on their destination, they should just turn back. Fear plays a large part in their attitude toward Hazel, which had previously been marked by loyalty and willingness to find a new home. Hawkbit in particular seems to be plotting mutiny, as the narrator refers to him as looking "sly and shifty." Hazel, a true leader, wants to hear him out, but the idea of returning is ridiculously dangerous, riskier than continuing to a new home.

Bigwig proves his worth as an ally to Hazel, although he takes his job more seriously than Hazel wants him to. Hazel wants to avoid making the rabbits follow him because they are forced to do so and is angry when Bigwig bites Hawkbit to keep him from continuing on the path to mutiny. Bigwig's fear is expressed in the form of overzealous policing, while Hazel hides his fear in order to keep everyone calm.

Hazel looks to Fiver for his insights about danger, but everyone is so excited about the meadow they discover and so relieved to be somewhere relatively safe that Hazel is swept up in the rush to get into the field. The descriptive language the author uses to show what the rabbits see as the sun comes up makes the meadow look like an ideal place to stay, but Fiver's silence makes it clear that all is not well in this new place.

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