Literature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 1 Chapters 12 13 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 1, Chapters 12–13 : The Journey | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 12: The Stranger in the Field

The epigraph is another quote from R.M. Lockley's book about rabbits, which says that visiting rabbits in need of a dry place sometimes end up becoming part of the warren. This chapter opens with most of the rabbits feeling very lucky to have found the field. However, Fiver does not participate in the jubilant play the other rabbits engage in. Bigwig, Silver, and Buckthorn return from a scouting mission to report that there are "no signs of elil at all." Bigwig says that there are several well-used "man tracks," and Fiver wants to know why the men would have paths through the field. Bigwig doesn't have an answer. When everyone helps to dig "scratches" as temporary shelters, Fiver stays to the side, fidgeting and acting nervous.

Fiver sounds the warning that there is a rabbit nearby. Cowslip, a large, sleek, and well-fed rabbit, tells the group that they should come stay in his warren because there are "plenty of empty burrows" there. When Hazel asks Fiver what he thinks, Fiver replies, "I think that we should have nothing to do with that rabbit or his warren." Fiver senses the danger when the others do not. The group decides to set fear aside and go to the warren. Fiver drags behind.

Part 1, Chapter 13: Hospitality

The epigraph is from Tennyson's poem "The Lotus Eaters," about a dream land. The group goes to Cowslip's warren, which is huge and has a central meeting place. Hazel asks if Cowslip is the Chief Rabbit, but the question comes back to him. Hazel says he and his companions had trouble at their old warren and have traveled a long way to come here. He notes that there are a great many rabbits in the warren, so it must not be as small as Cowslip had led him to believe his is. Everyone in the warren looks uncomfortable, and Hazel wonders if they have been struck by something bad earlier. Fiver stands apart from the group, and the new rabbits avoid him. He looks ill and upset.

Strawberry introduces himself and his doe, Nildro-hain. He says that the man takes care of all the elil and they never have to go on expeditions because there is always plenty of food. However, Strawberry doesn't look happy at all. Hazel starts to ask, "Where does the man ..." but is interrupted. He is interrupted every time he asks a "where" question. Strawberry shows Hazel a "Shape" on the wall made by a rabbit named Laburnum, which means "poison" in the Lapine language. The shape is supposed to represent El-ahrairah stealing lettuce. But Hazel is confused, because rabbits don't make representations of other things. Strawberry says they should go eat and calls for a rabbit named Kingcup, whose burrow is empty, and Hazel notices that only Strawberry's footprints are in the dirt at the entrance of the burrow.


The author uses figurative descriptions of the relief the rabbits feel as they come into the new field. He uses the metaphors of the end of war, the disappearance of a predator, and the end of a long winter freeze to describe how freeing the discovery of a huge field at the supposed end of the journey is for the rabbits. Fiver's visions haven't come to him yet, but he doesn't share his group's relief; he has a bad feeling about the field. When he asks Hazel about the "man-tracks," he is trying to figure out why men would be nearby so much, because there is nothing to draw them to the field. This detail is a clue that something is wrong with this supposedly safe place.

When Hazel meets Cowslip and decides that he will bring his group to their warren to visit, Fiver immediately has a bad feeling about the warren and about Cowslip as well. Fiver wants nothing to do with this new place and thinks they should "leave at once." A telling detail that supports Fiver's intuition is the fact that there are a good number of empty burrows in Cowslip's warren. Hazel notices this as well and wonders if something has happened to a large percentage of the warren population, but Bigwig and Hazel ignore the warning and decide the group should visit the warren. Fiver's fears are ignored, but the narrator places clues pointing to trouble ahead.

Another detail that serves as a clue to trouble is Strawberry's unwillingness to answer any questions that ask "where." Hazel actually tests this theory, and Strawberry predictably interrupts his questions with chatter. A truly creepy detail that comes out when Strawberry is talking is the name of the rabbit who made the "Shape." Hazel is a bit taken aback that a rabbit would be called "Poison." It is also significant that these rabbits have taken on behaviors that are more man-like than rabbit-like, representing the folk hero El-ahrairah using stones on the wall of the warren. There will be more behavior that doesn't fit rabbit life in the next chapter, but this strange revelation confirms Fiver's fears that this warren is dangerous. The final chilling detail is the fact that Kingcup never comes, but Strawberry keeps calling him to dinner. Kingcup never comes because Kingcup is no longer alive.

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