Literature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 1 Chapters 7 9 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 1, Chapters 7–9 : The Journey | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 7: The Lendri and the River

The epigraph that begins this chapter is from Napoleon Bonaparte, about bravery in the face of danger. Hazel and his group come across a lendri (badger), and they aren't sure if the animal is dangerous, but they try to work around it. Hazel feels that he has to compliment Bigwig on helping to keep them safe from the lendri because Bigwig is starting to feel like there is no purpose to their journey. Bigwig is a rabbit who needs a purpose, and Captain Holly's attempt to arrest him came just in time to make Bigwig take the final leap to leave with Hazel. Hazel realizes that Bigwig is going to be tough to manage, but he thinks he may have the key with putting Bigwig in the position of protector.

The rabbits come to the river Enborne, and Fiver insists that they must cross the river. Rabbits do not normally swim, but if they have to for food or to escape danger, they will. However, the Enborne is too rapid for Fiver and Pipkin, who are small and exhausted. Hazel sees the open field on the other side of the river and realizes that they have to get to the field.

Part 1, Chapter 8: The Crossing

The epigraph is from the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, describing how the apostle Paul and his companions escaped a sinking ship on pieces of wood. Fiver and Hazel talk while the rest of the group is eating grass on the river bank. Fiver tells Hazel that they need to be up high on a field so that they can see danger. They send Bigwig across the river to keep him from getting upset that they have to rest, but Bigwig comes racing back. From the other side of the river, he can see there is a dog loose in the woods. Hazel refuses to swim across the river until Pipkin and Fiver can make it across, but Bigwig insists they have to move or the dog will find them. Blackberry discovers that a piece of wood nearby floats on the water and realizes that Fiver and Pipkin could climb onto it and float, too. It takes a while for Hazel to realize that this is not just a case of Blackberry losing his mind, but Bigwig gets it right away and jumps into the river to push the makeshift raft across the river. Blackberry says the idea "might come in handy again some time," so he makes a note to remember this trick for later.

Part 1, Chapter 9: The Crow and the Beanfield

The epigraph is from Robert Browning's poem "De Gustibus," about a beanfield and a blackbird in May and June. Hazel realizes that the rabbits are not safe where they are, out in the open, and decides to do a little exploring to find a better place to rest. He discovers a beanfield nearby, and though rabbits don't eat the plants, the smell of the blossoms is strong enough to cover their scent and provide a safe shelter for the group. Along the way he sees a crow chasing after prey, and dismisses it as "not-hawk," but as the group is heading for the beanfield, the crow comes back and attacks Pipkin and Fiver. Pipkin tries to bury his head, knowing that the crow will aim for his eyes, and Bigwig comes in behind the crow to knock it over. By attacking from behind, Bigwig successfully makes the crow fly off. Hazel discovers that Pipkin has a thorn in his paw, which is why he hasn't been able to run. Hazel licks the thorn until he can get it out with his teeth and tells Pipkin to lick the wound until it feels better. The rabbits rest in the beanfield, safe from harm.

Analysis

Bigwig is proving to be a challenge for Hazel, who has to manage the headstrong rabbit by making him think he is invaluable to the group. In fact, Bigwig's strength and willingness to face danger is extremely valuable, if he can keep his restlessness in check. Bigwig has to learn how to operate for the good of the group, rather than just following his own whims. It is going to take a while for Bigwig to develop the kind of loyalty to Hazel that is needed for the group's survival, to keep them from scattering. Hazel's trick of making Bigwig think that he saved the group from the lendri works very well to make Bigwig less likely to get frustrated with their inactivity next to the riverbank.

The rabbits have to overcome their fears of crossing a river for the first time, and this is not the last time they will encounter this challenge. Hazel's refusal to cross the river without Fiver and Pipkin, regardless of the approaching danger, infuriates Bigwig, but Hazel is the kind of leader who will not leave anyone behind. They will stand or fall as a group, not as one or two brave individuals. They help each other get through challenges. Hazel puts Bigwig in charge of scouting the other side of the river to keep him from blowing up at everyone. Hazel's leadership instincts save the group from having to deal with Bigwig's more difficult personality quirks.

The survival of the group depends on leaving room for innovation. The rabbits are in a place they have never been before, under circumstances they have never had to face. Luckily, Hazel's skepticism regarding Blackberry's smart idea to float the young rabbits across the river is short-lived. The idea works beautifully, which astonishes Hazel and encourages Bigwig to jump into the river to push the raft. Hazel takes note of Blackberry's brilliance for later and will use his ability to come up with smart tricks to help the group survive. Blackberry also realizes that his idea "may come in handy again sometime," foreshadowing the river crossings the rabbits will have to make in later chapters.

Bigwig's fearlessness and restless behavior come in handy when the crow attacks. Hazel has underestimated the danger the crow poses to the more vulnerable members of the group. Bigwig's tendency to spot danger and face it head on saves the day. Hazel will begin to trust that Bigwig is really the group's protector—that role is no longer just one that Hazel has concocted to keep Bigwig from going rogue. Bigwig really is a valuable asset to the group.

The way the rabbits pull together to take care of each other after a difficult encounter with danger shows how they are loyal to each other and stick together as a group. Hazel takes care of a thorn in Pipkin's paw, a gesture of tenderness that is common among the rabbits. When one rabbit is wounded, another one licks the wounds until they feel better. Speedwell tries to lift Pipkin's spirits by joking, "You might have poked the lendri's eye out for us, if you had only known." Humor and care combine to keep the rabbits going on their journey.

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