Literature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 3 Chapters 32 33 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 3, Chapters 32–33 : Efrafa | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 32: Across the Iron Road

The epigraph, in French, comes from General Jourdan, Mémoires Militaires (Military Memories), talking about how important good information is in avoiding danger. The fox is not so near the group that they are in danger if they don't move, but Bigwig doesn't stay still. He moves toward the fox, which comes after him, and suddenly Bigwig takes off running into the woods. Hazel is furious, because this risk was not necessary. He hears a squeal and is certain that the fox got Bigwig, but Bigwig comes running back to the group, out of breath, insisting they have to get away. Hazel is so angry that he tells Bigwig to shut up and sit down and gives him a lecture about risking his life when he is needed in the bigger plan. Bigwig apologizes for having lost his head and explains that he needed to release his tension.

Bigwig tells Hazel about the three rabbits he came across as he was being chased by the fox. These rabbits tried to stop him, but he ran past, knocking one of them over. The fox got one of the rabbits and the others ran away. At this, Silver realizes that they are too close to Efrafa, and this must have been the Wide Patrol. Hazel makes them head for the iron road, which is a long distance to travel and is about to have them cross when Kehaar arrives to tell them that they need to hide because the patrol is close by. They run down into the woods on the side of the tracks and avoid being discovered by the patrol. They are so exhausted they fall asleep.

Part 3, Chapter 33: The Great River

The epigraph is from Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, about seeing a river for the first time. Hazel wants to move on quickly and get to the river. His leg is bothering him, and he is afraid it is going to cause him problems. Silver says that Kehaar is figuring out where it's safe for them to go, but Hazel fidgets, worries, and almost leaves before Kehaar finally comes back. Kehaar says the river is not far, and a bridge is nearby. Hazel and the group get to the river and are stunned by how huge it is, how fast it flows, and how strange all of the creatures that are near it and in it. Fiver has to take Pipkin and "put on a show" to get the others to cross the bridge.

Kehaar wants to get to the ocean soon, pressing Hazel to get the job done. Hazel still needs to figure out the last part of the plan, now that he knows how persistent and strong the Efrafan Owsla is. He and Blackberry, along with Fiver, take a look down the river. They find a smaller bridge with a boat attached to it. Hazel reminds Blackberry of his idea to use the piece of wood to carry Fiver and Pipkin across the Enborne, and they decide that this will be their escape route. Hazel will gnaw the rope apart and they will float away. Bigwig is given his marching orders, and he leaves for Efrafa without any delay or argument, ready to rescue does.


Bigwig, according to Hazel, "plays El-ahrairah" by leading the fox away from the group when he didn't have to, risking his life and putting the success of the plan in jeopardy. This is not the first time Hazel has had to remind Bigwig that while his individual talents are much appreciated, there is a time and a place for heroics, and the group's safety is what matters most. If Bigwig were to die, the whole plan would not work, and they would be back where they started with only two does. Bigwig still has to learn to look at the bigger picture of group survival rather than getting caught up in his own frustration and boredom.

The nearness of the Wide Patrol is disturbing. Hazel has, up to this point, been confident that their plan will work, but when he realizes how strong the Efrafan Owsla is and how persistent their patrol is, he becomes fearful and worries he has made a mistake in coming this far. He also worries about his leg giving out. With Fiver's help, though, as well as Blackberry's input on how to make the plan work, Hazel realizes that if each member of the group puts in their best effort and uses their strengths, they will be able to accomplish their goal. The success of the operation does not depend solely on Hazel. Hazel knows enough to keep his fears to himself, though, and is able to keep everyone calm as they plan their last steps.

Blackberry's ingenuity is the most intricate and surprising part of the plan. Hazel, Fiver, Pipkin, and Blackberry all remember the floating wood trick, so the appearance of a boat at the second bridge gives them the means to get away. Rabbits can swim, but not very fast. Hazel had known all along that Blackberry would be the one to make the plan work in the end, and he was right about using Blackberry's creative solutions to formulate the trick they will use on the Efrafans.

The descriptive language the author uses to give the reader a picture of the Test River is vivid and visually intricate. He describes everything about the river as if he is seeing it for the first time, because the rabbits are seeing it for the first time; they have never seen a bridge, either. Everything in this place is new to them. The surprise each character experiences when they see creatures like dragonflies and brightly colored birds helps the reader to formulate a mental image of the scene as well as understand the perceptions of the rabbits as they approach their hiding spot. The danger of the river combines with the danger of the mission to make the rabbits even more nervous and on edge, but they manage to fight through it to keep the plan going.

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