Literature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 4 Chapters 41 42 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 4, Chapters 41–42 : Hazel-Rah | Summary

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Summary

Part 4, Chapter 41: The Story of Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wogdog

The epigraph is from Psalm 59, about scorning the malicious. The warren at Watership Down has settled into a rhythm quickly, with ten does there to make sure there isn't much fighting over them. Dandelion decides to tell a story about Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wogdog, because a story about Woundwort missing the boat is really Bigwig and Hazel's story to tell.

El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle want to steal vegetables from a farmer's kitchen, but the house is always guarded by a big dog named Rowsby Woof so they can never accomplish the theft. When a hunk of meat falls off a truck into the road and Rabscuttle finds it, this gives El-ahrairah an idea. He gnaws a circle of rubber from an old tire paring that has fallen into the road and uses it as a fake nose to stick through a hole in the fence near Rowsby Woof. He calls to the dog, claiming to be the Fairy Wogdog, a representative of Queen Dripslobber, who has noticed Rowsby Woof. He gives the dog the meat to go eat while they guard the house. Rabscuttle wants to go steal the vegetables, but El-ahrairah tells him not to, for they will keep their promise in order to gain the dog's trust. The next day, El-ahrairah tells Rowsby Woof to go "to the crossroads and await the queen." The dog obeys, and El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle go into the kitchen to eat the vegetables.

The man comes home, sees Rowsby Woof, and thinks the dog has come to meet him. He takes the dog home and goes into the kitchen, so El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle have to hide. The man plugs the hole to the outside. El-ahrairah speaks to the dog again from his hiding spot. He convinces the dog that there is a spell being cast on the queen and only Rowsby Woof can break the spell by running around the house four times. The dog barks so loudly it wakes up the man, who opens the door to head outside with a gun. El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle escape out the door. The dog continues to think that he saved the queen.

Part 4, Chapter 42: News at Sunset

The epigraph is from Plato's Euthyphro, talking about helping Socrates report unjust acts. The mouse that Hazel helped tells Hazel that there are a bunch of other rabbits coming by to start another warren at the other side of the combe, but when Hazel questions further, the mouse gets nervous. Finally, Hazel gets the mouse to tell him that a bird told him there were more rabbits around. Hazel wants Holly and Blackavar to go check out the rumor. Bigwig thinks they can wait, but Hazel makes them go right away. While the patrollers are away, there is news that Clover has had her kittens, and Bigwig and Hazel talk about forming the new Owsla. Suddenly, the patrol comes running back. Blackavar runs down one of the holes and Holly insists they must block all of the holes to the warren as fast as possible. Woundwort's gang has found their warren. Some of the rabbits want to run away, but Hazel insists he will stay. Clover can't leave, and they have worked hard on their warren. There is too much at stake to leave now. They fill in the holes, and Hazel decides that he is going to go make an offer to Woundwort to change plans.

Analysis

The story of Rowsby Woof serves to entertain everyone in the warren, but Dandelion feels bad that he wasn't at his patrol on time. He blames himself for not having seen the danger coming. The distraction of Rowsby Woof mirrors the distraction of Dandelion, and now the house, their warren, has been left unguarded.

Hazel's immediate insistence that the rumor of intruders be checked out is a result of the lessons he has learned about not believing the news of danger when he hears it. One of Hazel's finer qualities as a leader is that eventually he learns from his mistakes and even admits to them. Bigwig has a harder time learning from his mistakes, but that's why Bigwig is not the one giving orders to the whole warren. Hazel also knows the mouse doesn't want to make him angry, so he believes at least a little bit of what the mouse has reported.

Hazel is also the bravest rabbit of the bunch; he goes down to try to negotiate with General Woundwort. Hazel has never actually had to interact with Woundwort so he isn't as aware of how controlling and inflexible Woundwort is, or he would never go down to meet with him. However, Hazel is a leader of a warren run with compassion and decency, so his first rule is to try to avoid bloodshed if possible.

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