Course Hero. "Watership Down Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Nov. 2017. Web. 20 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Watership-Down/>.
Course Hero. (2017, November 15). Watership Down Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Watership-Down/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Watership Down Study Guide." November 15, 2017. Accessed July 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Watership-Down/.
Course Hero, "Watership Down Study Guide," November 15, 2017, accessed July 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Watership-Down/.
The epigraph is the classic "dogs of war" quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Thistle, one of the younger rabbits, tells Woundwort that there is an animal down in the warren that is not a rabbit. He and others heard it making an awful sound, but Woundwort tells them if they didn't smell it, there isn't anything to worry about and they should keep digging. No one moves. They start talking about all the animals that the rabbits had to help them, and Woundwort tells them they can go home, but no officers will go with them. Ragwort tells Woundwort that they have reached a root and a blocked run, so Woundwort has them continue to dig and try to break the root.
Hazel positions Blackberry to run to the warren, with Dandelion to attract the dog to Blackberry, and he starts gnawing the rope that holds the sleeping dog at Nuthanger Farm. All is going according to plan until Hazel sees a cat and out of sheer instinct, stamps a warning on the top of the doghouse. Dandelion hears it and runs as fast as he can. The dog sees Dandelion and chases after him, breaking the rope but causing the doghouse to fall down, with Hazel on top of it. Hazel lands on his bad leg and can't move very well. Suddenly, the cat is on him, and he can't move at all.
The epigraph is a quotation, which discusses stamina for fighting, by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated. Woundwort gives his officers the battle plan to get into the warren, and he is the first to drop down. He thinks that the rabbits are hiding on the other side of a wall of soft dirt, so he has officers go ahead of him and dig while he waits. Meanwhile, Bigwig has come around behind him, hidden underneath a thin layer of soil. Woundwort counts on the fear of everyone hiding behind the wall and is certain that he has an advantage over them. But he has fewer officers with him than he thinks and the rabbits on the other side are a large group. Bigwig bursts out of the soil behind him and bites through the muscle on one of his hind legs, holding on and kicking. Woundwort bites Bigwig's ear, but he has no balance because of his wounded leg, so Bigwig is able to knock him over. Bigwig sees daylight through the top of the tunnel and realizes that Woundwort's officers have broken through.
In each of these situations the element of surprise is necessary. Hazel's plan at the farm to get the dog to chase Dandelion and then Blackberry will be a complete surprise, but Hazel's leg gets the better of him, and he is trapped. Back at the warren Bigwig surprises Woundwort and wounds his leg so badly that Woundwort can't fight well enough to beat Bigwig. Both leaders of warrens are downed by their leg wounds, and their plans have been waylaid by these injuries.
The author uses the short length of these chapters to heighten the excitement. He could have made one long chapter of the battle and the plan, but short chapters that release bits of the plot just as it comes to a climax make the suspense more gripping and make the reader keep going to find out what happens to Bigwig and Hazel, who are both in serious trouble.
The presence of Fiver, unconscious on the floor, makes Woundwort and the others believe that there is a dead rabbit in the warren. Everyone coming into the run is warned to step aside and avoid the dead rabbit, so the message is passed. The presence of a dead rabbit will be useful in the next chapters, because as it happens, Fiver is not actually dead, just unconscious and cold. The idea that there are other animals helping the rabbits also helps the warren. Fiver's cry terrifies the Efrafans, especially the younger ones, making them think that these rabbits have some kind of magical hold on other animals to help them stay alive. This fear will also be useful in the coming chapters, to protect Hazel's group.