HomeLiterature Study GuidesWatership DownPart 4 Chapters 47 48 Summary

Watership Down | Study Guide

Richard Adams

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Watership Down | Part 4, Chapters 47–48 : Hazel-Rah | Summary

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Summary

Part 4, Chapter 47: The Sky Suspended

The epigraph, about attacking a bull instead of waiting for it to attack the speaker, comes from Flora Thompson in Lark Rise. Dandelion has to run for his life and hides in bales of straw as the dog tries to sniff him out. Dandelion has to get the dog to follow him again to Blackberry, and after a few false turns, gets him to follow. Dandelion tells Blackberry he'll catch up, and Blackberry takes off, but the dog is interested in other things that smell good besides Blackberry, and then just trots across the field. They are halfway to the down, but Dandelion knows this isn't fast enough to cause confusion and make the Efrafans afraid. He and Blackberry position themselves in front of the dog, and they are all off again, at top speed toward the warren.

Bigwig and Woundwort are in a standoff, and interwoven with their communication is a dialogue between El-ahrairah and a fox. Woundwort tries to convince Bigwig to come back to Efrafa and be part of the Owsla, commanding a Mark. Bigwig replies in Lapine language that he should eat excrement and calls him a leader who stinks like a fox. Woundwort jumps on him and attacks, but Woundwort's face is wounded and Bigwig's nose is full of blood. He becomes weak and sinks down but hears Fiver's voice saying "You are closer to death than I" and remembers the wire. He comes quickly to consciousness, but Woundwort has disappeared.

Woundwort's officers realize that Woundwort has gotten the worse end of the fight because he asks them to fight Thlayli for a while. Bigwig is able to reposition himself at the mouth of the run, and no one wants to fight him. Bigwig won't come out, saying, "My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this run and until he says otherwise I shall stay here." This terrifies everyone because the Efrafans never thought that anyone would be bigger or stronger in this warren than Bigwig, and they don't know where the Chief Rabbit might be. Fiver appears in the patch of light in the middle of the warren. Woundwort tells Vervain to kill him, but Fiver says, "I am very sorry for your death," scaring Vervain so badly that he runs. Woundwort tries to round up other rabbits to keep digging and fight, but Captain Campion runs past him, screaming at everyone to run for their lives. The dog is on their trail. Woundwort insists that "dogs aren't dangerous," but it jumps at him.

Part 4, Chapter 48: Dea ex Machina

The epigraph, from Dylan Thomas's poem, "Fern Hill," tells of a sunny farm home. In this chapter the narrator relates the tale from the perspective of the humans at the farm. Lucy gets up and thinks about her day to come. Her father is headed for the market, and the doctor is coming to see her mother. She suddenly hears squealing and sees her cat has caught a rabbit. She chases the cat away and picks up the rabbit, taking him inside the house. She tells her father she wants to keep him, but her father says the rabbit will die in the hutch because it's wild. Lucy wants the doctor to look at the rabbit's wounds, but her father tells her the doctor has better things to do. Lucy begins to cry. Her father tells her to get dressed and put the rabbit in a cage for now. She also has to go find Bob, the dog, who has broken his leash.

The doctor comes in with the dog following. Lucy gets to bring the rabbit to the doctor after he sees her mother, and the doctor says there isn't anything wrong with the rabbit apart from "something funny about [his] hind leg, but that's been done some time and it's more or less healed." The doctor reiterates that Lucy can't keep the rabbit and offers to help her take him away to release him. Dr. Adams and Lucy go in his car to release Hazel on the ridge near Watership Down.

Analysis

The trickery of the Watership Down rabbits knows no bounds, and they don't even have to try to make it work. They are such a tight unit that each one's abilities combine to make some of the Efrafans too terrified to fight them and others run screaming from the animals they have helping them. The Efrafans thought that Fiver was dead, so when he arises and says that he is sorry for their death, naturally, they are scared to death and they run away. It's not every day that a rabbit comes back to life and tells them they are about to die. The idea that there is a Chief Rabbit who is not Bigwig is also unintentional trickery at its best, because Hazel isn't actually bigger or stronger than Bigwig, but the Efrafans think that might equals right, so they just assume that anyone who can be Bigwig's chief must be a gargantuan brute of a rabbit.

The dog plan actually works, but Woundwort refuses to stop fighting, even when the dog attacks. His response is typical of totalitarian leaders, who fight to the death, in war or as a self-inflicted death if it becomes clear they will not win. Woundwort's disappearance may not, however, be a sign of his death.

Hyzenthlay's vision actually comes true, because Hazel does ride in a car. For all of the harm that humans can inflict on rabbits, these humans are quite gentle with Hazel and cognizant of the fact that wild animals can't be kept as pets. This message reflects the author's feelings about animals in nature and ethical treatment of animals.

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