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Watership Down | Symbols



The rabbit warren is a symbol of home and safety for Hazel and his group of rabbits, but it can also symbolize repression and evil, depending upon who runs the warren and what the rules are. Similar to the different types of human governments and social constructs, the happiness and protection in the warren is dependent upon the system of government the rabbits have.

In Cowslip's warren the system is run from the outside by a man, and the rabbits try to convince themselves their lives are wonderful, but they don't talk about what they really are, livestock being fattened up for the kill. In Efrafa, General Woundwort is a dictator who makes life good for a very few rabbits if they obey him but is abusive and controlling to the rest of the warren. Thus the warren at Efrafa becomes a symbol of repression and fear rather than the safe home it is supposed to be for the rabbit colony there.

Watership Down, however, is run like a democracy, and while there is a leader, Hazel, the other rabbits have a say in how the warren is run. Each rabbit's strengths are used for the good of the entire warren, and no one is too small or weak to be listened to. In this way, Watership Down represents the ultimate balance of structure and freedom, a safe place for the rabbits to call home.


The Owsla represents the police force of each warren, and depending on the warren, the power of the Owsla can be repressive and cruel or geared toward the ultimate safety and security of the entire community. The Owsla also represents the social hierarchy in a colony of rabbits that separates the dominant bucks and their mating rights from the outskirters, who are still a part of the colony but are less in control and are not yet mating. There are levels of authority in the Owsla, just like in a military or police force, but the definition of that authority depends upon the rule of law followed in a given warren.

Marks in Efrafa

The Marks in Efrafa are the wounds inflicted on each rabbit in this warren, and they symbolize the isolation and oppressive control exerted over the colony by those in power, particularly General Woundwort. Like a brand or a tattoo, the wounds are made by superiors on different parts of a rabbit's body; the placement of the Marks indicates which subcolony, or "Mark," the rabbit belongs to. Each Mark is controlled by officers in that Mark, and they can't associate with rabbits in other Marks. In this way the Marks keep the rabbits from becoming strong enough to rise up against General Woundwort's totalitarian regime.


The snare represents the lethal harm man can do to rabbits and the unpredictability of that danger. The snare is a hidden trap that is nearly impossible to escape, a wire around the neck of the rabbit that gets tighter and more suffocating the more the rabbit struggles. A human with a gun is visible, and the hrududil, the vehicles people drive, are also dangers that can be avoided, but the snare is a much worse elil, an evil that hides in the grass and cannot be seen until it is too late.

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