Watership Down summary and theme

Watership Down summary and theme

They set off at night through dangerous woods. In the morning, they come to a small river but manage to swim across it. Hazel searches ahead and finds a field of beans where they can rest and hide. Late that night, they cross a road and enter a thick heather that slows their travel. Some rabbits want to start a new warren there, but Hazel convinces them to keep moving.

The next morning, they come upon a beautiful, lush meadow and begin digging burrows. A large, healthy rabbit visits and invites them to join his nearby warren, which is huge, has plenty of room for newcomers, and gets lots of free food from a farmer. Though friendly, the residents seem unaccountably sad. Fiver senses danger, but the other newcomers think it’s a wonderful place until Bigwig gets caught in a snare. They manage to free him and promptly leave.

The rabbits trek for two more days and arrive at last at the steep face of Watership Down. They climb to the top, where they find a stand of trees under which they begin to dig burrows.

Captain Holly appears, injured and half insane. The group brings him in, along with a second refugee, Bluebell. Holly recovers and describes the destruction of the old warren: Humans killed the rabbits with poison gas and gunshots, then plowed over the burrows.

The group continues digging new burrows and tunnels. At night, Dandelion and Bluebell tell stories of the great rabbit El-ahrairah and his exploits and tricks. One day, Hazel rescues a mouse from a hawk, and the mice return the favor by telling the rabbits of a fine place for grazing. Hazel also rescues a gull named Kehaar with a broken wing. It recuperates in the burrows and thanks them by finding, from the air, a large warren and a farm hutch, both with does for Hazel’s rabbits.

Hazel sends Holly and a team to the large, overcrowded warren. They offer to take some does but instead are arrested and forced into servitude. They trick their guards, escape, and return to Watership but without does. Meanwhile, Hazel and a small group try to free four rabbits who live in the farm hutch; they manage to liberate three, including two females. In the process, though, Hazel gets shot. The others believe he’s dead, but Fiver dreams his brother still lives, and he finds Hazel hiding in a drainpipe. Hazel recovers and announces a second expedition to Efrafa.

The group hides near the warren while Bigwig presents himself to its leader, the powerful tyrant Woundwort, and gets hired as an Owsla guard. Inside, he meets a doe, Hyzenthlay, who agrees to help him escape with several females. They make a break for it just as a tremendous thunderstorm breaks. Woundwort pursues them to a river, where the escapees board a small boat. Hazel gnaws through the dock line, and the boat floats away.

The rabbits leave the boat and begin their journey to Watership. An Efrafa patrol follows them and locates their warren. Woundwort brings squads of soldiers to retake the does, but the defenders blockade the burrow entrances while Hazel sets loose a dog from a nearby farm. It chases Blackberry and Dandelion up the hill to the Watership warren, where it promptly attacks Woundwort’s soldiers. The survivors scatter; Woundwort is never found.

The Watership warren, now at peace, thrives and produces many litters. Hazel and the Efrafans agree to start a new warren midway between them that’s filled with rabbits from both places. Hazel lives to a ripe old age, his exploits now enshrined as new stories about the rabbits’ religious icon El-ahrairah. 

Watership Down Character Analysis


Hazel is the chief protagonist of the story. Though not very large for a yearling, he’s confident, good-natured, and a natural leader. His plans for improving his rabbits’ fortunes have a daring quality, but somehow they always work out. Smart and respectful toward others, Hazel often plays the diplomat to smooth over conflicts, and he knows how to use each rabbit’s abilities to benefit the group. His overriding purpose is to build a healthy, robust warren with thriving members, focusing on their happiness rather than his power. He learns quickly and effectively applies his experience to the warren’s problems.

As he gains experience and achieves great things for his rabbits, he acquires the title “Hazel-rah,” or Prince Hazel. His exploits take on lives of their own and quickly enter rabbit lore, blending into the stream of stories about the legendary El-ahrairah. Despite this, Hazel is basically an ordinary rabbit with good common sense and strong social skills. He’s an example of how an ordinary member of a larger can rise to greatness if he keeps his wits about him, focuses on helping others, remains humble, and stays true to his dreams.


Large, impulsive, and friendly but inclined toward fighting, Bigwig is a member of the Threarah’s Owsla who defects to Hazel’s group and helps them escape the destruction of their warren. A loyal and daring member of the Watership Down group, and the first member of Hazel’s informal Owsla, Bigwig engineers the escape of several does from the dangerously repressive Efrafa warren, and he defeats the larger rabbit Woundwort in combat while defending Hazel’s warren. Bigwig is an object lesson in being big, brave, and feisty while also being fair-minded and considerate of others.


The fifth and smallest of the litter he shared with Hazel, Fiver is a worrier. Acutely alert to any sign of danger, he’s the first to recognize a looming disaster for the Threarah’s warren, and he later warns the escapees to avoid Cowslip’s warren because it’s merely an alluring death trap.

Fiver possesses a gift of prophecy, and he often tests the others’ patience with his strange, priest-like predictions of doom. Hazel, though, trusts and defends him, with good cause: Fiver’s predictions always come true. His public prediction of the warren’s victory over Woundwort is itself a partial cause of that victory when it spooks the invaders. He’s best understood by his brother, Hazel, and by his mate, Vilthuril, but the warren as a whole comes to realize that, though eccentric, Fiver always has their best interests at heart.

Because rabbits can’t count past four—anything larger is simply “hrair—‘a lot,’ or ‘a thousand’”—Fiver’s rabbit name is Hrairoo, which means “Little Thousand,” or the runt of a large litter (10 fn.). His is the type of unusually talented mind often rejected by others, but that benefits those who respect him.


General Woundwort is the Efrafa warren’s dictator and the story's chief antagonist. Large, deadly, and ruthless, he rules with an iron grip and works continually to increase his control over the other rabbits. Enraged when Bigwig escapes with several does, Woundwort pursues them but underestimates Watership warren’s true strengths and fails to conquer them. He is last seen fighting the dog brought against him by Hazel’s team: “He was a fighting animal—fierce as a rat or a dog. He fought because he actually felt safer fighting than running” (607).


More of a force of nature than a rabbit, Woundwort represents the mania of leaders who become tyrants. His approach is the opposite of Hazel’s, who’d rather cooperate than fight and who wins through clever tactics instead of brute force.


One of the does who wants to leave Efrafa, Hyzenthlay—“fur shining like dew” in Lapine (618)—conspires with Bigwig and several other does to escape from their imprisoning warren. She’s smart, resourceful, clear-headed, and patient. She also shares some of Fiver’s psychic abilities. Hazel recognizes her virtues, and they become mating partners. (In the book’s sequel, Tales from Watership Down, she becomes co-leader of the warren.) Hyzenthlay represents the deep, hidden wisdom and intelligence of the does—who, too often, are disregarded by the bucks and must struggle to communicate with them and make contributions to the group.



Great teams need great leaders, but they also need great members who make the most of their abilities. Hazel rewards each of his rabbit’s contributions, with the result that they form a fiercely loyal and cooperative team.

The tone is set by Hazel, who makes it clear that his purpose is to protect and enhance his group. Early on, after they’ve come through some tough challenges, he realizes how good his followers are: “There was no more questioning of Bigwig’s strength, Fiver’s insight, Blackberry’s wits,” or his own ability as a leader (161).


Hazel makes a point of building on the strengths of these and other members of his group. When he returns from being wounded by a farmer’s gun, Hazel makes a point of chatting with everyone he can at Watership: “Hazel talked to almost all the rabbits” (329). He’s interested in everyone’s viewpoints and wants their voices heard.

His brother Fiver chafes when his eccentric predictions get rejected by other rabbits. Hazel listens and encourages Fiver’s strange genius, and the young rabbit thrives, his prophecies becoming more focused, clear, and useful to the group—which, like Hazel, comes to appreciate their value.

Bigwig joins the group and challenges Hazel’s leadership. Hazel respects Bigwig’s power and determination, and he gives the rabbit wide latitude to exercise his strengths. This suits Bigwig, who bows to Hazel’s superior leadership and becomes one of his best officers.

Blackberry, like Fiver, is very smart, but most leaders would reject his innovations as improper for rabbits. Hazel instead listens and usually accepts Blackberry’s new ideas. Thus encouraged, Blackberry exercises his brain regularly on behalf of the group, and many of their best successes stem directly from his creative solutions to problems.

Holly opposes Hazel’s group at first but joins them later. He learns that Hazel can set the past aside and welcome him as a ranking group member. Thus respected, Holly risks himself many times on behalf of his new leader.


Hazel knows a gift when he sees one, and the injured Kehaar is one such present. The bird has hygienic habits that disgust the rabbits, but Hazel sets that aside and nurtures the bird, who rewards him by becoming a friend and ally in both peace and war.

Bluebell, always ready with a quip, can be annoying at times, but Hazel sees past this to the rabbit’s essential good nature and his ability to cheer up the others during stressful times. Bluebell blossoms under Hazel’s leadership and helps keep the warren from panicking during the Efrafan attack.

Dandelion similarly has a way with words: His stories about El-ahrairah enthrall the group and keep it entertained on long nights. Hazel quietly curates Dandelion’s stories, subtly guiding him toward telling the right one at the right time. In this way, Dandelion’s skill flourishes.

Blackavar springs back to life under Hazel’s leadership, and Silver, Hawkbit, and Buckthorn become, like the others, fiercely loyal to the warren and its leader. Hyzenthlay joins them, and Hazel quickly recognizes her intelligent wisdom and partners with her.

Each of these appreciates Hazel’s respect for them, and each pays him back with great devotion and their finest work. They know what they’re good at, and this prevents them from fighting each other; instead, they coordinate their skills and build themselves into an unstoppable team. Without Hazel, their efforts might go nowhere; with him, their strengths grow, and they work effectively with one another to create remarkable results. 


Hazel’s rabbits interact with three warrens, each beset by a different form of oppression. Each teaches them a lesson, and each reminds them of the value, despite the risks, of an open and free life. A fourth warren, their own on Watership Down, transcends the usual limits and offers them a better way.

The first oppression springs from bureaucratic corruption. The Threarah’s warren is run efficiently, but it’s also corrupt, the officers taking all the best resources for themselves. The Threarah has a bureaucratic mind: He’s smart but rule-bound. He brooks no dissension and won’t let rabbits leave without his say-so. Hazel and Fiver fail to convince the Threarah of the coming danger, and they must defy his Owsla and escape. Theirs is the right move, as those who stay behind and follow the rules quickly die at the hands of men who destroy the burrows to make way for human housing.

The second oppression involves a devil’s bargain. Hazel’s group meets Cowslip’s warren, whose rabbits are large and healthy, safe from predators, sheltered in a large and comfortable set of burrows, yet strangely sad. They enjoy their lush lifestyle at the price of their lives, for the warren is maintained by a farmer who harvests rabbits at will for his dinner. Again Hazel’s group must escape, lest it become ensnared—literally—in the warren’s luxurious death trap, as nearly happens to Bigwig. The allure of false safety is too strong for Cowslip’s rabbits, though, and among them only Strawberry breaks free and escapes from the place’s hypnotic appeal.


Solved Notes & Pdf

Whatsapp :- 8130208920

Youtube :- Myexamsolution


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.