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Free Study Guide for Watership Down by Richard Adams

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PART 1: The Journey

CHAPTER 1 - The Notice Board


The story opens with several rabbits from a warren known as "Sandleford" feeding in an open area close to the woods. Hazel and Buckthorn are looking for cowslip which Fiver finds for them. Toadflax comes along to take it away and reminds the rabbits that cowslip is a delicacy reserved for Owsla, the ruling class of rabbits.

Fiver, a rabbit gifted with a form of ESP or prophetic insight feels as if the warren is under threat but canít define the source of his impressions. They come upon a sign which they canít read, but which Fiver sees as the source of his negative vibes. He sees a field covered with blood, but Hazel tells him that it is just a reflection from the sun.


The chapter introduces the main characters of the story, especially Hazel and Fiver. We receive a little explanation of some of the rabbit terms (their language is called Lapine) and learn something about the structure of the warren. The Owsla is a dictatorial ruling body who make the decisions, guard the warren and mete out punishment to those who break rules. The sign in this chapter is a notice of a high class housing development that will be built in the area, destroying the wildlife habitat. Hazel seems to be the only one who pays much attention to Fiver who is described as an undersized rabbit with an oversized imagination.

CHAPTER 2 - The Chief Rabbit


Fiver wakes Hazel in the night by kicking him during a bad dream. Fiver insists that the entire warren is in danger and must leave immediately. In the morning Hazel takes Fiver to see the Chief Rabbit and explain the unseen danger as best he can. Bigwig, one of the Owsla is on duty but Hazel talks him in to letting them into the burrow of the Chief Rabbit. The Threarah listens tolerantly to Fiverís warnings of doom, and Hazel reminds the Chief Rabbit of past predictions Fiver had made that were always true. Nevertheless, Threarah is not going to take Fiver or Hazel seriously. As they leave, Threarah tells Bigwig to remain behind. They soon hear the Chief Rabbit giving Bigwig a lecture for allowing Hazel and Fiver to bother him.


We are introduced to Bigwig and given a foreshadowing of Bigwigís coming desertion of the Owsla. The Chief Rabbit is characterized as tolerant, but condescending to the other rabbits. He also doesnít like anything he hasnít thought of himself, not unlike a ruling monarch. Fiver is seen as a rather overactive mystic whose information is threatening but not very specific. Hazel, however, has had enough experience with Fiverís predictions in that past that he takes him more seriously.

CHAPTER 3 - Hazelís Decision


Hazel decides that he and Fiver will leave the warren along with any rabbits who want to go with them. Blackberry and Dandelion appear and volunteer to join up, partly because "there are too many bucks in the warren" and those not in the Owsla have a rather poor existence. Bigwig shows up and announces that he is going and that he thinks he can locate a couple additional bucks in the Owsla who are becoming increasingly discontented. Hazel warns Bigwig to steer clear of Captain Holly, the commander of the Owsla police and to be careful whom he talks to.


Additional rabbits are introduced. We also get a sense of additional discontent in the Owsla. Captain Holly presents a possible threat or obstacle.


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Ruff, Karen SC. "TheBestNotes on Watership Down". . 09 May 2017