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Free Study Guide for Watership Down by Richard Adams

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WATERSHIP DOWN LITERATURE SUMMARY

CHAPTER 34 - General Woundwort

Summary

We are told how General Woundwort grew to be such a vicious rabbit. He had been born in a burrow outside a cottage garden and had lived close to human beings. His father was eventually shot for continuously raiding the garden, and then the cottager tried to dig out Woundwort’s mother and the rest of the litter. Woundwort alone escaped. He was found by a kindly school master, but never grew tame. He soon escaped from his hutch. He found another warren and forced them to accept him. Soon he became the chief rabbit. Eventually he left the warren, taking his followers with him, and developed Efrafa at the crossing point of two bridle paths. As the warren grew, so did his skills at keeping all of his rabbits under control.. When he could no longer watch everyone, he set up the council and developed the system of dividing the rabbits according to marks. He also raided other neighboring warrens until soon there were no others anywhere nearby.

By the time Hazel’s group have formulated their plan, Woundwort is already smarting under the loss of four strange rabbits who tricked his Owsla sentries and escaped (Holly and companions). They have also lost a valuable officer who had been following a large party of rabbits when they were run into by a fox. Woundwort’s primary concern at this point is replacing the officers he has lost and then seeking out and capturing the rabbits they had seen earlier. They do not, of course, know that Bigwig is one of the very rabbits they would like to catch.

While Woundwort is out watching one of the feeding groups-which they identify according to their "mark," Captain Campion reports that they have just brought in a stranger rabbit who says he wants to join Efrafa. This is unusual as most foreign rabbits try to avoid Efrafa and many who are already there would leave if they could. Bigwig acts detached and somewhat arrogant as he tells Woundwort that he escaped a warren that was destroyed by men and has been wandering for some time in search of a warren to join. He explains that he also was part of an Owsla. Woundwort proposes that for a start, they try the newcomer in the Near Hind Mark under the instruction of Captain Chervil. By sundown, Bigwig, now called Thlayli, has received his Mark gash and has been assigned his trial duties.


Notes

Bigwig is seen here as not only a great fighter and leading partner, but also as an actor.


CHAPTER 35 - Groping

Summary

Chervil explains the procedures to Bigwig and sends him out to watch the Near Hind Mark feed. Bigwig meets Blackavar who was mutilated as punishment for trying to escape Efrafa. Every day Blackavar has to sit near the end of the run when the rabbits come up to feed. He is supposed to be an example of what happens to rabbits who try to mutiny. Chervil implies that when Blackavar has served Woundwort’s purpose, he will probably be killed whereupon Bigwig decides that he will take Blackavar with him when he leaves with the does.

A doe named Nelthilta makes a sharp remark to Chervil and Chervil explains that there had been trouble, that a bunch of does had started a row in a council meeting and were thus split up into different marks. He tells Bigwig to see what he can do to bring the does a little more into line. As Owsla rabbits can mate with any doe they wish whenever they wish, Bigwig uses the opportunity to have Hyzenthlay sent to him. He explains the plan to her, telling her that when the times comes they will have the help of a big bird. He finds that he has stumbled onto a doe who can think for herself and make decisions, so he leaves it up to her to find a group of does that will join them without giving away the plot. Hyzenthlay tells him that it is possible to get out of Efrafa especially with there being a shortage of officers, but that the Owsla will follow them no matter how far they go and will either bring them back or kill them. Bigwig encourages her to believe in him, but has his own share of doubts about whether they can pull it off. They agree that the plan has to be carried out very soon before the Owsla gets wind of it and prevents it.

Notes

There is a shortage of officers because of those who were killed or injured when Holly escaped and because of the attack of the fox. Hyzenthlay is one of the does who caused a ruckus when Holly was there, and of course he and his three companions are the ones who escaped and killed a guard on the way out. Also, Captain Charlock had been recently run over on the railroad, and Captain Mallow was the one killed by the fox. Bigwig is able to ascertain that there is a good bit of discontent in the warren, so he just has to find a time and method for taking advantage of it.

 

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