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Free Study Guide for Watership Down by Richard Adams

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CHAPTER 36 - Approaching Thunder


Bigwig is heard to mention Fiver in his sleep and is questioned about it by one of the rabbits..He dismisses it by saying that Fiver was a rabbit he knew once who could tell the weather. They also question him about Hyzenthlay as she was not in heat when he asked for her. He explains that he made a mistake on that. Bigwig takes his Mark out at sunrise and sees Kehaar. He makes arrangements to make the break at the evening "silflay" (rabbit word for feeding) and tells Hyzenthlay to have the does ready. The plans are interrupted, however, because Chervil sees him near the bird and reports to Woundwort who demands a "talk" with Bigwig just as he is on his way out for the evening feeding.


Most rabbits are afraid of big birds like gulls, hawks and so forth. It apparently doesn’t occur to the rabbits that Bigwig can actually talk to the bird. They think he is merely being careless and setting a bad example. Chervil reports him mainly because he knows it is not the season for those birds to be around. Anything out of the ordinary is expected to be reported.

CHAPTER 37 - The Thunder Builds Up


Woundwort questions Bigwig about a number of things, including his acquaintance with some of the Efrafan rabbits. Groundsel has recognized him by the tuft of hair on the top of his head and knows that he was the rabbit that led the fox onto them. Bigwig doesn’t bother to deny it, but says it was an unfortunate accident. He denies knowing anything about a large group of rabbits and says he went near the big bird just to impress Chervil. Woundwort tells Bigwig to plan on joining a Wide Patrol in a couple of days and do his showing off there. By the time Bigwig is permitted to join his mark, the feeding time is nearly over and Kehaar is nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, Hazel and the others are sitting under the arch of the bridge worrying about what has happened to the plan.

The escape is delayed until the next day which causes a crisis. The young doe Nelthilta is unable to keep quiet and blurts out revealing, sarcastic comments to the sentries.. Kehaar is seen again which annoys Chervil. Bigwig plays a word game with Chervil, however, getting him to recite the words to a "spell" which will get rid of the bird. The spell is actually a message telling Kehaar to return "tonight." Bigwig also gets a chance to speak to Blackavar in the trench which the rabbits use for their droppings. Blackavar is generally kept alone whenever he needs to use the trench, but Bigwig pushes Blackavar’s escort aside and goes into the trench anyway. There he quickly warns Blackavar that they are going to make a break and are planning to take him with them. Bartsia, one of the council police threatens to report Bigwig for disregarding the authority of the police.

CHAPTER 38 - The Thunder Breaks


Bigwig is awakened in the late afternoon by Hyzenthlay who tells him the Nelthilta has been arrested. Chervil tells Bigwig that there will be no silflay that afternoon. He is to alert the sentries and tell them that Blackavar will not be needed and that no one is to go out for any reason. Instead he tells the sentry at the hole (Marjoram) that silflay is to be early on account of the weather and they are to get Blackavar and get started at once. Some of the does have appeared, so Bigwig tells them what to expect and to be ready to run as soon as he appears.

Blackavar and his two escorts emerge, and he and Blackavar fight off the guards, then take off with several does behind them. Woundwort is in the process of interrogating Nelthilta when Avens rushes in and tells him that the new rabbits has taken off with a crowd of does. Kehaar has not yet shown up, and the does are bewildered about where to go or what to do. Their best advantage is their conditioned obedience to the Owsla, for they follow immediately when Bigwig calls to them. The thunder storm breaks with lightning and blinding rain long enough to startle the rabbits; just then Kehaar appears to help fight off the Efrafan rabbits. Silver appears and Hazel tells him to get the rabbits down to the boat. However, the does are afraid of the boat and will not move until Bigwig gives the order. Just then Woundwort and his soldiers, who have circled down to the bridge and set up an ambush, reappear on the bank. The appearance of Woundwort frightens the does into running onto the boat where Hazel is holding the last threads of the chewed rope in his teeth. Dandelion is the last to jump onto the boat, flashing out of the bushes just as Bigwig tricks Woundwort into looking behind him for the bird. Hazel lets go of the rope and the boat drifts out into the river.


Bigwig’s own leadership skills come into play here as he shows that he can not only make decisions but can also change his plans on the fly and take advantage of the slightest bit of uncertainty on the part of his enemies. It also proves to be beneficial that he chose to rescue Blackavar. The mutilated rabbit appears listless and defeated, but the his spirit returns quickly as soon as he is given an opportunity to escape. The chapter is a lesson in both courage and trust as the does have never before been in this type of situation.


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