Hazel and Fiver return to the group to find that there has been a “fearful row” between Bigwig, Hawkbit, and Speedwell regarding who, exactly, is Chief Rabbit. Hazel concedes that though he doesn’t know who the Chief is; Bigwig is the strongest, but he worries that Bigwig will intimidate the others into following along rather than inspiring them to do so out of their own volition. Hazel, frustrated, remarks that there’s enough danger already on their long journey—fighting will only make things worse.
The journey is beginning to wear on the rabbits. First, they were questioning whether they wanted to move on—now, desperate for some direction, they squabble over who should be named their leader, or what it would mean to create a warren where each rabbit is in charge of his own destiny.
Hazel rounds up the others, telling them it’s time to move on. As they make their way over the heather, the rabbits have trouble keeping up with one another, and are distracted repeatedly by nerves and alarm at the strange noises all around. The night’s journey feels like a “bad dream,” and Hazel finds himself on the edge of falling asleep upright more than once.
The perilous, dreamlike journey through the heather represents the rabbits’ collective state of mind: they are confused, overwhelmed, bewildered, and unsure of what lies ahead.
As the sun begins to rise, Hazel can see that they’ve made it through the heather and are nearer to the hills than they were before. The rabbits, overjoyed, apologize for having quarreled earlier and doubted Hazel’s strength as a leader. They hurry into the field, grateful to be safe in the tranquil meadow.
As terrible as their morale has been, the rabbits receive this first bit of good news in a long while with overwhelming gratitude and happiness.