Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the main burrow, Hazel begins gathering his group to go above ground to silflay so that they can talk privately. He remarks on how strange these rabbits are—he mentions the stones in the wall and some “singing” he overheard. Pipkin agrees that the rabbits all seem “terribly sad.” Blackberry wonders why their numbers are so few and whether they’ve had any trouble that has left them sad. The confused but tired rabbits head back down and sleep.
Everyone knows that something is off about Cowslip and his fellow rabbits, and that something bad has befallen their warren—but they are too grateful for a safe place to rock the boat and give in to their suspicions.
Themes
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In the morning, Hazel wakes up to a dangerous and unpleasant smell—smoke. He remembers Bigwig having mentioned seeing the little white sticks men smoke above ground. He becomes aware of a man walking around above the warren, butfeels secure in the deep burrow. Hazel then hears Strawberry shouting “Flayrah!” over and over again.
The presence of a man walking about above the warren demonstrates that perhaps the human world and the rabbit world overlap more than usual here—the effects of this trade-off remain to be seen, but, for the moment, Hazel feels unbothered.
Themes
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As Hazel heads up with Strawberry and several of the others to silflay, he feels a camaraderie with Strawberry. When Hazel pauses at the mouth of the burrow to look around, Cowslip tells him that there’s no need to worry about foes or elil. Hazel heads out to the field, where he learns that flayrah—which rabbits usually must steal from gardens—is left out almost daily for these rabbits.
This place is almost too good to be true—Hazel doesn’t have to worry about where he’s going to get his food, or about being blindsided by enemies.
Themes
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Hazel speeds towards the vegetables, hungry and excited. He begins munching on a carrot and is overcome with a sense of well-being. When he’s done, Cowslip comes over and offers to help him carry some back to the warren for storage. Rabbits don’t usually carry food, and Hazel struggles as he makes his way back at first, but soon gets the hang of it. He runs into Pipkin, who asks where Fiver is, and Hazel realizes he hasn’t seen Fiver all morning. Hazel asks Cowslip if he’s seen him, but Cowslip does not answer, and hurries back to get more flayrah.
Though Hazel has, in Cowslip’s warren, encountered many things that are different from the Sandleford warren, he is almost hypnotized by the presence of such bountiful, good food. Having been through such dire straits recently, Hazel is prepared to ignore everything strange about this new “home” and focus on the feeling of being nourished and “protected.”
Themes
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Hazel spots Fiver sitting far away beneath a tree. He asks Fiver if he’s going to come eat some flayrah and learn to carry it, but Fiver tells Hazel he wants nothing to do with the roots and sees them all as “dogs carrying sticks.” Fiver accuses Hazel of refusing to listen to his advice—he says that Hazel knows something is wrong at this warren but is blinded by the presence of good food. Hazel asks if Fiver will at least come inside, but Fiver says there’s something “unnatural and evil” about the place, and that he’d rather go back across the heather than go back down into the burrow—the roof, Fiver says, is made of bones. Hazel, frustrated, leaves Fiver underneath the yew tree and returns to the field.
Hazel has always trusted Fiver’s visions up to this point. When Fiver accuses Hazel of actively choosing to ignore the truth in favor of playing dumb and enjoying the flayrah—without questioning the strings that may be attached to it—it becomes clear that Hazel is acting in his own self-interest rather than the interest of the group for the first time, and Fiver knows it. This is not the place they are meant to be, but Hazel is so desperate for comfort that he is willing to pretend he feels at home and ignore Fiver’s warnings.
Themes
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That evening, Bigwig and Hazel explore the area around the warren. They come across an area where the ground is torn up but find no scent of blood or struggle. They consider asking Cowslip about the disturbed ground, but Bigwig points out that Cowslip won’t answer a single question posed to him—neither will Strawberry or any of the others. Sensing more rain, Bigwig and Hazel decide to go back into the burrow, but decide to try and convince Fiver, one last time, to come with them. They succeed, but Fiver is indignant.
Though Bigwig and Hazel admit to one another that there are some strange things about Cowslip and the other rabbits—and some unsettling things about the area surrounding the warren—they still decide that seeking refuge with the new rabbits is better than being alone out in the rain.
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In the burrow, Cowslip tells Hazel that the other rabbits are suggesting a story. Blackberry urges Hazel to tell the story of their adventures so far, but the other rabbits don’t seem interested. Blackberry quickly suggests Dandelion tell a story of El-ahrairah instead, and Cowslip says they’d all enjoy hearing the story of the King’s Lettuce.
Cowslip and the rest of his warren have no interest in hearing tales of the real world—they want to retreat into fantasy. The reasons for this will become clearer soon enough.
Themes
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