Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Dandelion finishes up the story, Hazel, Bigwig, and the others from their group applaud—they are proud of their storyteller, and hopeful that they have impressed Cowslip, Strawberry, and the others. The new rabbits, though, seem aloof and unimpressed by the story. Hazel, sensing this, quietly reminds Bigwig that they are somewhere new, and that perhaps their own age-old traditions are foreign to these rabbits.
The rabbits, in spite of all the strange happenings and customs at this new warren, are trying to fit in—but are finding again and again that their way of life clashes with the way Cowslip and his fellow rabbits live.
Themes
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Buckthorn attempts to explain the story to the new rabbits, stating the importance of telling stories about tricks. The new warren’s own storyteller, Silverweed, speaks up and explains that what rabbits need is “dignity and, above all, the will to accept their fate.” Cowslip, introducing Silverweed as a great poet and thinker, urges him to take center stage. As he does, Fiver begins trembling, and tells Hazel he is “terrified” of Silverweed.
Fiver’s intuition kicks in again as a new rabbit is introduced—the resigned and melancholy Silverweed speaks in dark riddles which only Fiver seems to sense are frightening.
Themes
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Silverweed begins telling his story with a wild, twitchy urgency. He recites a poem—an original—about rabbits willingly surrendering to the forces of nature such as the wind, the stream, and the leaves, before ultimately surrendering to the will of Lord Frith and turning over to him their breaths and lives. Fiver listens in horror and, at the end of the recitation, becomes hysterical, jumping around the burrow and kicking at anything he can.
Silverweed’s dark recitation is too much for Fiver, who reacts fearfully to Silverweed’s descriptions of submitting to the whims of nature and fate.
Themes
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Attempting to cover for Fiver, Hazel hurriedly states that Fiver is something of a “poet” too and is often deeply affected by things without knowing why. One rabbit urges Fiver to get up and share a tale, but Fiver is already scrambling up a tunnel towards the burrow entrance. Hazel and Bigwig go after him. Outside, Fiver states that they are all lost in a “great mist of folly.” Hazel chides Fiver for “endanger[ing their] good start in this warren,” and drags him back down to the burrow to get some sleep.
Hazel and Bigwig are so determined to remain in control of their situation—and to stay in a place where they have food and shelter—that they ignore and even bully poor Fiver.
Themes
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
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