That evening, Hazel is awoken by Fiver kicking and whimpering. He wakes Fiver up; Fiver reveals he was having a terrible nightmare in which the two of them were crossing a river atop a board made of “bones and wire,” but were separated when Hazel floated away. Hazel dismisses Fiver’s dream, but Fiver insists that his bad feeling hasn’t gone away. Fiver says they need to leave the warren “before it’s too late” and to convince the others to go with them. Hazel warns Fiver that no one will believe him, but when Fiver insists that “something very bad is close upon [them,]” Hazel wonders if they might be able to go talk to the chief rabbit about Fiver’s vision.
This passage establishes that rabbits in the Sandleford warren who have a concern or complaint are free to air it. Though the last chapter showed the mechanisms of power which are hidden but enforced at Sandleford, this chapter suggests that there is, at least in theory, a democratic system in place.
It is slightly after ni-Frith, or noon, when Hazel and Fiver depart their burrow and head to the Chief Rabbit’s. Down in the Chief’s burrow, a large member of the Owsla with a “curious, heavy growth of fur on the crown of his head” stops them from going any further. This rabbit’s name is Thlayli, or Bigwig. When Hazel tells Bigwig that they want to see the Chief, Bigwig is reluctant to let them pass, but knows Hazel to be a “sensible fellow,” and agrees to bring them down to meet the Chief, or the Threarah, a calm and often detached leader. Though the Threarah’s decisions as Chief have sometimes been seemingly coldhearted, he has kept their warren thriving in the face of many dangers.
Adams continues exploring the intricate mechanisms of power within the warren. The Owsla are intimidating, but there are good rabbits within it. At the same time, the Threarah has gained a reputation for being somewhat calculating, devoted to the survival of the group rather than the happiness of individuals. Such a system is efficient but lacking in many ways, and the journey Hazel and Fiver will soon set out on will in part be a journey towards finding a system which better serves individuals.
Hazel and Fiver are led back to the Threarah’s burrow, and Hazel reminds the chief of who they are. He explains that last year, Fiver correctly predicted the arrival of a dangerous flood, and has now predicted a terrible danger coming to the warren once again. When Fiver cannot describe the specifics of what he sees coming, however, the Threarah loses his patience, and refuses to entertain Fiver’s request to evacuate the warren. Fiver begs the Threarah to reconsider and begins having a fit in which he collapses, feeling danger “like a wire round [his] neck.” The Threarah orders the two from his burrow, suggesting Hazel take Fiver home to rest. As they leave, they hear the Threarah reprimanding Bigwig for allowing them back to his chambers.
For all the warren’s show of democracy, openness, and freedom, when push comes to shove, Hazel and Fiver’s desperate pleas are ignored by the person in charge of keeping them safe. The Threarah, hesitant to uproot his whole community based on the hunch of one small rabbit, dismisses Fiver’s claims as insignificant ramblings and shows no empathy even when Fiver is in distress.