Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The ride on the river is relatively smooth, and the boat flies quickly downstream while the rabbits hang on. There is no celebration or joy, though; the rabbits are too traumatized by all they’ve been through and feel only the dullest measure of relief. Bigwig has collapsed onto his side, exhausted and wounded from his fight with the sentry. Bigwig tells Hazel how difficult and terrible the escape was, and Hazel reassures him that their “children’s children will [at least] hear a good story.”
The rabbits are so traumatized by the violence they have both witnessed and been victim to that they can hardly celebrate their victory, and can only vaguely begin thinking about the future of their group.
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Kehaar appears and points out that there is a bridge up ahead—unable to steer the boat, he warns them, they may get stuck. Their little boat barely clears the bottom of the bridge, and a doe is injured when her back scrapes the rough wood. Downstream, they encounter a second bridge. As they approach, the boat, turned sideways, is stopped by one of the central culverts. They have gone about half a mile, and now must find a way to get off and get to shore.
The boat was effective in getting the rabbits away from the Efrafans quickly and preventing their pursuit, but it is dangerous in other ways, and soon the rabbits are stranded in the middle of the river.
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Kehaar urges the rabbits to jump into the river and swim. Though they are afraid, Kehaar shows them that if they pass through the culvert, they will come out the other side where the water is still and smooth. Fiver volunteers to jump first, but as he approaches the prow, the rabbits hear men’s voices on the bridge. They freeze, and the voices diminish as the men move along. Hazel urges all the rabbits to jump into the water quickly to avoid being caught by men. 
The rabbits are beset on all sides by threats. Adams shows how even though the rabbits have confronted one kind of violence, for wild rabbits out in the open, there is always another kind of danger lurking around the corner.
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Fiver, Hazel, Pipkin, Blackavar, and the others make their way through the culvert to the pool beyond and decide to rest on the riverbanks. Blackavar and Hazel, realizing that many rabbits are still sitting nervously on the boat, scamper along the riverbank to the other side of the bridge and shout to the rabbits that there’s no time to lose. It takes a long time to get the ten frightened does off the boat, under the bridge, and up onto the banks, but all of the rabbits are safely on the other side by nightfall—except Bigwig.
The Efrafan does, having never been outside of their warren and totally unaccustomed to these new threats and dangers, have a difficult time believing that they will be able to overcome the natural obstacles around them.
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After fu Inlé, the injured Bigwig slowly makes his way downstream with the help of Silver and Fiver. When he arrives exhausted on the bank, he says he needs to sleep, and Hazel helps him find a warm, dry fallen trunk where they can all settle in for the night.
The rabbits at last are able to relax a bit and get some rest, coming to a brief stopping point in their seemingly endless journey.
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