The dog days of summer descend, and Watership Down is thriving at last. The Efrafan does have dug out new runs and burrows, and everyone finds themselves bonded more closely together—even in times of brief quarrels or conflicts—by all they have endured and built together.
The free, open, democratic society at Watership Down is thriving, and the rabbits are strong physically, ideologically, and emotionally because of their difficult journeys.
One afternoon, the rabbits gather in the Honeycomb for a story. Bluebell suggests telling stories of their adventures in Efrafa, but Dandelion wants to tell a story about El-ahrairah. After their encounter with the Black Rabbit, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle find themselves hlessils, making their way through frosty fields in the middle of winter. While passing through the outskirts of a town, they decide to raid a farmer’s vegetable garden—but find that it is snared all around, and too dangerous for even El-ahriarah’s cunning.
In the final El-ahrairah tale in the novel, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle have emerged from the clutches of death and are soldiering on, even considering getting up to their old tricks—just like the Watership Down rabbits.
The farmer has a dog: Rowsby Woof, the most “malicious, disgusting brute that ever licked a man’s hand.” Rowsby is in charge of patrolling the garden and is known to kill any animal that comes near it. Nevertheless, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle decide to chance the garden. When they get close, they see the farmer cutting up some cabbages and bringing them inside to avoid the frost. They try to get into the garden while he’s busy, but Rowsby Woof comes barking after them, and they flee.
Even up against a dangerous foe like Rowsby Woof, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle are so confident in the skills they have honed together throughout their journeys that they choose to challenge him anyway.
The next day, a hrududu loaded with cabbage goes by the place where Rabscuttle and El-ahrairah are hiding. When a bag falls off the back of it, the rabbits are excited at the prospect of having a cabbage land in their lap but are saddened to find the bag holds only meat. They decide to take the meat anyway, knowing it’ll be of some use to them. On the way home, they come across a scrap of tire in the road, and gnaw off a lump of that, too, to take back to the warren. Realizing that the tire is the color and texture of a dog’s nose, the two devise a plan.
El-ahrairah realizes that he will have to get up to one of his classic old schemes if he is to infiltrate Rowsby Woof’s territory. He has been through a lot, but his cunning has not been dulled, and neither has his drive for danger and adventure.
That night, they sneak close to the farmer’s house. They see that Rowsby Woof has been left out in the cold and is shaking and miserable. El-ahrairah crouches on the other side of the fence, sticks the rubber nose through, and, in a strange voice, calls Rowsby Woof’s name. El-ahrairah declares himself the Fairy Wogdog, “messenger of the great dog spirit of the East.” He begins describing the kingdom to the east in enticing, fanciful terms, and claims that the kingdom’s Queen, having heard of Rowsby Woof’s bravery, has sent the Fairy Wogdog to honor him.
El-ahrairah knows that the fastest way to ingratiate himself to Rowsby Woof is through flattery and fancy. He cannot hope to outrun the dog or fight him, but he can entice him by dangling a reward in front of him. The rabbits will soon draw from the skills shared in this story in their own lives, though they don’t know it yet.
El-ahrairah tells Rowsby Woof he must complete a test first. He tells the dog that at the other end of the garden there is a long rope of meat—Rowsby Woof must go eat it while the “Fairy Wogdog” guards the house, in order to test the dog’s belief. Rowsby Woof hesitates, but then hurries away to eat the meat. When Rowsby Woof returns, El-ahrairah tells him he has passed the test and promises to come back tomorrow night with the Queen herself.
El-ahrairah is playing the long con here—he does not leap at the chance to raid the garden the second the dog leaves his post, knowing that it is important to first secure the dog’s trust. This story also shows the rabbits the virtue of patience and skill—a virtue that will soon be tested.
The following night, El-ahrairah returns once again and tells Rowsby Woof that the Queen is coming but wishes for Rowsby Woof to go to a nearby crossroads and await her. Rowsby, excited, bounds to the crossroads, and in the meantime, El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle sneak into the house’s kitchen to retrieve some vegetables. While they gorge themselves, Rowsby Woof’s master, coming home from town, finds him at the crossroads and leads him home. El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle hide, trapped in the house with the man and the dejected dog.
There is a snag in El-ahrairah’s scheme, just as there were several snags in the rabbits’ plan back at Efrafa—but just as they overcame unforeseen circumstances, so too will El-ahrairah.
El-ahrairah, hidden behind some boxes, calls out to the dog in the voice of the Fairy Wogdog, and tells him that the Queen was delayed by the need to attend to a plague of “hateful rat goblins” which are coming for the dog and his master. El-ahrairah tells Rowsby Woof that if he runs around the house four times, barking as loud as he can, he will be able to ward off the goblins. Rowsby runs to the door and begins barking like mad. Soon the man comes to the door and lets him out, and he begins running around the house yelping. The man follows him, and El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle make their escape.
El-ahrairah once again uses his cunning and trickery to outwit those around him and secure his own safety and prosperity. The rabbits will learn from this tale that they can find ways to use the natural world around them—even the dangerous parts of it—to their advantage.