Hazel returns to the Honeycomb, where all of the Watership Down rabbits are crouched in the darkness and all of the runs have been sealed. Woundwort and the others are just above ground, and Hazel and the others can hear them planning to excavate the blocked holes and drag them out. Vervain and Groundsel begin digging out the blacked holes, and Vervain, discovering an open run, sends two officers down. Silver and Buckthorn meet them and attack them—the Efrafans, mauled, barely escape with their lives. Groundsel begins digging down into the warren and finds himself face to face with Blackavar, who viciously attacks him, and Groundsel scampers away.
Tbe Watership Down rabbits display force and scrappiness against the first Efrafans to descend into the burrow, hoping to prove to their adversaries that they, too, are able to fight and employ violence as a means to power—at least in certain situations.
Woundwort realizes that an attack will be more difficult than he suspected. Campion suggests they lay siege to the warren and starve them out, but the impatient Woundwort rejects this plan. One of his officers suggests they dig straight down into the ground, forming a new run; they will eventually fall through the earth and land in a burrow, where they can infiltrate the warren and begin an assault. Woundwort approves the plan, and soon Hazel and the others hear the sound of scratching above them.
Woundwort, in this passage, shows that he actively desires violence—he is too impatient and too bloodthirsty for cunning, strategic solutions, and instead wants to prove his power and strength through a direct and unforgiving show of physical force.
Blackberry worries that the roof will soon give in, even though Hazel is confident that all the digging will tire the Efrafans out and dull their claws, making a confrontation easier. Bigwig suggests they evacuate the Honeycomb, get everyone into the sleeping burrows, and block the runs. Hazel knows this is only a temporary solution, but Bigwig says that by the time the exhausted Efrafans dig through two enormous swaths of earth and encounter angry rabbits ready to fight on the other side, they might turn tail and go home. Hazel agrees to the plan, and the work begins.
The Watership Down rabbits will not give up even in the face of a direct attack and begin improvising ways to hold off the Efrafans and, they hope, wear them out. The Efrafans are stronger—but the Watership Down rabbits are cunning and united.
Hazel encounters Fiver, who is not digging but listening for “something the others can’t hear.” Fiver begins going into a trance, muttering about “falling” and “cold.” Suddenly, Fiver lets out a terrible scream, and begins shouting at the others, calling them “dirty little beasts.” Bigwig urges Hazel to control Fiver before he frightens all the others. Fiver falls into a “deep stupor,” and Hazel cannot wake him.
As Fiver is gripped by a horrible vision, his loss of control over his own body threatens the rabbits’ safety. Soon, though, it is the limp, vulnerable Fiver the others must worry about.
Hazel himself begins to have a strange vision. He remembers coming to the first river with Fiver, and hearing Bigwig tell them all to hurry across as there was a dog loose in the wood. As Hazel comes out of his trance, he realizes what he must do. He tells Bigwig to get Dandelion and Blackberry and bring them to the last open run at the back of the warren. When the rabbits arrive, he tells them he has a plan, but no time to explain. He tells Dandelion and Blackberry that they’re going to follow him out of the warren and down the hill, and asks Bigwig to seal the run after they’ve gone. Bigwig begs Hazel to tell him something of the plan, and Hazel replies that he is returning to the farm “to gnaw another rope.”
Though Hazel has not had any visions like Fiver’s throughout the novel, in this moment, something Fiver sees especially strongly seems to transfer, in a way, to Hazel’s consciousness. The “vision” or memory, whatever it may be, inspires Hazel, who quickly realizes that he may, after all, have a plan to save his warren and best the Efrafans for good.