Watership Down


Richard Adams

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Watership Down: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Dandelion begins the story of El-ahrairah. Long ago, Frith, the sun-god, made the world and the animals that would inhabit it. El-ahrairah, a rabbit, had uncountable wives and children, and his vast, sprawling brood ate so much grass that it grew thin the world over. Frith urged El-ahrairah to find a way to control his people—otherwise the sun-god himself would intervene. El-ahrairah countered that his people were the “strongest in the world” and should not be hindered. In response, Frith called a meeting of all the other animals and turned hawks, cows, foxes, stoats, weasels, and others against the rabbits, giving them a hunger to kill all of El-ahrairah’s brood. 
This introduction to El-ahrairah, the rabbits’ trickster folk hero, shows that he is represented as arrogant, self-interested, and ignorant—all things that none of the rabbits in the “real” story, such as Hazel, Fiver, and Bigwig, seem to be. How rabbits evolved from the creatures of El-ahrairah’s brood to the creatures of the Sandleford warren will be shown throughout these stories of epic journeys, trickery, and evolution.
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When El-ahrairah heard that all the other animals had received blessings, he was embarrassed that he had been too busy to attend the meeting and receive his. As Frith approached El-ahrairah dug a hole, hoping to avoid the god. El-ahrairah’s rump stuck out of the hole, though, and when Frith offered him his blessing, El-ahrairah told him to bless his bottom. Frith blessed El-ahrairah’s bottom, giving him a shining white tail and long, powerful back legs which enabled him to run faster than any other creature. In a kindhearted warning, Frith explained that though “all the world” would be the rabbits’ enemy, anyone who sought to harm El-ahrairah and his children would first have to face the daunting task of actually catching them. 
This origin story shows that though rabbits were punished for El-ahrairah’s foolishness, they were also in some ways the favorite creatures of Frith. Though he cursed them with many enemies, he blessed them with resourcefulness, swiftness, and the ability to outrun and outsmart those who would seek to hurt them.
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