Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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General Woundwort Character Analysis

The fearsome, twisted, violent leader of Efrafa. Woundwort demands blind allegiance from his fellow rabbits and exerts total control over every aspect of their lives. He grew up “very wild”—already the strongest of his litter from birth, Woundwort developed “savage” predilections which allowed him to survive in the wild and seize control over other rabbits. Woundwort is cruel, calculating, and desperate to avoid showing any weakness at any time; indeed, after Bigwig successfully infiltrates Efrafa in disguise as a hlessi, escapes with several Efrafan rabbits, and returns to Watership Down, Woundwort refuses to give up, and attempts to attack Watership Down, take back his does, and kill Hazel, Bigwig, and their comrades. When Hazel sics a large dog on Woundwort, Woundwort chooses to stay and fight instead of flee—this is the last any rabbit sees of him, though his body is never found and it is implied that he may have survived after all and gone on to start another warren somewhere else.

General Woundwort Quotes in Watership Down

The Watership Down quotes below are all either spoken by General Woundwort or refer to General Woundwort. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Watership Down published in 1972.
Chapter 34 Quotes

As the warren grew, so Woundwort developed his system to keep it under control. Crowds of rabbits feeding at morning and evening were likely to attract attention. He devised the Marks, each controlled by its own officers and sentries, with feeding times changed regularly to give all a share of early morning and sunset—the favorite hours for silflay. All signs of rabbit life were concealed as closely as possible. The Owsla had privileges in regard to feeding, mating and freedom of movement. Any failure of duty on their part was liable to be punished by demotion and loss of privileges. For ordinary rabbits, the punishments were more severe.

Related Characters: General Woundwort
Related Symbols: Efrafa
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

“You dirty little beast,” said Woundwort. “I hear you’ve attacked one of the Council police and broken his leg. We’ll settle with you here. There’s no need to take you back to Efrafa.”

“You crack-brained slave-driver,” answered Bigwig. “I’d like to see you try.”

“All right,” said Woundwort, “that’s enough. Who have we got? Vervain, Campion, put him down. The rest of you, start getting these does back to the warren. The prisoner you can leave to me.”

“Frith sees you!” cried Bigwig. “You’re not fit to be called a rabbit! May Frith blast you and your foul Owsla full of bullies!”

At that instant a dazzling claw of lightning streaked down the length of the sky. The hedge and the distant trees seemed to leap forward in the brilliance of the flash. Immediately upon it came the thunder: a high, tearing noise, as though some huge thing were being ripped to pieces close above, which deepened and turned to enormous blows of dissolution. Then the rain fell like a waterfall. In a few seconds the ground was covered with water and over it, to a height of inches, rose a haze formed of a myriad minute splashes. Stupefied with the shock, unable even to move, the sodden rabbits crouched inert, almost pinned to the earth by the rain.

A small voice spoke in Bigwig’s mind. “Your storm, Thlayli-rah. Use it.”

Related Characters: Bigwig (speaker), General Woundwort (speaker), Captain Campion, Vervain, Lord Frith
Related Symbols: Efrafa
Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:

Sights and feelings swirled through Bigwig as though in a dream. The things that were happening no longer seemed connected by anything except his own dazed senses. He heard Kehaar screaming as he dived again to attack Vervain. He felt the rain pouring cold into the open gash in his shoulder. Through the curtain of rain he glimpsed Woundwort dodging among his officers and urging them back into the ditch on the edge of the field. He saw Blackavar striking at Campion and Campion turning to run. Then someone beside him was saying, “Hullo, Bigwig. Bigwig! Bigwig! What do you want us to do?”

Page Number: 360
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

Most of the rabbits had very little idea of what was happening. The Efrafan does had never seen a river and it would certainly have been beyond Pipkin or Hawkbit to explain to them that they were on a boat. They—and nearly all the others—had simply trusted Hazel and done as they were told. But all— bucks and does alike—realized that Woundwort and his followers had vanished. Wearied by all they had gone through, the sodden rabbits crouched without talking, incapable of any feeling but a dull relief and without even the energy to wonder what was going to happen next.

That they should feel any relief—dull or otherwise—was remarkable in the circumstances and showed both how little they understood their situation and how much fear Woundwort could inspire, for their escape from him seemed to be their only good fortune.

Related Characters: Hazel, General Woundwort, Pipkin, Hawkbit
Related Symbols: Efrafa
Page Number: 369-370
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 43 Quotes

When the punt floated down the river in the rain, part of General Woundwort’s authority went with it. He could not have appeared more openly and completely at a loss if Hazel and his companions had flown away over the trees. […] They had suddenly shown their own cunning greater than his, and left him bewildered on the bank. He had overheard the very word—tharn— spoken by one of his officers to another as they returned to Efrafa through the rain. Thlayli, Blackavar and the does of the Near Hind [Mark] had vanished. He had tried to stop them and he had conspicuously failed.

Related Characters: Hazel, Bigwig, General Woundwort, Blackavar
Related Symbols: Efrafa
Page Number: 414-415
Explanation and Analysis:

“Rabbits have enough enemies as it is. They ought not to make more among themselves. A mating between free, independent warrens—what do you say?”

At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit’s idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him. The sun dipped into the cloud bank and now he could see clearly the track along the ridge, leading to the beech hanger and the bloodshed for which he had prepared with so much energy and care.

“I haven’t time to sit here talking nonsense,” said Woundwort. “You’re in no position to bargain with us. […] Go and tell Thlayli that if the does aren’t waiting outside your warren, with him and Blackavar, by the time I get down there, I’ll tear the throat out of every buck in the place by ni-Frith tomorrow.”

Related Characters: Hazel (speaker), General Woundwort (speaker), Bigwig, Blackavar
Related Symbols: Watership Down, Efrafa
Page Number: 421
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 50 Quotes

Woundwort alone stood his ground. As the rest fled in all directions he remained where he was, bristling and snarling, bloody-fanged and bloody-clawed. The dog, coming suddenly upon him face to face among the rough tussocks, recoiled a moment, startled and confused. Then it sprang forward; and even as they ran, his Owsla could hear the General’s raging, squealing cry, “Come back, you fools! Dogs aren’t dangerous! Come back and fight!”

Related Characters: General Woundwort (speaker)
Page Number: 454
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Watership Down LitChart as a printable PDF.
Watership Down PDF

General Woundwort Character Timeline in Watership Down

The timeline below shows where the character General Woundwort appears in Watership Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 27: “You Can’t Imagine It Unless You’ve Been There”
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...“you can’t imagine it unless you’ve been there.” According to him the Chief Rabbit, General Woundwort, has under him several captains, each in charge of a Mark and several officers of... (full context)
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...rabbits—one of whom was a doe called Hyzenthlay—they learned more about Efrafa, and how General Woundwort, when he seized power, was responsible for making it so regimented. Hyzenthlay also revealed that... (full context)
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At their own Council meeting, Holly and the others met with General Woundwort, who explained the rules of the warren to them. Holly spoke up to ask if... (full context)
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...him that he was wanted by the Council at once—Holly told the captain that General Woundwort had put Holly in charge. Though skeptical, the captain was so afraid of disobeying an... (full context)
Chapter 29: Return and Departure
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...has been talking with Kehaar, and they have created a plan which will leave General Woundwort looking “remarkably silly.” Bluebell declares that he wants to come to satisfy his curiosity—he wonders... (full context)
Chapter 34: General Woundwort
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Dusk is falling on Efrafa, and General Woundwort comes above ground to watch the Near Hind Mark at silflay. One of the Mark... (full context)
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Woundwort founded Efrafa not all that long ago, and from the start ran it with an... (full context)
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Now, as he greets Chervil, General Woundwort is feeling “seriously concerned about several things.” The warren is overcrowded, and he fears losing... (full context)
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Woundwort now tells Chervil that he wants to replace some Council members by drawing on the... (full context)
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Woundwort arrives at a nearby lane to find his officers with a large rabbit. The rabbit... (full context)
Chapter 36: Approaching Thunder
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...up behind him and asks for a word. The rabbit is none other than General Woundwort. (full context)
Chapter 37: The Thunder Builds Up
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Woundwort asks Bigwig about his activities around the warren. When Bigwig asks why Woundwort is questioning... (full context)
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Woundwort, though, has more questions. He asks what Bigwig knows about a group of strange rabbits... (full context)
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...snuggle together in Bigwig’s burrow—he is exhausted with nerves, having realized how powerful and informed Woundwort truly is. He begins to worry that Woundwort is onto the whole plan and is... (full context)
Chapter 38: The Thunder Breaks
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...beaten by Vervain and made to reveal all the details of the breakout plan to Woundwort. She tells them about the plan to use a bird in the attack—Woundwort realizes that... (full context)
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...Bigwig turns around and spots the giant rabbit, he fees fear in his heart as Woundwort, Chervil, Avens, Groundsel, Vervain, and several more make their approach. (full context)
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Woundwort calls Bigwig a “dirty little beast” and threatens to kill him. Bigwig says he’d like... (full context)
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At that moment, Bigwig hears the sound of Kehaar’s call—within seconds, Kehaar is on Woundwort, striking and wounding him. Bigwig feels dazed and dreamy, and senses all of the commotion... (full context)
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...Chervil, and Groundsel are closing in. The doe runs for cover in the undergrowth, but Woundwort jumps out and strikes her. She runs onto the boat. Bigwig realizes that Woundwort is... (full context)
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Bigwig jumps onto the boat, hoping Woundwort doesn’t know what it is and hasn’t realized what they’re going to use it for.... (full context)
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Bigwig spots Dandelion crouching in the undergrowth. Woundwort begins giving his men orders. Bigwig distracts them by pretending to catch sight of Kehaar... (full context)
Chapter 40: The Way Back
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...and whispers that they must kill the officers—they must not be allowed to return to Woundwort and make a report. Hazel, though, doesn’t feel he has either the strength or the... (full context)
Chapter 42: News at Sunset
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...their warren will not hold against the Efrafan’s attack, and knows that as long as Woundwort is alive, the assaults will not stop coming. He wonders if he himself should go... (full context)
Chapter 43: The Great Patrol
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Down at the bottom of the hill, Woundwort is stationed with his soldiers. He has lost some authority since Kehaar’s attack and the... (full context)
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...to their warren. This success “put an end to all opposition,” and Efrafan faith in Woundwort’s ability to lead was restored. Woundwort, back at Efrafa, chose a large, intimidating group of... (full context)
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Now, having been spotted by Blackavar and Holly, Woundwort and his troops wait to see whether the Watership Down rabbits will run away or... (full context)
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Woundwort rejects Hazel’s proposal and denies him the chance to bargain any further. He allows Hazel... (full context)
Chapter 44: A Message from El-ahrairah
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Woundwort realizes that an attack will be more difficult than he suspected. Campion suggests they lay... (full context)
Chapter 45: Nuthanger Farm Again
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In the moments after Fiver’s scream, the Efrafan rabbits pause their digging, frightened. They tell Woundwort that there is an animal down in the burrow that is not a rabbit. The... (full context)
Chapter 46: Bigwig Stands His Ground
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When the digging is nearly done, Groundsel approaches Woundwort and tells him that they are about to break through into a burrow. Groundsel expresses... (full context)
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One of the Owsla spots a dead rabbit on the ground. Woundwort sniffs the small corpse and determines that he hasn’t been dead long—he is cold, but... (full context)
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Woundwort pushes his way into the run which his officers have dug open and can sense... (full context)
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Bigwig attacks Woundwort’s other leg, but Woundwort throws his weight forward, and Bigwig is crushed. Woundwort collapses, though,... (full context)
Chapter 47: The Sky Suspended
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Bigwig defends the tunnel against Woundwort. Holly sees that Bigwig is bleeding and offers to take his place, but Bigwig insists... (full context)
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Out in the Honeycomb, the exhausted Woundwort tells Vervain to finish Bigwig off. Vervain is shocked that Woundwort has been beaten. Woundwort... (full context)
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Woundwort again tries to lure Bigwig out by warning him that they’ll soon have finished digging... (full context)
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Above ground, Woundwort struggles to contain his troops’ fear and desire to retreat. Suddenly, Campion dashes around the... (full context)
Chapter 49: Hazel Comes Home
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...how proud he is of him. Bigwig jokes, in Kehaar’s accent, that he has “finish Meester Voundvort ,” and Hazel helps him up to silflay. Bigwig, sitting in the grass, announces that... (full context)
Chapter 50: And Last
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...from Efrafa have begun adjusting to a more natural life. Everything about Efrafa—most notably General Woundwort—was unnatural, Holly reflects. Groundsel speaks up and says that Woundwort—whose body was never found—is not... (full context)
Epilogue
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General Woundwort is never seen again—but his body is never found. He becomes a legend, rumored to... (full context)