Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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El-ahrairah Symbol Analysis

El-ahrairah Symbol Icon

El-ahrairah, the trickster rabbit folk hero of legend, is invoked several times throughout the novel as various groups of rabbits in different warrens gather to tell tales of his bravery, trickery, and wisdom. In the stories told about him, El-ahrairah is often shown outsmarting other rabbits—often kings and rulers who seek to subjugate their people or withhold the best food for themselves—and even elil. Throughout the novel, El-ahrairah is a symbol of hope and the possibility that rabbits, though small and vulnerable, can together rise to greatness. Many of the difficult schemes Hazel and his band of rabbits pull off are inspired by the schemes of El-ahrairah himself, and as they wrangle creatures who were formerly elil (such as the gull Kehaar) or even pose a direct threat (such as cats and dogs), they draw comfort and inspiration from their folk hero and convince themselves that together, they can do anything they put their minds and paws to.

El-ahrairah Quotes in Watership Down

The Watership Down quotes below all refer to the symbol of El-ahrairah. 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:
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Watership Down published in 1972.
Chapter 6 Quotes

‘I will bless your bottom as it sticks out of the hole. Bottom, be strength and warning and speed forever and save the life of your master. Be it so!’ And as he spoke, El-ahrairah’s tail grew shining white and flashed like a star: and his back legs grew long and powerful and he thumped the hillside until the very beetles fell off the grass stems. He came out of the hole and tore across the hill faster than any creature in the world. And Frith called after him, ‘El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.’

Related Characters: Lord Frith (speaker)
Related Symbols: El-ahrairah
Page Number: 28-29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

“We can’t go on with nothing but these two does.”

“But what else can we do?”

“I know what we’ve got to do,” said Hazel, “but I still can’t see how. We’ve got to go back and get some does out of Efrafa.”

“You might as well say you were going to get them out of Inlé, Hazel-rah. I’m afraid I can’t have given you a very clear description of Efrafa.”

“Oh, yes, you have—the whole idea scares me stiff. But we’re going to do it.”

“It can’t be done.”

“It can’t be done by fighting or fair words, no. So it will have to be done by means of a trick.”

Related Characters: Hazel (speaker), Holly (speaker)
Related Symbols: El-ahrairah, Efrafa
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

[Hazel] raised his head and said, “Do you want to talk to me?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve come for,” replied the other. “You know me, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger’s ears were shining with a faint silver light. “Yes, my lord,” he said. “Yes, I know you.”

“You’ve been feeling tired,” said the stranger, “but I can do something about that. I’ve come to ask whether you’d care to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you and you’ll enjoy it. If you’re ready, we might go along now.”

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. The sun was shining and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay, keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body anymore, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

“You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be all right—and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.”

He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.

Related Characters: Hazel (speaker), Lord Frith, Black Rabbit of Inlé
Related Symbols: El-ahrairah
Page Number: 474
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Watership Down LitChart as a printable PDF.
Watership Down PDF

El-ahrairah Symbol Timeline in Watership Down

The timeline below shows where the symbol El-ahrairah appears in Watership Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: In the Woods
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
...follow him deeper into the woods. Dandelion cheers Hazel for being brave and intrepid as El-ahrairah—the rabbits’ trickster folk hero. Hazel is happy—this comparison is high praise. (full context)
Chapter 6: The Story of the Blessing of El-ahrairah
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Dandelion begins the story of El-ahrairah. Long ago, Frith, the sun-god, made the world and the animals that would inhabit it.... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
When El-ahrairah heard that all the other animals had received blessings, he was embarrassed that he had... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Stranger in the Field
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...again. As they make their way across the field, Hazel silently begs the spirit of El-ahrairah to protect them on this new adventure. (full context)
Chapter 13: Hospitality
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...pushed into the surface in a pattern—Strawberry explains it is a kind of shrine to El-ahrairah, and then suggests they return to the main room. On the way back Strawberry chatters... (full context)
Chapter 14: “Like Trees in November”
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...but the other rabbits don’t seem interested. Blackberry quickly suggests Dandelion tell a story of El-ahrairah instead, and Cowslip says they’d all enjoy hearing the story of the King’s Lettuce. (full context)
Chapter 15: The Story of the King’s Lettuce
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
Dandelion begins his tale. Long ago, El-ahrairah and his followers were driven by enemies to the marshes of Kelfazin, a dreary place... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
A hedgehog, Yona, had overheard this business between Rainbow and El-ahrairah, and ran to the palace to warn the King. Darzin ordered the guard doubled. That... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
...sicker and sicker. After several days, Rabscuttle escaped from the palace and returned to the marsh—El-ahrairah, meanwhile, set to work disguising himself, pretending to be a chief physician from a faraway... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
At that moment, the captain of the guard came in to announce that El-ahrairah’s people were preparing for a siege on the palace to steal the lettuces—Darzin ordered a... (full context)
Chapter 22: The Story of the Trial of El-ahrairah
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...their side. Silver and Holly both express skepticism, but Bluebell pipes up and says that El-ahrairah successfully did something of the sort. Hazel asks for the story, but Holly suggests they... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
After escaping from the marshes of Kelfazin, El-ahrairah and his people went to the meadows of Fenlo and dug a new burrow. Prince... (full context)
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
After a while, El-ahrairah noticed that things were always going wrong with his plans and schemes. He believed someone... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Prince Rainbow paid a visit to El-ahrairah and commended him on having reformed himself. He invited El-ahrairah, Rabscuttle, and Hufsa to watch... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
While El-ahrairah enlisted the help of Yona, Rabscuttle befriended a pheasant. They both offered their animal friends... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
El-ahrairah at last led Hufsa to the field of carrots, where they stole a great many... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
That evening, at the trial, Hufsa took the stand as a witness, and El-ahrairah began asking him questions about his supposed journey to steal the carrots. As Hufsa began... (full context)
Chapter 27: “You Can’t Imagine It Unless You’ve Been There”
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...back down to their overcrowded burrow. One night, inspired by memories of the tale of El-ahrairah and King Darzin’s lettuce, Holly approached one of the Captains at silflay and attempted to... (full context)
Chapter 30: A New Journey
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
...Dandelion to tell a story, and Dandelion, at Bigwig’s request, begins the fearful tale of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé. (full context)
Chapter 31: The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé
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...after the conclusion of the story of the King’s lettuces, Darzin himself found out about El-ahrairah’s deception. He began quietly scheming as to how he would get back at El-ahrairah, and... (full context)
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...who forced Rabscuttle to sleep in a prison hole and do hard labor every day. El-ahrairah vowed to rescue his friends and set some does to dig a tunnel which would... (full context)
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
This infuriated King Darzin, who began planning a war against El-ahrairah and his people. Darzin’s soldiers could not get into El-ahrairah’s warren, but they laid siege... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
El-ahrairah formed a plan to seek out the Black Rabbit—in spite of his fear of the... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
That night, El-ahrairah’s Owsla attacked King Darzin’s forces to create a diversion during which El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle slipped... (full context)
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El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle fled down the rabbit hole, but at the bottom encountered none other than... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
The Black Rabbit welcomed El-ahrairah as his guest and invited him to play a game of bobstones. El-ahrairah lost, and... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
The next evening, El-ahrairah went back to play another round with the Black Rabbit, but the Black Rabbit said... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
The next evening, the injured El-ahrairah dragged himself back towards the Black Rabbit’s burrow. A member of the Owsla urged him... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
...from the hole and confronted the Black Rabbit, the Black Rabbit realized the depths of El-ahrairah’s desperation at last and agreed to save his people. Unbeknownst to El-ahrairah, at that moment,... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle left the Black Rabbit’s warren and began to make their way home, but... (full context)
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Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
El-ahrairah returned above ground, where he encountered Lord Frith, who had brought him new whiskers, ears,... (full context)
Chapter 35: Groping
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...meeting-point at a nearby river, where he and his friends have devised a trick that El-ahrairah himself would be proud of. (full context)
Chapter 41: The Story of Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wogdog
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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El-ahrairah tells Rowsby Woof he must complete a test first. He tells the dog that at... (full context)
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The following night, El-ahrairah returns once again and tells Rowsby Woof that the Queen is coming but wishes for... (full context)
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El-ahrairah, hidden behind some boxes, calls out to the dog in the voice of the Fairy... (full context)
Chapter 50: And Last
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...other side of the down, Vilthuril is telling her and Fiver’s young kits a new El-ahrairah tale—one which bears a startling resemblance to the story of the war with Efrafa. (full context)