Watership Down

by

Richard Adams

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The ruling clique of a warren usually comprised of its strongest, most fearsome rabbits. The Owsla keep order and enforce rabbit rules and law.

Owsla Quotes in Watership Down

The Watership Down quotes below are all either spoken by Owsla or refer to Owsla. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 27 Quotes

“But surely it alters them very much, living like that?” asked Dandelion.

“Very much indeed,” replied Holly. “Most of them can’t do anything but what they’re told. They’ve never been out of Efrafa and never smelled an enemy. The one aim of every rabbit in Efrafa is to get into the Owsla, because of the privileges: and the one aim of everyone in the Owsla is to get into the Council. The Council have the best of everything. But the Owsla have to keep very strong and tough. They take it in turn to do what they call Wide Patrol. They go out over the country—all round the place—living in the open for days at a time. It’s partly to find out anything they can, and partly to train them and make them tough and cunning. Any hlessil they find they pick up and bring back to Efrafa. If they won’t come, they kill them. They reckon hlessil a danger, because they may attract the attention of men.”

Related Characters: Dandelion (speaker), Holly (speaker)
Related Symbols: Efrafa
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:
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

Owsla Term Timeline in Watership Down

The timeline below shows where the term Owsla appears in Watership Down. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Notice Board
Violence and Power Theme Icon
...two happen upon some cowslips and begin eating them when two members of their warren’s Owsla, a police-like guardian force made up of the strongest rabbits in the warren, approach and... (full context)
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...dissatisfaction with life in the Sandleford warren. He swears that if he ever joins the Owsla, he will treat his fellow rabbits with decency. The two head across a culvert to... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Chief Rabbit
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...head to the Chief Rabbit’s. Down in the Chief’s burrow, a large member of the Owsla with a “curious, heavy growth of fur on the crown of his head” stops them... (full context)
Chapter 3: Hazel’s Decision
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...that Fiver’s visions are never wrong. Bigwig walks up and tells them he’s left the Owsla. He asks Fiver if he’s planning to leave the warren, and Hazel answers for his... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Departure
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...come. Dandelion appears to join the group, and suggests they hurry, as he believes the Owsla is onto their plan. (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
...the rabbits get closer, he and the others see that they are members of the Owsla. (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Holly, the captain of the Owsla, tells the rabbits they’re under arrest for “spreading dissension and inciting to mutiny.” Bigwig leaps... (full context)
Chapter 19: Fear in the Dark
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...himself face to face with—it is the exhausted, injured Holly, former captain of the Sandleford Owsla. (full context)
Chapter 21: “For El-ahrairah to Cry”
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...into the woods, where he found Bluebell, Pimpernel, and Toadflax, a former member of the Owsla. That night, in the woods, Toadflax died—his final words were “They killed us to suit... (full context)
Chapter 27: “You Can’t Imagine It Unless You’ve Been There”
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Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
In Efrafa, in addition to the Owsla, there is a governing body called a Council. Each rabbit on the Council has one... (full context)
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Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
When Bigwig asks how the Owsla keeps control over the other rabbits, Holly replies that “you can’t imagine it unless you’ve... (full context)
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...what they’re told. The Efrafans’ only goal in life is often to get into the Owsla, because of the privileges afforded to its members, and everyone in the Owsla longs to... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...they ran through the fields and woods, they realized they were being pursued by the Owsla. They ran up a slope and found themselves on a strange “road” made of stones,... (full context)
Chapter 31: The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé
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 out... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
...pay his stakes, was forced to sacrifice his tail and whiskers to the Black Rabbit’s Owsla. El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle returned to their cold, stony burrow, and, despite his fear, El-ahrairah continued... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
...the injured El-ahrairah dragged himself back towards the Black Rabbit’s burrow. A member of the Owsla urged him to return home and give up lest he contract one of the many... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...Rabscuttle, not recognizing any of his friends, asked to see a fellow member of the Owsla, was told that the rabbit had died in “the fighting” long before he himself was... (full context)
Chapter 34: General Woundwort
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...warren and the countryside alike, and used the privileges allotted to those groups and the Owsla to incentivize young rabbits to toe the line in hopes of one day being promoted... (full context)
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...brags that he can run and fight, and has previously been an officer in an Owsla. Thlayli claims that his warren was destroyed by men, and he has been wandering for... (full context)
Chapter 37: The Thunder Builds Up
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...Woundwort is questioning him, Woundwort reveals that a rabbit named Groundsel, a member of the Owsla, recognized Bigwig—by the tuft of hair on his head—from an encounter with a homba in... (full context)
Chapter 38: The Thunder Breaks
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...fit to be called a rabbit and asks for Frith to curse him and his Owsla. Right at that moment, a huge bolt of lightning comes down from the sky, along... (full context)
Chapter 43: The Great Patrol
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Violence and Power Theme Icon
Authoritarianism vs. Democracy Theme Icon
...escape, Woundwort called a Council meeting and demanded a strong patrol of several officers and Owsla set out to track them, and though there was some resistance to the plan, Woundwort... (full context)
Chapter 46: Bigwig Stands His Ground
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One of the Owsla spots a dead rabbit on the ground. Woundwort sniffs the small corpse and determines that... (full context)
Chapter 50: And Last
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The rabbits wander around the down and come upon Bigwig—captain of Watership Down’s “free-and-easy Owsla”—teaching some young bucks about various elil. The young kits ask Bigwig to tell them tales... (full context)
Epilogue
The Epic Journey  Theme Icon
Home and Belonging Theme Icon
...has lately been feeling very tired—if he would like to come and join the rabbit’s Owsla. Hazel follows the rabbit from his warren, and leaves his body lying in the burrow.... (full context)