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Written by R A Williams
"You are closer to death than I."
Fiver is speaking to Bigwig, who is very upset at what he interprets as Fiver’s excessively fearful attention-seeking behavior. Bigwig believes they have found a safe, pleasant warren to live in where the farmer sets out food for the rabbits. In reality, Strawberry’s warren is set with snares every day because the farmer is fattening the rabbits up to kill them. The rabbits of Strawberry’s warren know and accept this, and have welcomed the newcomers because they believe that if Fiver, Bigwig, Hazel and their friends are caught by the snares, the remaining rabbits will live longer. Fiver does not know exactly what the threat is, but he is warning Bigwig against it. Moments later, Bigwig (who refuses to take Fiver’s advice) runs into a snare and is nearly killed.
“Can you run? I think not.”
The cat is repeating Hazel’s taunting words from a few moments before. While Dandelion, Blackberry, and Hyzenthlay were trying to free the farmer’s dog to lure it to Watership Down so that it would attack and scatter the Efrafa rabbits, Hazel acted as a lookout. He insulted the cat until it lunged at him, waking the dog and allowing it to break free. But as the dog broke free, Hazel was thrown off the doghouse. Since Hazel’s leg was already weak due to an old injury from a shotgun, he was stunned and unable to move. The cat therefore pounces on him, repeating his taunting words before trying to kill him.
“My Chief Rabbit has told me to stay and defend this run, and until he says otherwise, I shall stay here.”
Bigwig is speaking to General Woundwort, whom he has just ambushed in a very clever way. Behind Bigwig, all the rabbits except Fiver and the rabbits involved in Hazel’s mission to free the dog are hiding in the run.
General Woundwort wants desperately to defeat Bigwig, but respects the large, courageous rabbit. Up until this moment, he has assumed that Bigwig was the leader of the Watership Down rabbits. Woundwort believes that leaders are big, imposing, and fearsome because that’s the kind of leader he is himself. Ironically, he has already met the Chief Rabbit, Hazel, who is an average-sized rabbit who is lame from an old injury. The fact that Bigwig is not the Chief Rabbit, and that Woundwort does not know where the Chief Rabbit is or what he is doing, shakes Woundwort’s confidence and makes him start to be afraid.
Although Hazel became the Chief Rabbit by default during the migration from Sandleford to Watership Down, and although Bigwig has always supported his authority, up until this moment Bigwig has never acknowledged Hazel as his Chief Rabbit.
“Men will never rest till they've spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals.”
Captain Holly has just finished telling the story of how the Sandleford warren was destroyed by humans. People filled in as many of the rabbit holes as they could, pumped in some kind of poison gas, and shot the rabbits that escaped from holes they had missed. The only reason Holly and Bluebell escaped was because they remembered a seldom-used run that led far into the forest and away from the humans. In Holly’s mind, humans are mindlessly destructive, however a human reader will understand that the Sandleford warren was destroyed to make room for a real estate development.
“Animals don't behave like men,' he said. 'If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don't sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures' lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”
Hazel is speaking to Woundwort before the last battle. He is introducing the idea of partnership, and has suggested that since rabbits have two eyes, two ears, and two nostrils they should have two warrens as well. The two warrens are far enough away from each other not to interfere with one another, and rabbits from Woundwort’s overpopulated warren could easily find living space on Watership Down if they so chose. Woundwort rejects Hazel’s idea and insists on fighting.
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