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MonkeyNotes Free Study Guide-Watership Down by Richard Adams-Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

CHAPTER 4 - The Departure

Summary

Shortly after moonrise--called "fu inle"--the departing rabbits begin to gather. Pipkin, a timid friend of Fiverís has been persuaded to come along. Hawkbit, considered slow and stupid by Hazel, has been brought in by Dandelion. Bigwig has managed to bring along Silver, a nephew of the Threarah who has not yet established himself among the Owsla. They are just about to leave when Captain Holly and two other guards show up and announce that Silver and Bigwig are under arrest. Silver is to be arrested for failing to report to Toadflax, and Bigwig is under arrest for spreading dissension and inciting to mutiny. A brief struggle takes place which is brought to a halt when Hazel confronts Holly and tells him to leave or he will be killed. Holly and the two guards run off, but the rabbits know that they will soon be back with an entire contingent of the Owsla. Thus they are now forced to leave quickly to avoid severe punishment and even death.


Notes

The tyrannical nature of the Owsla is apparent, although in another sense they are simply doing their job. However, the rabbits obviously do not have the freedom to come and go as they choose or to leave the warren for any reason. Most of them donít want to, but even if they did, they would be prevented from doing so unless the Owsla had thought of it first. Holly is a sensible captain who has more brains than to take on a half dozen or more rabbits all by himself. Hazelís leadership qualities are developing very quickly along with the other rabbitsí trust in him. It is also worth noting that Hazel chooses NOT to harm Holly or the other guards, but lets them go with a warning even thought it may bring additional trouble. It is part of Hazelís nature that he doesnít kill even his enemies unnecessarily.

CHAPTER 5 - In the Woods

Summary

The rabbits wander in the woods all night, straggling widely at times, but trying to stay together and keep up a good pace. Finally realizing that the smaller rabbits cannot keep the pace any longer and that all are tired, Hazel decides that they should all rest awhile. The first mention is made of El-ahrairah, the rabbit folk-hero who accomplished many his exploits as much by trickery as by skill or intelligence. Hazel decides that it will help the rabbits to keep their spirits up if they hear a story.

Notes

El-ahrairah is comparable to Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket or even Odysseus who, we are told, actually borrowed some of his strategies from the rabbit. This begins a pattern of story telling which provides tradition for the rabbits as well as a behavior pattern by which to validate their own behaviors.

CHAPTER 6 - The Story of the Blessing of El-ahrairah

Summary

Dandelion tells a creation/gift giving story. Frith, the sun-deity worshiped by the rabbits, was frustrated because El-ahrairah had so many wives and such a huge family that he could not control them. Furthermore, he was defiant and unwilling to do anything about them. So Frith came up with a plan to both trick and punish El-ahrairah. He announces that all the animals are to come to him for a gift and arranges for each animal to come at a different time. El-ahrairah wastes a lot of time celebrating over getting a gift, then takes time to rest on his way to Frith. While he is resting a swift flies by and tells him that Frith has given the fox and cat ways to outsmart and kill El-ahrairah and all his family.

Frith comes looking for El-ahrairah, but the rabbit hides headfirst in a hole because he fears that Frith is going to trick him. When Frith tries to get him to come out, El-ahrairah tells Frith to "bless" his bottom end as it is sticking out of the hole. Frith feels sorry for him and gives him the gift of a shining white tail and long powerful hind legs that will enable him to escape most of his enemies. Thus even though all the world will be filled with his enemies, they will never be able to utterly destroy him.

Notes

This first little story is typical of the stories of El-ahrairah. Whenever the animals need a lift or a reminder of their own ingenuity, one of the story tellers can come up with a story of the rabbit folk hero that gives them an example to follow and encourages them to continue in their endeavors. The exploits of the hero rabbit also help to establish the "cultural" mores of the rabbits. They are expected to play tricks and to get what they need by outsmarting their enemies. At the same time, they know that other animals will play tricks on them if they can. But they also know that the rabbit god Frith likes them and is their friend even though he occasionally finds it necessary to remind them of who is in charge.

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