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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
PART II - On Watership Down
CHAPTER 18 - Watership Down
After passing through numerous difficulties, including fighting off a bunch of rats in a barn, the rabbits reach Watership Down. From there they can see in every direction. Hawkbit finds three old rabbit holes in a low bank and two more between some gnarled tree roots. At last the rabbits have found safety.
The rabbits have learned to understand each other and we are told there is no more quarreling. Bigwig is a little sulky about the softness of Strawberry, but Hazel refuses to allow the new rabbit to be abused or browbeaten. Bigwig himself has become a little less overbearing, having been forced by his weakness from snaring experience to let Buckthorn and Silver fight off the worst of the rats. When Fiver gives advice, the rabbits believe him. Strawberry himself tries to be useful and is actually quite helpful in the woodland. The rabbits have learned that their lives depend on their ability to work together, taking full advantage of each otherís special abilities.
CHAPTER 19 - Fear in the Dark
Blackberry suggests that the rabbits need to find a better spot on the down and build better holes as the ones they have taken shelter in dead end in a hard white substance that no rabbit can dig into. The concept of bucks digging holes is foreign to them, but Blackberry points out that while it is true that Bucks donít dig holes, it isnít because they "canít." An exploratory search brings them to a grove of beeches where the ground between the roots is soft. Recalling the lessons of the great central burrow of the man-fed rabbits they left behind, they discuss the possibility of building something similar of their own, using the tree-roots for a roof.
In the evening the rabbits are startled by an unearthly noise coming along the hedge line. The noise is Captain Holly, the former chief Owsla of the Sandleford Warren. He is exhausted and has been injured, seemingly unaware of anything but his fear. Bluebell is with him.
The rabbits make use of past lessons, even learning to dig their own holes. Blackberry, the brains of the group, is able to separate the good from the bad in their previous experiences. He realizes that even though the tame warren eventually would have meant death to all of them, there were characteristics of it that were useful. It also stood as an example that rabbits can do things uncharacteristic of rabbits if it improves their lives. In other words, tradition itself is not a good reason for refusing to learn something new. In this new home, the rabbits are free to make their own rules and customs. (The white material that makes poor digging is chalk, a mineral that occurs in much of Englandís hills.)
CHAPTER 20 - A Honeycomb and a Mouse
Under Strawberryís direction, the rabbits dig out around the roots of the beech trees, leaving the vertical roots in place to support the ceiling. They end up with an elaborate underground structure that is "honeycombed" in multiple directions. Hazel accidentally helps a mouse that is being chased by a hawk. This gives him the idea of making friends with other animals who are not otherwise their enemies. Most of the rabbits think he is a little crazy, especially Bigwig who envisions a burrow crawling with mice. They are able to communicate a little with the mouse, and he promises to help them someday in return for saving his life. Holly gets well enough to be able to climb the hill to the honeycomb. He explains to Silver that he has not come to make trouble for Hazel or Bigwig and that he has no intention of altering the leadership situation as it is.
Bluebell is characterized as something of a joker who is never at a loss for a pun or a clever turn of a phrase. Hazel finds it a little irritating at first, but Holly explains that if it hadnít been for Bluebellís jokes, they never would have been able to muster the courage to keep on traveling. Hazelís friendship to the mouse also introduces a change the in the way the rabbits think about other creatures.