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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
CHAPTER 48 - Dea ex Machina
The cat is about to kill Hazel when the farmer’s daughter Lucy awakes and hears the squealing. She runs downstairs in her night gown, drives the cat off and takes the rabbit into her room where she lays him in her dresser drawer. The family is expecting the imminent arrival of a doctor who will tend to Lucy’s mother. The doctor likes Lucy and she looks forward to brief chats with him. This time she shows him the injured rabbit. The doctor says that although the rabbit is scratched up a bit and has the evidence of an old injury, there doesn’t seem to be anything seriously wrong with him. Lucy is sensible enough to realize that it wouldn’t do any good to try to keep him as the rabbit would never take to life in a hutch. She carries Hazel in the doctor’s car and releases him between Hare Warren Down and Watership Down.
We get a brief characterization of the farmer in this chapter. He is not a dedicated enemy to wild rabbits; he just doesn’t want them running loose around the farmyard where they will stir up the cats and tame rabbits and raise havoc in the garden. Even though they were trying to shoot the rabbits earlier, the adults have taught the children to have respect for life wherever they find it. And of course, Lucy is a child who rescues a smaller creature in the same way that Hazel rescued the mouse in earlier chapters. Most children are fascinated by bunnies even though it’s nearly impossible to get close to a wild one.
CHAPTER 49 - Hazel Comes Home
Woundwort is killed by the dog although his efforts to fight it off provide the remaining Efrafan rabbits with a chance to escape. One other sentry is killed by the dog, but the rest head back to Efrafa under the leadership of Campion. Word travels of Woundwort’s defeat and other animals sneak up on them, capturing more rabbits as they travel. Other rabbits, including Vervain, simply disappear and no one sees what happens to them. Groundsel, Thistle, and three others dart down an open run when the dog comes, and surrender themselves to Fiver who is barely recovered enough from his trance to know what is happening.
At first the rabbits think they have lost Hazel, but Fiver and Pipkin run off toward the farm to see if they can find him; they spot him just as he is returning over the down. Bigwig does not believe that Hazel was brought back by a hrududu, but Hyzenthlay, who saw him put out of the car by the child, backs him up.
CHAPTER 50 - And Last
The story ends on an October morning about six weeks later. Groundsel and the other Efrafan captives have gradually become accepted as members of the Honeycomb and have settled in "because Hazel was determined that they should. Several of the does have had litters including Vilthuril to whom Fiver is attached. They have also heard that the Efrafa warren is doing well although things are a bit different under Campion. Hazel brings up his former idea, to send some of his own youngsters out to meet some from Efrafa and start a new warren in the spring. They plan to use Kehaar as their messenger when he returns. Bigwig is captain of the Owsla which is described as "free and easy." Silver comments that Bigwig had beaten Woundwort even though it would have been too late if the dog had not come. The rabbits watch a lone horseman riding across the down, then hop into their burrows to hide from the cold and spend the winter telling more stories of El-ahrairah.
The novel is finished with an "Epilogue" that addresses the reader with the things "that happened in the end." Hazel lived longer than most rabbits but then was called to join a spirit Owsla. Groundsel become first chief rabbit of the new warren, joined by rabbits from Efrafa who were led by Captain Avens. As for Woundwort, there was a legend that he never died, but that he lived as a great, solitary rabbit who would fight for those who honored him; mother rabbits used the general’s name as a threat by which to discipline their young if they misbehaved.
Readers are left with a "happy ever after sense" and a feeling that the rabbit characters are almost human. At the very least, they have learned important "human" lessons, some of which are listed here.
1. Old habits can and should be changed when they no longer serve.
2. Freedom is a precious and fragile gift. It is just as possible to have too much as it is to have too little.
3. An open minded attitude sometimes brings unusual and beneficial friendships.
4. Each member of a community has something to offer; such gifts should not be treated lightly.
5. Trusting a timid character with a little responsibility will encourage him to take more.
6. Stories are the heart of any society. The stories of the past provide the lessons of the present
7. Intelligence is a greater asset than physical strength.