by Richard Adams
Watership Down Chapters 13-17 Summary
- This chapter begins with a quote from Alfred Tennyson, poet and British guy. "The Lotus-Eaters" in this poem are originally from the Homer's Odyssey. They're famous for eating lotuses and getting sleepy. Which is fine unless you have something to do or are being threatened with death.
- Hazel's rabbits think that Cowslip's warren is a little weird. Weirdness #1: They aren't afraid of predators.
- Weirdness #2: the rabbits do a little dance to say hello, just like Ellen.
- Cowslip's warren has a big room, with enough room for all the rabbits. The roof is supported by some tree roots, which is the only reason they could dig such a big room without it collapsing. (You know if this were Lord of the Rings, there'd be a whole appendix about bunny architecture.)
- Weirdness #3: Hazel says ordinary things (like complimenting them on how much space they have) and gets uncomfortable silences back from Cowslip's rabbits.
- Weirdness #4: These rabbits don't seem to be interested in asking questions, even though Hazel hints at some big adventures on their journey.
- Weirdness #5: The humans seem to be protecting these rabbits by shooting predators around here.
- Weirdness #6: These rabbits make art. When Hazel goes to explore the warren with Strawberry and his mate Nildro-hain, they take him to a work of art: a mosaic (or Shape) of El-ahrairah in little stones. Art? Creepy.
- Weirdness #7: Hazel notices that Strawberry will interrupt whenever Hazel starts a question with "Where…".
"Like Trees in November"
- The epigraph here is from the Earl of Chesterfield's letters of advice to his son. In it, he's all about learning about the people around you. (Sometimes you need to hear really obvious advice like that.)
- Away from Cowslip, Hazel's rabbits share their feelings, which are that Cowslip's rabbits are a little weird: they laugh, they sing to their young, they make art by pushing stones into the wall, etc. What are they, human?
- Pipkin sums it up by saying that they are nice, but sad, like "trees in November" (18). Pipkin the poet, ladies and gentlemen.
- The next morning, we learn that Cowslip's warren is weird for another reason. (We think that's Weirdness #8, but it's hard to keep track.) Which is that a human comes by to drop off some good food in the field for them.
- (In the rabbit language ordinary food, like grass, is called "flay." Treats like carrots and stuff you would find in a garden are called "flayrah." Also, as long as we're learning here, let's add the word "silflay": to go outside to eat. So the next time you're at a restaurant with the option of eating inside or outside, try saying "silflay" and see what kind of response you get from your poor, haggard hostess.)
- Fiver, of course, gets a bad feeling about all this. But no one will listen to him this time.
- Down in the warren, Cowslip asks for a story. At first Dandelion offers to tell about their adventure, but the weird rabbits are weirdly uninterested in that. So Dandelion tells a traditional story about El-ahrairah. It's called… (turn page).
The Story of the King's Lettuce
- If you love opera, then you recognize this epigraph from the Mozart opera Così fan Tutte. (Also, while Mozart wrote the music, the lyrics were written by Da Ponte. See "Shout-Outs"—or go see the opera.) The quote is from a scene where someone dresses up like a doctor to fool some people. (It's a very complex opera, mostly about kissing.)
- In this chapter, Dandelion tells the story of El-ahrairah and the King's Lettuce, which is the second El-ahrairah myth in the book.
- These myths can get a little complex, but here's the gist: Frith (God) has a helper named Prince Rainbow who hates rabbits. And Rainbow won't let them out of an unhealthy swamp.
- So El-ahrairah makes a bet with Rainbow: if the rabbits can steal King Darzin's lettuce, they can leave the marsh.
- The rest of this story is the rabbit version of Ocean's Eleven, with El-ahrairah pulling off a heist with a little help from his friend, Rabscuttle. It's just the two of them actually, so… Ocean's 2?
- Part of that heist is to have El-ahrairah dress up like a doctor, which explains the epigraph.
- So El-ahrairah (a) tricks King Darzin into sending his (perfectly good) lettuce to the rabbits; and (b) wins his bet with Prince Rainbow.
- Here's a quote from an English poet named Sidney Keyes who died in war when he was just twenty. (Which is a big reminder to go out and do something great today.) This quote involves dancing and the dead. So this will be a cheerful chapter.
- Dandelion is a very good storyteller but Cowslip's rabbits aren't impressed. They're all like, "these traditional stories retain a lot of charm" (7). People only say that sort of thing when they don't like whatever they're talking about.
- In Cowslip's warren, they don't tell stories about tricks. Rabbits don't need tricks, the rabbit Silverweed says; rabbits just need "the will to accept their fate" (12). Oh, that sounds fun… and cultish.
- Instead of telling a story, Silverweed tells a poem about accepting death that freaks out Fiver.
The Shining Wire
- This chapter starts out with a quote from British poet W. H. Auden. (Shmoop's got some awesome learning guides of his poems, like "The Unknown Citizen".) This quote is about revealing hidden things, so maybe we'll finally get some answers in this chapter.
- Hazel and Bigwig go to confront Fiver, who still has a bad feeling. But the conversation ends with Bigwig getting caught in a snare. (That the "Shining Wire" from the chapter title.)
- While Hazel tries to free Bigwig, Fiver goes to get help. Luckily, before he passes out, Bigwig teaches Hazel how to dig to get the peg out of the ground.
- Hazel's rabbits come and help dig, but Cowslip's rabbits don't.
- For a while it seems like Bigwig died, which is sad, but then he comes back to life (with the desire to eat rabbit brains).
- With Bigwig awake, the rabbits calmly discuss the idea of killing all the other rabbits and taking their warren, with lists of pros and cons.
- But Fiver freaks out and explains the situation:
- Cowslip's warren is protected and fed by a farmer so the farmer can trap and kill a few rabbits now and then. So Cowslip invited the new rabbits in so the farmer could kill them instead. Yay, teamwork.
- Since Fiver has always been right all this time, they finally listen to him about going to live in the hills where crazy cult rabbits can't sacrifice them to the farmer gods.
- But first Strawberry comes to join Hazel's team… since his mate Nildro-hain just got caught by a snare.
People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...