Watership Down Chapters 22-25 Summary
The Story of the Trial of El-ahrairah
- The epigraph here is from British playwright William Congreve, whose comedies from the 1600s are pretty much like The Hangover, but with men in tights. This quote is about someone who looks like they have a criminal face. And since the title of this chapter mentions trial, we're expecting the all-bunny version of Law and Order.
- Rather than talk about their feelings about Holly's terrible story, Hazel explains his plan about befriending mice and local animals. Like a bird—Hazel would really like to befriend a bird who can tell them about the area.
- This reminds Bluebell of a story about El-ahrairah, which brings us to the third El-ahrairah myth in the book.
- In this story, Prince Rainbow adds a spy named Hufsa to El-ahrairah's warren. Hufsa starts ruining all of El-ahrairah's great heist plans.
- To get rid of Hufsa, El-ahrairah sets him up by recruiting some non-rabbit friends to act totally ridiculous while stealing Prince Rainbow's carrots.
- So when Prince Rainbow comes to punish El-ahrairah, El-ahrairah demands a trial by jury.
- When Hufsa gives his testimony—a singing hedgehog, a swimming pheasant, a smoking rabbit—he sounds crazy.
- So El-ahrairah is found innocent and Prince Rainbow takes Hufsa back.
- This chapter begins with a quote from an American poet (finally, an American). Robinson Jeffers's "Hurt Hawks" is totally about a hawk, who is hurt.
- Which is totally what this chapter is about, if you replace "Hurt Hawks" with "Wounded Seagull."
- The rabbits find a wounded gull, who is very angry at first.
- But Hazel tries really hard to be friends. Like, he gets his rabbits to find bugs for the gull to eat.
- So the gull, Kehaar, becomes friendly eventually and moves in with the rabbits for his rehab. Bigwig in particular becomes friendly with Kehaar.
- (Weird trivia time: if you think Kehaar sounds a bit like the Swedish chef, you're not totally wrong. In the introduction, Adams says that Kehaar is based on a Norwegian resistance fighter whom he knew in World War II.)
- Hazel explains his plan to the other rabbits. He wants a bird-friend to fly over the neighborhood because they really need to find some female rabbits nearby. In other words—and we apologize in advance for this joke—Hazel wants a wingman.
- All this time they've been focusing on individual survival, so they haven't thought about reproduction and keeping the warren alive after them. (Also, apparently all the rabbits who left Sandleford were dudes, which we didn't know.)
- So after healing up, Kehaar goes exploring for a few days. And he comes back with news: there's a farm nearby that has some domesticated rabbits; and there's a rabbit warren near the river, by a railroad. (And now might be a good time to check out a Watership Down map if you're confused.)
- Holly leads a group of rabbits (Silver, Buckthorn, Strawberry) to the nearby warren to see if any female rabbits want to come back to a new warren. (Rabbit dating is pretty much like human dating.)
- This chapter starts with an epigraph from an old ballad, a song that tells a story. And it's not a song for children; the song is collected in a book called Child's Ballads because Francis Child collected them.
- Man, these epigraphs are hard. This ballad is about Robin Hood sneaking into a civilized area to go to church. (Further in the story, a monk betrays Robin Hood, who is only saved because Little John is very loyal.)
- While Holly's group is out, Hazel wants to have an adventure. Like… breaking the domestic rabbits that Kehaar found out of Nuthanger Farm.
- So Holly takes Pipkin (he's the only rabbit with a car) to case the joint.
- Hazel meets the domestic rabbits and talks up what a great life they live in the wild. (As long as you ignore the cats and the dog at the farm that are trying to kill them.)
- Mary Renault of epigraph fame wrote novels based on Greek myths. Her book The King Must Die was all about Theseus. This quote is all about a king sacrificing himself for the good of the community.
- Back at the burrow, Fiver figures out that Hazel went to the farm because he smells. (That's some good detective work, there. Next up: Fiver as Sherlock Holmes, with a tiny deerstalker hat.)
- Fiver has a little freak out about the whole idea. But Hazel convinces the other rabbits to come for a raid. But Fiver at least convinces Hazel not to get too close to the farm himself.
- So while Hazel waits outside, Bigwig and Blackberry go into the farm and free the four domesticated rabbits, two male and two female (called "does" or "women").
- But the rabbits are so domesticated that they aren't very good at this sort of jailbreak stuff. So when the dog starts barking at them, two of them freeze.
- Which is why Hazel goes in to get them. Which is why Hazel is there when the family comes home. Which is why Hazel makes a distraction so that the others can get away.
- Which is why Hazel gets shot. (Gotta love that cause-and-effect.)
- Everyone on the raid thinks Hazel is dead, so they go back to the warren with the bad news.
- And to top it all off, Holly comes back to say that his trip to the other warren also failed. So this is a bummer of a chapter, if you like rabbits. If you hate rabbits, it's rather cheerful.