This chapter begins with a quote from one of the top five books featuring animals, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. This quote is about some animals who are confronted with their first river, which is kind of like seeing your first political convention—it's big and a little scary and kind of silly.
The rabbits move closer to a big, big river (the Test). It scares most of them, and only Fiver is brave enough to cross over the bridge.
So Fiver leads the rabbits across the bridge, where they eat and rest. (If you took out all the resting in this book, you'd have a much shorter book, but much more tired rabbits.)
And by the river, Blackberry has an idea of how they can escape after they break the does out of Efrafa: they'll take this boat that's tied up. Kehaar helps here since none of the rabbits know what a boat is. Even worse, they don't know what yacht rock is.
So, with the plan set, Bigwig goes off for his adventure.
This quote comes from Clausewitz's book on war, On War. It says that someone with a "strong will" can stick out in war (in a good way, he means).
This chapter kind of switches focus. Instead of following Hazel, we follow General Woundwort and see things through his eyes for a while.
We see firsthand how General Woundwort runs the Efrafa Warren—with totalitarian control and fear.
We get to hear about his childhood and how he came to hate humans. (The longer version is very interesting and raises lots of question; but the short version is that people killed most of his family.)
After escaping from a very nice human who saved him, Woundwort found some wild rabbits and fought his way to the top.
And then he started to create the real totalitarian warren, with the separate Marks and the officers who help him control the other rabbits. Looked at from one direction, this is a classic "rags to riches" story, except instead of "riches," substitute "total political control."
Woundwort's warren even found and destroyed a small warren nearby, and took the survivors back to Efrafa.
This chapter is full of info on Woundwort's past, but what about his present? As it turns out, he's not doing so great now: (1) Efrafa is overcrowded but he won't let anyone leave or dig more space out because he doesn't want anyone to accidentally alert humans about where they are. And (2) some of his officers were recently killed by a train (when Holly's group escaped) and by a fox (when Bigwig led the fox into the group).
So when Captain Campion comes to say that a big rabbit has come up and wants to join, Woundwort listens. Because he needs big rabbits to serve as officers.
And that's how Bigwig joins Efrafa as an officer.
(Note: Woundwort calls Bigwig "Thlayli," but that's just the Lapine version of Bigwig's name.)
Here's a quote from Dr. Johnson about how we have to act in a world that we don't know about. So when the chapter title is "groping," we should probably be thinking about "groping for answers." Get your mind out of the gutter, you.
Bigwig is now an officer, learning from his boss Chervil about how the Marks work.
This is all very depressing to Bigwig because Efrafa has lots of guards to prevent escapes.
Also depressing? Bigwig meets a rabbit named Blackavar who has been severely punished for trying to escape. Blackavar is so pitiful that Bigwig plans to break him out as well.
On the bright side, Bigwig meets a bunch of unhappy does. These does wanted to leave the warren to go start families, but Woundwort wouldn't let them.
There's a group of them, but the important ones (for the plot) are Nelthita, a chatty young doe who likes to tease the officers; and Hyzenthlay, the rabbit who helped Holly.
(Hyzenthlay is also a bit of a mystic, like Fiver. She even goes into a little trance here where she talks about crazy things, like a rabbit riding in a car.)
So Bigwig recruits Hyzenthlay to help organize an escape.