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Watership Down

Watership Down

by Richard Adams

Watership Down Chapters 36-38 Summary

Chapter 36

Approaching Thunder

  • The epigraph here is from a popular music hall song about somebody ruining something by showing up. Don't think "teacher showing up at party" (although, no one wants that), think "plan to escape ruined by jailor."
  • This chapter is about Bigwig preparing for his escape from Efrafa. When his Mark is on the surface eating, Bigwig goes to talk with Kehaar, but tries to make it look casual.
  • And later, when Bigwig is about to make a break for it, General Woundwort comes up to have a word with him. That word is… revenge. Or maybe not. We'll find out in the next chapter.

Chapter 37

The Thunder Builds Up

  • This chapter opens with a quote from Joel Chandler Harris (who wrote down the famous Uncle Remus stories, like the stories of the trickster "Brer Rabbit". This quote is just a reminder that it's hard to hide smoke. (Unless you're using that smoke to make bacon.)
  • Woundwort wants to talk to Bigwig because of the incident with the fox. One of the rabbits who was on the patrol recognized Bigwig as the rabbit who led a fox right into them. Bigwig points out that he didn't mean to lead a fox into the patrol (that he didn't even know was there).
  • So everything's okay there. The only problem is that Bigwig missed the time of the escape that he planned with Hazel.
  • On top of that, Nelthita, who likes to tease the officers with hints of rebellion, makes some vague comments about escaping to some of the other officers.
  • And then, on top of that, Chervil is keeping an eye on Bigwig so he can't go speak to Kehaar again. So there's lots of tension here.
  • Luckily, Bigwig tricks Chervil into yelling a message at Kehaar.
  • After that, Bigwig finds a way to pass a message to Blackavar about the escape coming soon. So this chapter is all about building tension. Are you tense, yet?

Chapter 38

The Thunder Breaks

  • Here's a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar about a storm. Which is either a metaphorical storm—all the tension rising in the last chapter—or a real storm. Or both.
  • It's probably both because (1) there's a real storm about to break out over Efrafa and (2) Bigwig's plan to escape with Blackavar and several does is about ready.
  • Hazel, with his bad leg, stays on the boat. His job is to chew through the rope that's tying the boat to the land.
  • Back with Bigwig, Hyzenthlay warns him that Nelthita's been arrested and probably spilled the whole plan, so they have to go now.
  • Back with Woundwort (and wouldn't this make a great movie sequence, cutting back and forth between the main groups?), Nelthita is telling everything, when a rabbit comes to say Bigwig is leading an escape. So Woundwort goes to capture him. (Cue Darth Vader march music.)
  • Luckily for Bigwig, Kehaar makes a surprise aerial attack. So even though Woundwort is an excellent general who doesn't get scared easily, Hazel's rabbits escape with the extra does, floating down the river on a boat (which, yes, they stole from some people).
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