Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog's mercury and oak-tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes. (1.1)
Watership Down opens with an exciting… landscape, full of flowers and plants. You might be tempted to yawn (or swoon, if you're the outdoorsy type). But notice that this peaceful natural scene isn't completely natural—there're little reminders that humans are around, like the fence and the ditch.
Fu Inlé means "after moonrise." Rabbits, of course, have no idea of precise time or of punctuality. In this respect they are much the same as primitive people, who often take several days over assembling for some purpose and then several more to get started. (4.1)
The idea that rabbits are like "primitive people" comes up a few times in this book, which might be a little insulting to "primitive people" (and/or rabbits). But it does emphasize the idea that there's a conflict between nature and industry and technology. If you have a watch, you don't look at the moon or sun for the time, because you don't need to. You've got an object pumped out of a factory somewhere that can do that for you.
"One day the farmer thought, 'I could increase those rabbits: make them part of my farm—their meat, their skins. Why should I bother to keep rabbits in hutches? They'll do very well where they are.' He began to shoot all elil—lendri, homba, stoat, owl. He put out food for the rabbits, but not too near the warren. For his purpose they had to become accustomed to going about in the fields and the wood. And then he snared them—not too many: as many as he wanted and not as many as would frighten them all away or destroy the warren. They grew big and strong and healthy, for he saw to it that they had all of the best, particularly in winter, and nothing to fear—except the running knot in the hedge gap and the wood path. So they lived as he wanted them to live and all the time there were a few who disappeared. The rabbits became strange in many ways, different from other rabbits." (17.91)
This is Fiver telling the other rabbits what the real skinny is when it comes to Cowslip's terrible, creepy warren. Since this is Fiver, we probably buy this long explanation as the truth (because Fiver is basically as smart as a reader and then some). What's curious to us is that final line: the farmer isn't trying to make weird rabbits, but that's what he's doing by interfering in the natural order.