Study Guide

Efrafan Rabbits in Watership Down

By Richard Adams

Efrafan Rabbits

Captain Campion

Campion is one of those rabbits with good qualities who just happen to be on the wrong side. In that way, he's most like Bigwig at the beginning or Captain Holly (hey, they have the same title) or maybe even Strawberry in Cowslip's warren.

And we know that Campion is a rabbit with good qualities because he gets all the love, from everyone. Woundwort has some "genuine respect" for him (34.21). Bigwig, during the escape from Efrafa, still thinks "how much he would have liked to have taken Campion with him out of Efrafa" (38.82). Even Hazel has a reluctant liking for him (40.84). So every rabbit likes Campion, whose main problem is that he's on the wrong side. If he were following Hazel or even in charge himself, then maybe things would be better.

Actually, scratch that maybe. We're absolutely sure that's true. Once we get rid of Woundwort the tyrant, Campion gets to shine as the leader. Campion leads some of the Efrafan army home safely: "Through all the fear and hardship Campion remained steady and vigilant, holding the survivors together, thinking ahead and encouraging the exhausted to keep going" (49.4).

To us, that sounds like Hazel leading a group from Sandleford Warren. Here's Campion, no longer following the villainous, crazy, unnatural (your choice) Woundwort, and finally being a heroic leader. At the end of the book, we hear that Efrafa is doing well under the command of Campion (50.16), which just goes to prove our point. Maybe Campion is like Blackavar, in a way: a reminder that not everyone in the enemy warren is evil.


But then, on the other hand, we have Vervain, the head of the Owslafa and "the most hated officer in Efrafa" (47.49), according to Woundwort. Vervain's ideas of a good time include hitting prisoners to make them talk (when they're already talking) (38.61), letting other rabbits fight for you (44.3), and being "unthinkingly ready with one or other of a stock of jeering rejoinders" (47.74) when a rabbit he's about to kill curses him.

In other words, Vervain is the classic bully—always ready to fight someone smaller than him and not that smart. (After all, it's pretty dumb to hit a witness, especially when they're already talking. And note how Vervain is "unthinkingly ready" with a line to say. It's like he memorized a list of zingers off the interwebs.) Unlike Campion, who gets redeemed and leads Efrafa after the war, Vervain dies on the way home after the war—and is sorely missed by absolutely no one.


Snowdrop is an old advisor to Woundwort. He's too old to fight, but he does give advice, which Woundwort listens to, even if he doesn't want to (34.9). All of which might make you think—again—of Hazel. Both Hazel and Woundwort are willing to listen to advice from other rabbits (on occasion). That's just more evidence that Woundwort almost is the perfect Chief Rabbit, except for his pesky power complex.

The Does

We've mostly been looking at Woundwort's oppressive government, but there's more to Efrafa than just the oppressors. There are also the oppressed, like the does. In fact, the female rabbits of Efrafa are especially oppressed:

(1) They're kept from doing what comes naturally to them, like expanding the warren and having kids.
(2) And they have no alternatives since female rabbits cannot join the Owsla or Owslafa. In fact, as Chervil explains to Bigwig (when he's pretending to be a loyal member of Efrafa)…
(3) The officers can mate with any does because the female rabbits "are under orders" (35.37) to mate with any officer who demands.

That's pretty terrible in terms of oppression. So it's no wonder that the does are especially rebellious and especially interested in leaving Efrafa. The does as a group help show us how terrible Efrafa is and how much better Watership Down is.

As for individual does, we discuss Hyzenthlay over in our analysis of "Hazel's Crew" because she has psychic powers, like Fiver. (And yes, we think having psychic powers is enough to earn a rabbit her own paragraph.) The other doe that plays an important role in the plot is Nelthita, who is the young doe who doesn't really realize what sort of risks she's running. She enjoys teasing the officers and hinting at how they have a plan, neener neener neener. Nelthita plays the critical role in the plot of spilling the beans and endangering everyone. Perhaps she also reminds us how special Hyzenthlay and the other does are, since it would be nice for Bigwig to meet at least one doe who doesn't screw up majorly.

Other does get mentioned by name, like Vilthuril and Thrayonlosa, but they have less important roles to play in the plot. That's not to say they don't do some stuff, though. Vilthuril mates with Fiver, while Thrayonlosa dies during the escape from Efrafa. (Okay, we never said they do a lot.)

Other Rabbits

There are so many other rabbits mentioned that Watership Down may start to feel like A Game of Thrones or some other book with a huge cast. Like the minor characters in Hazel's group, many of these Efrafan rabbits don't seem all the important as individuals, but do give us the idea of how big these warrens are. Among these minor characters are Chervil, Avens, Marjoram, Bartsia, Groundsel, Ragwort, Thunder, and others. See, that's a lot of rabbits. After the war, some of these rabbits emigrate to Watership Down or the third warren between Watership Down and Efrafa. Which nicely proves again that not all the rabbits in Efrafa were evil—they just followed an evil rabbit.