I have recently transfered this page from another web address. In the transloading, some of the punctuation marks did not carry over correctly. I am working to update my writing to correct this problem. Thank You for your patience with this very busy high school English teacher :) All the Best to You! Captain Campion
On Proving that the Black Rabbit of Inle Comes for Hazel at the Conclusion of
Among many readers of Richard Adams,' Watership Down, there is considerable debate over whether or not El-ahrairah or the Black Rabbit of Inle comes for Hazel at the conclusion of the novel. However, careful analysis of Adams' portrayal of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle in the novel will establish that it is the Black Rabbit of Inle, not El-ahrairah.
First, the Black Rabbit of Inle and El-ahrairah are not one in the same. Chapter thirty-one, "The Story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle," leaves no doubt that both individuals are not one in the same but separate figures. Dandelion, in chapter six, The Story of the Blessing of El-ahrairah, provides information on the origins of El-ahrairah. He states,"'Long ago, Frith made the world. . . . Frith made all the animals and birds . . . Now, El-ahrairah was among the animals in those days and he had many wives'" (Avon Paperback ed. 40-41). It must be made clear that in no place within Watership Down is El-ahrairah ever considered a deity possessing supernatural power. He is, however, blessed with a cunning mind and lightening speed by Frith, but he still remains simply the first rabbit ever created and a folk hero for all rabbits that come after him. Therefore, El-ahrairah is mortal and subject to death. It is through myth-making and storytelling that rabbits keep him eternally alive as a mythical hero. Nevertheless, it is his mortal status and subjection to death which logically lends itself to discussing the Black Rabbit of Inle.
Chapter thirty-one is another lapine story. It too is told by Dandelion (See Avon Paperback ed. 277) depicting a struggle between El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle as a result of King Darzin seeking revenge on El-ahrairah after the latter steals the former's lettuce (See chapter fifteen, "The Story of the King's Lettuce") and after the latter frees his comrade, Rabscuttle, from the imprisonment of the former. During the telling of the story, Dandelion provides a description of the identity and purpose of the Black Rabbit of Inle:
". . . El-ahrairah realized in his heart that if there was one creature anywhere who might have the will and certainly had the power to destroy his enemies, it was the Black Rabbit of Inle. For he was a rabbit, and yet more powerful than King Darzin a thousand times over. But the thought made El-ahrairah sweat and shudder, so that he had to crouch down where he was in the run. . . . Now, as you all know, the Black Rabbit of Inle is fear and everlasting darkness. He is a rabbit, but he is that cold, bad dream from which we can only entreat Lord Frith to save us today and tomorrow. When the snare is set in the gap, the Black Rabbit knows where the peg is driven; and when the weasel dances, the Black Rabbit is not far off. You all know how some rabbits seem just to throw their lives away between two jokes and a theft: but the truth is that their foolishness comes from the Black Rabbit, for it is by his will that they do not smell the dog or see the gun. The Black Rabbit brings sickness, too. Or again he will come in the night and call a rabbit by name: and then that rabbit must go out to him, even though he may be young and strong to save himself from any other danger. He goes with the Black Rabbit and leaves no trace behind. Some say that the black Rabbit hates us and wants our destruction. But the truth is--or so they taught me--that he too, serves Lord Frith and does no more than his appointed task--to bring about what must be. We come in to the world and we have to go: but we do not go merely to serve the turn of one enemy or another. If that were so, we would all be destroyed in a day. We go by the will of the Black Rabbit of Inle and only by his will. And though that will seems hard and bitter to us all, yet in his way he is our protector, for he knows Frith's promise to the rabbits and he will avenge any rabbit who may chance to be destroyed without the consent of himself. Anyone who has seen a gamekeeper's gibbet knows what the Black Rabbit can bring down on elil who think they will do what they will." (Avon Paperback ed. 280-281)
Dandelion also states that the Black Rabbit lives in a burrow, has an Owsla, speaks with "the voice of water that falls into pools in echoing places in the dark," can be bargained with, and that the Black Rabbit does not wish any rabbit to suffer but has to allow it as a result of his office under the servitude of Frith (Avon Paperback ed. 283-284)
From this passage, the reader learns that the Black Rabbit, acting as an avenger, can destroy the enemies of rabbits. From the reaction of El-ahrairah after considering the power of the Black Rabbit, the reader also learns that the Black Rabbit is greatly respected and feared by the vast majority of rabbits if not all rabbits. The reader also learns that the Black Rabbit is associated with "everlasting darkness," which is a reference to death and eternal closure to lapine life. Furthermore, rabbits can pray to Frith in hope of being saved from being selected by the Black Rabbit for death. It is also clear that the Black Rabbit serves Frith as the agent that brings about lapine deaths (Cf. Medieval image of the Grim Reaper, Death personified as an agent of destiny and fate) and he is not partial to rabbits, whether their lives be dominated by virtue or vice; he simply carries out the grim task Frith gives him. Most importantly, Dandelion states that the Black Rabbit's will must be followed; when he calls a rabbit's name in the night, they must go to him.
Finally, the reader can infer divine status upon the Black Rabbit of Inle. Notice these two examples from the quoted text above: 1) ". . . he was a rabbit. . ."; 2) ". . . He is a rabbit . . ." (Avon Paperback ed. 280). Strangely, Dandelion states the existence of the Black Rabbit in both past and present tense. He also places emphasis and stress--note the italics--on the word is. This is certainly for a purpose. No specific answer is provided for the tense references or for the stress on is, but an educated inference can be made as to their meaning. How can something that was continue to be? This logical fallacy is the status of the Black Rabbit. It appears that the implied meaning here is to state that the Black Rabbit of Inle is an everlasting deity--a rabbit-god of times past, present, and future. Even the origin of the Black Rabbit, Inle, suggest divine status associated with the moon. Moreover, the stress on is appears to lend itself to Dandelion emphasizing the fear and respect a rabbit should have for the Black Rabbit of Inle who is ever-present and ready to select a rabbit unto death at the command of Frith.
From this, the reader gains a deeper perspective into chapter nineteen, "A Honeycomb and a Mouse." At the end of this chapter, the injured Holly finds Hazel's band of refugees after escaping the destruction of Sandleford warren and the brutality of Efrafa. Screaming for help, Holly screams, "'Thlayli! O Thlayli!?'" (Avon Paperback ed. 150). Bigwig, in horror, states, "'You have to go . . . You have to go when he calls you?'" (Ibid). Even though Hazel is unsure of the identity of the rabbit, it is clear, based upon Dandelion's description of his role in chapter thirty-one, that Bigwig is certain that the rabbit calling for him is the Black Rabbit of Inle.
This logically leads to the central question surrounding Hazel's demise. Many readers of Watership Down admire Hazel's seemingly virtuous life. It is hard for them to accept that such a heroic rabbit as Hazel can be taken by the Black Rabbit of Inle. They, in turn, would rather believe that it is El-ahrairah that comes for Hazel in The Epilogue. Adams describes the scene like this:
One chilly, blustery morning in March, I cannot tell exactly how many springs later, Hazel was dozing and waking in his burrow. He had spent a good deal of time there lately, for he felt the cold and could not seem to smell or run so well as in days gone by. He had been dreaming in a confused way--something about rain and elder bloom--when he woke to realized that there was a rabbit lying quietly beside him?no doubt some young buck who had come to ask his advice. The sentry in the run outside should not really have let him in without asking first. Never mind, thought Hazel. He raised his head and said, "Do you want to talk to me?" "Yes, that's what I've come for," replied the other. "You know me, don't you?" "Yes, of course," said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger's ears were shining with a faint silver light. "Yes, my lord," he said. "Yes, I know you." "You've been feeling tired," said the stranger, "but I can do something about that. I've come to ask whether you'd care to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you and you'd enjoy it. If you're ready, we might go along now." They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. The sun was shinning and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay, keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses. "You needn't worry about them," said his companion. "They'll be all right--and thousands like them. If you'll come along, I'll show you what I mean." He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom. (Avon Paperback ed. 480-481)
In this final passage in the novel, a rabbit calls the aged Hazel from the darkness of Hazel's burrow to join his Owsla. Hazel identifies the rabbit, consents with some reservation to go with him, and leaves his physical body behind as both companions leap away together across the downs.
Based upon the previous conclusions, it is clear that Hazel's visitor is the Black Rabbit of Inle. Just as Bigwig, in chapter nineteen, knew to listen to the call of the Black Rabbit so the reader finds Hazel in the same situation. It is impossible for this visitor to be El-ahrairah because El-ahrairah is not divine or eternal but mortal and deceased. However, there is evidence that lends to conclude that the Black Rabbit is divine and eternal. The most conclusive evidence is that no other character is so closely associated with death than the Black Rabbit of Inle; it is a major sense of his being and purpose under Frith. Moreover, the summons is to join an Owsla, which the Black Rabbit of Inle possesses, and the summons comes from the night--the darkness of the burrow. Finally, Hazel is also powerless to refuse the will of the visitor, just as Dandelion and Bigwig described a rabbit would be when the Black Rabbit of Inle calls a rabbits name. All these descriptions of Hazel's visitor are directly parallel to the descriptions of the Black Rabbit of Inle in the novel. Therefore, there can be no doubt that it is the Black Rabbit of Inle, not El-ahrairah, that summons and accompanies Hazel at the closure of Hazel's life and at the closure of Watership Down.
Introduction--The Heroic Warrior Archetype as a Model of Dualistic Psychology
Whether in novel or poetic form, the archetype of the heroic warrior is found within numerous works of fiction. Such examples
of this archetype include Beowulf and Milton's Satan. Depending upon one's perspective, the heroic warrior is either edified as
a great figure who fights for the cause of social reconstruction and defends the helpless or is hated as an ndisciplined rebel
whose destructive forces undermine the predominate convictions of society. Moreover, it is also possible for both positive and
negative assessments to coexist, exposing dualistic forces shaping the heroic warrior's personality. In the case of Milton's Satan,
this dualistic perspective is evident by the presence of positive and negative personality traits battling each other for supremacy.
An analysis of Milton's Satan reveals a champion of social reconstruction, but also, through his rebellion, an enterpriser of social
evil. Yet, who defines what is good and what is evil? Whether or not you view Milton's Satan as good or evil depends upon
your bias about whether his rebellion against his authority is justified. In other words, viewing Milton's Satan as a champion of
justice and social change is also stating Milton's God is a tyrannical despot. On the other hand, if Milton's Satan is evil for
inciting an unjustified and reckless mutiny, Milton's God is just, moral, and correct in his attempts to punish his unruly
No matter what your stance, there is some truth in each argument. However, the truth found in each argument proves the
existence of their being within the context of dualism. The same analysis given here to Milton's Satan can also be given to Richard Adams,' General Woundwort. If one analyzes the common
characteristics associated with the archetypal role of the heroic warrior within literature, good and evil, or what is commonly
considered as such, exist intertwined within the heart and will of the character. Therefore, establishing that a literary heroic
warrior can hold a duelist personality, the aim of this paper is to compare the character
of General Woundwort with the dominate characteristics of the literary heroic warrior. Beginning from what is most commonly
considered good to what is evil, the heroic warrior's personality undergoes progressive changes from birth until death.
Woundwort's dualistic personality undergoes the same process. Analysis of him will reveal his personality and its changes and will allow for proposals
arguing whether or not Woundwort is a model for good or a model for evil. To do this, four sections will be addressed outlining
the origins and rise to power of the heroic warrior, the zenith of his career, his eventual downfall, and his immortal presence
Woundwort--Origins and Rise to Power
Literary heroic warriors are commonly born to prominent parents. However, they are plagued by circumstances that frequently
foretell the tragic death of their fathers (Sellier 558). At times, the entire family succumbs to some tragedy leaving the child
stranded and alone. However, some agent of salvation preserves the life of the child and nurtures them back to health (Sellier
558). A look into Woundwort's origins also begins here. Woundwort is born the strongest of a litter of five. His father is a
"happy-go-lucky and reckless buck" who is brave enough to live near humans. He also enjoys his ability to outwit humans and
steal from their gardens, but he miscalculates the risks involved in such endeavors. Tired of him ruining his crop, a cottager kills
Woundwort's father using a shotgun. Just like the typical heroic warrior, Woundwort loses his father to tragedy. However, the
tragedy does not stop at his father's death, but Woundwort's mother and siblings also succumb to the wrath of the cottager and
elil. As a helpless kitten, Woundwort finds himself alone and frightened. However, like most heroic warriors, Woundwort
survives the family crisis through the intervention of an agent of salvation. Ironically, for Woundwort, his savior is human, an old
schoolmaster who nurses him back to health (Adams 313-314).
During his stay in the care of the schoolmaster, Woundwort begins to exhibit the most prominent defining characteristics of the
heroic warrior--the ability to succeed in endeavors through great courage and wondrous works despite the odds against him
(Moore &Gillette 78-79, 82, 94; Sellier 557-559). As he matures, Woundwort becomes very strong and powerful. He refuses
to be domesticated, and begins to literally bite the hand that feeds him. Woundwort also becomes a fierce and skilled fighter. In
a fantastic and unnatural feat, Woundwort nearly kills the schoolmaster's cat, and he eventually uses his brute strength to escape
from human contact by tearing open the wire holding him within his hutch. Though unfamiliar with life in the wild, Woundwort
survives the open fields and elil until he stumbles upon a warren (Adams 314; Cf. Bigwig's comments 373).
Heroic warriors crave power, and their wondrous accomplishments allow for the obtainment of power. Their greatness wins
the praises of others, and they are frequently encouraged to become political leaders. Moreover, this rise to political office
commonly results in the forced removal or death of an incumbent ruler (Sellier 559). After Woundwort discovers a warren,
through his ferociousness, he forces them to accept him. Shortly after, he wins the admiration of many rabbits allowing him
enough political support to instigate a coup against a political opponent named Fiorin and the incumbent Chief Rabbit resulting
in both of their deaths. Yet, Woundwort is not satisfied with his new status, but rather envisions a greater society for all rabbits
where the focal enemy, humanity, can be avoided and outwitted. Here begins Woundwort's will for social reconstruction
Woundwort--At His Zenith
All great heroic warriors are devoted to a cause that they feel is just, and its fulfillment is more important than their own selfish
desires and survival. For the heroic warrior, duty is defined by aiding others through the fulfillment of a cause, and its fulfillment
will result in a great new civilized order. However, its fulfillment can only be achieved through cunning wit and fierce
self-discipline, and if the new civilized order is established, the heroic warrior is celebrated as the savior of his people (Moore
&Gillette 78, 83-86, 92; Sellier 559).
Resulting from his childhood experiences, Woundwort grows to hate humanity. Humans are the greatest threat to the rabbit,
and unless they are avoided and outwitted, they will destroy all the children of El-ahrairah. Therefore, Woundwort feels he must
increase his power and that of his fellow rabbits if they are to frustrate the conspiracies of their enemies. Following his vision,
Woundwort leaves his newly acquired warren with his most loyal followers to establish a new warren that will end the threat of
humanity. This is Woundwort's self-induced purpose in life, and it leads to the establishment of Efrafa (Adams 315).
Efrafa is Woundwort's crowning achievement. A feat of ingenious and cunning ingenuity, Efrafa is designed with the focal goal
of avoiding humans but it is also engineered to be ompletely invisible to all possible enemies. However, fantastic structural
engineering is not enough to fulfill Woundwort's dream. He needs a fixed internal stability and security that are only achieved
through a disciplinarian order. He must prohibit any movement outside of Efrafa, because such movement will attract enemies
and expose the warren (Adams 245-247).
Therefore, Woundwort heeds the advice of his Council and adopts "the Marks" system. Acting first as a system of
identification, "the Marks" system affects all rabbits within the
warren and functions efficiently through their loyalty and cooperation. Each mark (group of rabbits) is headed by members of
the military--the Owsla--including a Captain with his officers and sentries whose duty is to carry out the policies of Woundwort
and his Council. Moreover, there is another branch of the Owsla containing the trackers, spies, and messengers. They are
commonly posted in "Wide Patrols," or expedition parties that roam the outskirts of Efrafa
reporting all news they find to Woundwort. These patrols became the training camps for the Owsla and the best chance for
advancement into higher ranks. The final division of the Owsla is the Council police force, or Owslafa. Their duty is to hold
internal order within Efrafa, to hold prisoners, to punish and execute prisons, and to act as a last defense in case of an invasion
(Adams 244-251, 315-317, 321, 325-326, 328).
In its completion, Efrafa appears invulnerable and its Owsla invincible. Continuing his role as the heroic warrior, Woundwort
creates the strongest bulwark against elil ever know to rabbits. The Efrafans are proud rabbits, and Woundwort is hailed as the
greatest rabbit second to El-ahrairah himself. He is truly the savior of his people and the children of El-ahrairah.
Woundwort--Downfall of a Champion
Continuing to fulfill his role as the heroic warrior, Woundwort falls from grace into the grips of the "Shadow Warrior." Here,
negative forces begin to overtake the just cause of social reconstruction. When a heroic warrior reaches his zenith of power, he frequently begins worshiping the self; this is the cult of
personality. At this stage, the heroic warrior begins to see himself as godlike. An obsession with power grows greater than ever
before, and pride in oneself reaches previously unattainable heights. The heroic warrior becomes emotionally detached from his
people while losing his sense of moral consciousness. While the mind hungers for more conquest, the elements of everyday life
are ignored as banal and unimportant. However, the people under such rule eventually take notice. Their leader is always on
display as an example, and if they feel their society is undergoing a change for the worse, rumors of
rebellion erupt (Moore & Gillette 83-85, 87-94; Sellier 557, 559-560).
Woundwort's apex of power begins to crumble when he and his Council are unable to end the problem of overcrowding.
Miscalculations and erroneous decisions on this matter cost Efrafa dearly. It begins with Hyzenthlay's petition to Woundwort
and the Council to allow some Efrafan does to form an expedition and establish a new warren. However, fearing that hlessi will
draw elil attention to Efrafa and expose it, the Council and Woundwort refuse to grant her
request. As numbers rise, the crowded pregnant does are unable to bear their litters. This leads to harsh resentment of the
Owsla, and rumors of a break-out. (Adams 247, 318, 327, 331).
Woundwort's indifference and detachment from the complaints about overcrowding are not his only errors. He and his Council
also practice discrimination and racism. Enter the story of Blackavar. Strong and ambitious, Blackavar seeks to imitate his
father by becoming an Owsla officer. However, he consciously holds some reservations about the ruthless nature of the
Efrafans. However, more importantly, since his mother came from a foreign warren, the Council and Woundwort viewed him
as "tainted" with the blood of a non-Efrafan. He is a half-breed, and this status frequently resulted in other "full blooded"
Efrafans being selected over him for Owsla posts and honors. In his anger, Blackavar unites with Hyzenthlay and other does
who seek to form a new warren. When the Council and Woundwort refuse their petition, Blackavar calls for a plan of escape.
Though his first attempt fails, Blackavar increases Woundwort's troubles with his successful allegiance and escape with Bigwig
and the runaway does. After this event, rumors of rebellion become reality for Woundwort (Adams 391-392).
Simultaneously, Woundwort is also experiencing problems with his Owsla. Partly resulting from the intervention of the
Sandleford rabbits and the chance occurrence involving the train on the Iron Road, Woundwort's Owsla finds itself lacking
capable leaders. Within days, Efrafa loses three captains?Bugloss, Charlock, and Mallow, and concerned and hungry to hold
order, Woundwort and the Council carelessly grant a new hlessi, Bigwig, a post within the Efrafan Owsla. However, this is just
what Bigwig is hoping for, and immediately he begins using his position to seek out Hyzenthlay and all others who wish to
escape from Efrafa. When the escape becomes a success at the riverbank, Woundwort suffers his first defeat (Adams
318, 321-322, 326, 330-332).
The shame and embarrassment of the defeat will not allow Woundwort to rest. He becomes completely obsessed with
regaining his reputation by holding to a previous vow to kill Bigwig himself and returning the runaway does back to Efrafa.
However, his intense desire to fulfill this vow clouds Woundwort's once perceptive and acute thinking that built and established
Efrafa. After Kehaar's attack upon the group, his Owsla's morale is considerably lower than its previous heights. Woundwort
finds himself constantly having to reassure his soldiers, trying to silence their superstitious beliefs regarding Bigwig and Kehaar.
Moreover, Woundwort's failure to kill Kehaar and to stop the break-out surprises his officers allowing room for doubt to arise about his invincibility. Nevertheless, Woundwort still possesses the ability to hold order among his troops. However, by this
time, the Owsla has become aware of the General's reckless obsession to destroy Bigwig, and their loyalty to him increasingly
becomes a reaction not of admiration but of fear. Despite the possibility of another break-out from Efrafa, the low morale of his
officers, the possibility of heavy losses, and the Council's disapproval, Woundwort sets out with twenty-six or seven rabbits to
annihilate his enemy. Woundwort's desire to be a god will be his Waterloo (Adams 369, 374, 421-428).
The decision to set out for the Downs becomes very costly for the Efrafans. The trek is long and harsh, and the Owsla's already
low moral sinks lower with fatigue. However, Woundwort's strength, passion, and sense of purpose is still able to hold their
attention and allegiance. Nevertheless, their final undoing begins with Woundwort's rejection of Hazel's proposal to come to
terms before the siege of the Honeycomb. With the Watership Down rabbits dug in, the Efrafan Owsla is forced to risk their
lives digging them out. Resentment of Woundwort continues to grow, and the superstitions surrounding the image of Bigwig and
Kehaar revive when some members hear Fiver's prophetic cries emanating from the depths of the Honeycomb. Again,
Woundwort is forced to reassure his Owsla of their upcoming victory. However, after Woundwort is severely injured in his
battle with Bigwig, the Efrafan Owsla suddenly realizes that Woundwort is not a god, but rather a rabbit just like them. With
Hazel's ingenious plan to lure the farmer's dog to the Honeycomb, upon sight of the beast, Woundwort's most trusted and loyal
officer refuses to obey the blind madness of the General. In the closing scene, Captain Campion decides to think in the best
interest of the Owsla when he shouts, "Run. . . .Run for your lives!" Immediately, the scales fall from the eyes of the Efrafan
Owsla, and all bolt for safety abandoning the General. In his obsession and despite the reality of the circumstance, Woundwort
refuses to back down from this fight. He recalls all his past glories and victories, and he feels this one will not be any different.
As the farmer's dog locks eyes with Woundwort, his Owsla could ". . . hear the General's raging, squealing cry, ?Come back,
you fools! Dogs aren't dangerous! Come back and fight!'" A victim of his own heroic abilities, pride, and blind obsession,
Woundwort lost his kingdom, his soldiers, and his life (Adams 423-428, 431, 436-444, 448-460).
Woundwort--The Immortal Deity--Closing Comments
No rabbit is certain whether or not the General was killed by the dog, because his body was never found. Rumors spread
among Efrafa and the Honeycomb that he still lived. Some thought him to be living as strong as or stronger than he had at
Efrafa. This belief in Woundwort cheating death points to the final stage of the heroic warrior's role?his immortality through the
creation of myths. Mysteries surrounding the death of a great heroic warrior and death's association with unexplainable spiritual
and sacred matters frequently lead to the creation of myths about a heroic character. Though the heroic warrior's status as a
godlike figure has suddenly been removed by circumstances suffered by animate beings--failure, illness, death--through the
creation of a myth, the heroic warrior continues his wondrous life within a spiritual and immortal context. Since in his previous
life he must have possessed some supernatural power to achieve his greatness, also in the next life, he is able to possess some
elements of his first existence. His influence, no matter what his bodily state, is felt in both spheres of life. The myth focuses on
the heroic warrior's genius, virtues, vices, victories, defeats and the strong wills he instilled within the hearts of his people and
himself. Though literally dead, he becomes a cultural folk hero like El-ahrairah that is full of life and ever-present within the lives
of the living (Ferrier-Caverivière 579, 581, 583-584).
The Efrafans and Watership Down rabbits create such a myth about Woundwort. Based upon their recollections of
Woundwort's greatness and the power he gave to his people, the myth-making begins with the former Efrafans who join the
Honeycomb after Woundwort's death. For example, discussing the General, Silver lashes out against his "unnatural" behavior
which resulted in all their strife and pain eventually leading to Woundwort's own death. He is about to praise Bigwig for
defeating the General when Groundsel quickly checks him by insisting the General is not dead. His response speaks on behalf
of most, if not all, the Efrafan officers:
"He hasn't stopped running," . . . "Did you see his body? No. Did anyone? No. Nothing could kill
him. He made rabbits bigger than they've ever been?braver, more skillful, more cunning. I know we
paid for it. Some gave their lives. It was worth it, to feel we were
Efrafans. For the first time ever, rabbits didn't go scurrying away. The elil feared us. And that was on
account of Woundwort?him and no one but him. We weren't good enough for the General. Depend
on it, he's gone to start another warren somewhere else. But no Efrafan officer will ever forget him"(Adams 473).
Is the General still alive? Could this heroic warrior be defeated? Did he really live on in a myth? It seems most believe as
Groundsel. As new litters filled the Honeycomb, mother rabbits tell their kittens the myth of Woundwort by focusing only upon
his seemly supernatural accomplishments and greatness. They tell of how he still lives somewhere over the Downs defeating all
types of elil and going to silflay in the sky instead of on the ground. Moreover, if there arises a great danger, he spiritually fights
on the side of those who honor his name. They also tell their kittens the General is the first cousin to the Black Rabbit himself,
and if they do not listen to what they are told, the General will get them. Adams closes, "Such was Woundwort's monument:
and perhaps it would not have displeased him" (Adams 473-475, 480).
Would this monument have displeased Woundwort? It does not appear so. Notice Groundsel's and the mothers' myth about
Woundwort focuses on his accomplishments and power, not his failures, errors, and miscalculations. Therefore, did the
Efrafans and Honeycomb mothers view Woundwort as a champion of good or of evil? As stated in the introduction, the heroic
warrior is either edified as a great figure who fights for a just cause and defends the helpless or is hated as an undisciplined rebel
whose destructive forces undermine the predominate convictions of others. It is possible for both assessments of the heroic
warrior to coexist here too (Cf. The responses of Silver with Groundsel and the mothers--Note also Hazel's indifference to
Silver's slam of Woundwort). However, in the case of General Woundwort, such a cohabitation of positive and negative forces
do not exist in a constant battle against the other for supremacy, but his life and its purpose, for most rabbits, becomes a model
for dualistic balance. The lesson learned from Woundwort's myth is simple--strive for complete fulfillment in life, but remember
to do it in reason and in moderation. Excessive power breeds excessive compulsive personalities that cannot be managed.
When this type of personality is challenged and is shamed, it commonly results in disaster. However, the myth also speaks of
holding onto your dreams and working very hard to achieve them, but it also reminds you of your limitations. You are not a
god, nor are your people. In the end, Woundwort's myth holds him as the supreme model of courage, cunning, leadership,
power, self-discipline, and stability. Yet, he is also the rival equivalent to tyranny. The goal of future rabbits is to find the
balance between these personalities. This is truly Woundwort's monument.
Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York: Avon, 1972.
Ferrier-Caverivière, Nicole. "Historical Figures and Mythical Figures." Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes.
Ed. Pierre Brunel. Trans. Wendy Allatson, Judith Hayward, Trista Selous. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Moore, Robert and Gillette, Douglas. King Warrior Magician Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine.
San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.
Sellier, Philippe. "Heroism." Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes. Ed. Pierre Brunel. Trans. Wendy Allatson,
Judith Hayward, Trista Selous. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Captain Campion's Defense for Analytical Reasoning
I wish to address the concerns a few members of this list have about my analytical and argumentative approaches to Watership Down. The major concern is about my association and sometimes glorification of Woundwort, Campion, and Efrafa and my disassociation with Hazel and the Downs rabbits. This scares a few on this list and brings a heightened concern to others. My reason for doing so does not stem from any attempt to try to say without any doubt that Hazel is superior to Woundwort or vice versa or Efrafa is superior to the Honeycomb, but rather it is a result of me intentionally playing devil's advocate for that element of the human mind Freud calls the Id (commonly associated with evil), so people will think deeply about why their superego makes certain judgements and conclusions on various issues of controversy. Now, time for a quick primer in Freud. Lets observe some clarity to these terms taken from this link whose founder I give all credit to: http://www.corjesu.pvt.k12.mo.us/students/brave/frued.html
The id is the place were ones mind stores its instinctual urges. The id is what newborn's use to survive, by responding to the instinctual urges for food and water. The id seeks immediate gratification with no regard for consequences.
The ego, which begins to develop at age two or three, is the rational, thoughtful personality process. The ego keeps the id under control. If the id has the urge to sleep the ego will be the part to realize that it is not the right time or place and control the urge until it is an a proper time to sleep.
The superego is the part of the personality that has moral reasoning. It is the part of the personality that tells a person the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes the superego can cause problem by feeling overly guilty.
Back to the issues at hand. I never said that Woundwort's Efrafa was an ideal society (sigh). It had its flaws as much as any other. However, I do admire the discipline, order, structure, and sense of communal pride and dedication most of the rabbits had for each other, especially the Owsla's sense of fraternal brotherhood. I think it is a beautiful thing to see so many individuals working for a common goal. Of course, we hope that goal is ethical. These misunderstandings of my "uncommon" argumentative positions stem from my intense desire to again, play the "devil's advocate."
Why do I do it? It is simply to make people think beyond surface rational and logic. I want them to really assess all the sides of an issue before they jump to conclusions. My personal philosophy on all issues, in most cases, is that all sides of an issue hold elements of ethical and unethical standards. You may be thinking Yin-Yang here, and you are not far off. I believe that human nature at its unchecked base level is totally self-serving and evil (The Id), and I personally believe that only faith and logical reasoning can overcome such evil. However, humanity can never fully destroy this nature. I turn again to the example of Freud, whom I agree with, for the most part, on this issue. He argues the same thing as me. That is not to say that the Id cannot be limited in its levels of control. The Id can and must be checked by the ego and the superego. This produces ethical behavior.
Woundwort and Efrafa was highly dominated by the principle of Woundwort's desire for personal power, an element of the Id. I think most of us will agree that absolute power corrupts absolutely (Superego working here in us). However, there are parts my superego that feels there exists in Efrafa a sense of sound moral principles such as order, discipline, and structure. Whether you feel the strict style of life in Efrafa is ethical or not depends on the rationality of your superego. I feel there are universal truths that directly outline what is ethically "black" and "white," but our imperfect interpretation of these perfect truths leads to a glorification of misreadings and misunderstandings, what I term the "grey." Philosophers continue to struggle to understand this "grey" as either "black" or "white." Yet, it is our personal superego's interpretations of the "grey" that results in our differing convictions on any issue, whether it is over Watership Down or whatever. It is my goal, acting in the role of "devil's advocate" to make you think about why you choose to classify originally "grey" ethical areas of your logical reasoning into "black" or "white" (e. g. Woundwort = Bad rabbit = ethically black; Woundwort = Good rabbit = ethically white; Woundwort possessing both bad and good qualities = ethically grey). Now, my goal is to make you reexamine your position on any issue. If you are seeing any issue as "black" or "white," it is my goal to pull you back into the "grey," by making you think again and again and again about your position on any matter and why you chose that position.
As I will tell my high school students: 1) I want you to think; 2) I want you to think hard; 3) I want you to think deeply; 4) I want you to understand yourself in the best manner possible. Why? Self-examination will make you a better person and a better citizen of your state and of the world. That is my stance on all the matters in this discussion forum.
ALL THE BEST TO YOU!
Irony, Hypocrisy, or Literary Mistake--A New Critical Note on Hazel's Band
As you know, those warrens--the Warren of Shinning Wires and Efrafa--within the novel attempting to reach beyond their created purpose and role under Frith, causing them to be "unnatural," are punished by Frith, fate, or whatever you feel is the source. However, Hazel's band also displays elements of unnatural behavior, but they appear to escape punishment. Why?
One source to justify Hazel's band against the Warren of Shining Wires and Efrafa is their shared policy of rejecting and deleting from their lives those things thought "unnatural." For example, note in the Warren of Shining Wires, Laburnum creates a type of "rabbit art" working with stones. Such art confuses Hazel, because it is strange and "unnatural" to rabbit behavior (Avon Ed. Paperback 91-93). The same applies for Hazel's and Blackberry's reaction to Cowslip's laughter, another unnatural trait belonging to Man (93-94). There is also Fiver's rejection of rabbits carrying carrots like "Dogs--you're like dogs carrying sticks" (101).
However, notice the Efrafan refugees under Bigwig ride on a boat, an invention of Man (See Fiver's vision, 23-24 & Cf. to Chapter 39). Moreover, Hazel rides in a hrududu (465-466, 469-470--note Hyzenthlay's reaction to Bigwig's plan that is full of "things of men" 336). There are other occurrences too, but you see the point--they were not punished for their unnatural behavior.
Well, what is it that gives Hazel's band higher providence over the rabbits of the Warren of Shining Wires and the Efrafans? It is ironic that the Hazel's rabbits vocally oppose things unnatural to rabbits but in practice constantly exercise their knowledge of the unnatural. Could it be they are just plain hypocritical (Note Bigwig's clearly hypocritical statement to Woundwort about him not being "fit to be called a rabbit" because of his unnatural tyrannical practices and his Owsla "bullies" when at the very same moment he is using an "unnatural" means of attack against the Efrafans, in the use of Kehaar, who appears in the "claw of lightning" 368)? Yet, this does not explain why the Downs rabbits fair better than the other warrens at the end of the novel. I say Richard Adams clearly made a literary error here of not maintaining the consistency of punishment resulting from unnatural practices. Hazel's band is just as guilty as the others of unnatural practices. What do you think?