Watership Down Quotes

25 of the best book quotes from Watership Down
“Bigwig was right when he said he wasn’t like a rabbit at all,” said Holly. “He was a fighting animal—fierce as a rat or a dog. He fought because he actually felt safer fighting than running. He was brave, all right. But it wasn’t natural; and that’s why it was bound to finish him in the end. He was trying to do something that Frith never meant any rabbit to do. I believe he’d have hunted like the elil if he could.”
Richard Adams
Watership Down
“Here and there one sat upright on an ant heap and looked about, with ears erect and nose in the wind. But a blackbird, singing undisturbed on the outskirts of the wood, showed that there was nothing alarming there, and in the other direction, along the brook, all was plain to be seen, empty and quiet. The warren was at peace.”
“What Robin Hood is to the English and John Henry to the American Negroes, Elil-Hrair-Rah, or El-ahrairah—The Prince with a Thousand Enemies—is to rabbits. Uncle Remus might well have heard of him, for some of El-ahrairah’s adventures are those of Brer Rabbit. For that matter, Odysseus himself might have borrowed a trick or two from the rabbit hero, for he is very old and was never at a loss for a trick to deceive his enemies.”
“Once, so they say, he had to get home by swimming across a river in which there was a large and hungry pike. El-ahrairah combed himself until he had enough fur to cover a clay rabbit, which he pushed into the water. The pike rushed at it, bit it and left it in disgust. After a little, it drifted to the bank and El-ahrairah dragged it out and waited a while before pushing it in again. After an hour of this, the pike left it alone, and when it had done so for the fifth time, El-ahrairah swam across himself and went home. Some rabbits say he controls the weather, because the wind, the damp and the dew are friends and instruments to rabbits against their enemies.”
“For the first time, Hazel began to realize how much they had left behind. The holes and tunnels of an old warren become smooth, reassuring and comfortable with use. There are no snags or rough corners. Every length smells of rabbit—of that great, indestructible flood of Rabbitry in which each one is carried along, sure-footed and safe. The heavy work has all been done by countless great-grandmothers and their mates.”
“Then his sense of adventure and mischief prompted him. He would go himself and bring back some news before they even knew that he had gone. That would give Bigwig something to bite on.”
“At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no more than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate. For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit’s idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him.”
“The rabbits became strange in many ways, different from other rabbits. They knew well enough what was happening. But even to themselves they pretended that all was well, for the food was good, they were protected, they had nothing to fear but the one fear; and that struck here and there, never enough at a time to drive them away. They forgot the ways of wild rabbits. They forgot El-ahrairah, for what use had they for tricks and cunning, living in the enemy’s warren and paying his price?”
“A rabbit has two ears; a rabbit has two eyes, two nostrils. Our two warrens ought to be like that. They ought to be together—not fighting. We ought to make other warrens between us—start one between here and Efrafa, with rabbits from both sides. You wouldn’t lose by that, you’d gain. We both would. A lot of your rabbits are unhappy now and it’s all you can do to control them, but with this plan you’d soon see a difference. Rabbits have enough enemies as it is. They ought not to make more among themselves. A mating between free, independent warrens—what do you say?”
“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 upon it, he’s gone to start another warren somewhere else. But no Efrafan officer will ever forget him.”
“El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”
“I have learned that with creatures one loves, suffering is not the only thing for which one may pity them. A rabbit who does not know when a gift has made him safe is poorer than a slug, even though he may think otherwise himself.”
“They’d altered what rabbits do naturally because they thought they could do better...You say buck rabbits don’t dig...But they could if they wanted to. suppose we had deep, comfortable burrows to sleep in? ...And there’s nothing to stop us from having them, except that buck rabbits won’t dig. Not can’t-won’t.”
“I think we ought to do all we can to make these creatures friendly. It might turn out to be well worth the trouble.”
“Hazel’s anxiety and the reason for it were soon known to all the rabbits and there was not one who did not realize what they were up against. There was nothing very startling in what he had said. He was simply the one—as a Chief Rabbit ought to be—through whom a strong feeling, latent throughout the warren, had come to the surface.”
“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.”
“He spoke very well about the decency and comradeship natural to animals. ‘Animals don’t behave like men,’ he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.‘”
″“Do you like it?” asked Strawberry. Hazel puzzled over the stones. They were all the same size, and pushed at regular intervals into the soil. He could make nothing of them. “What are they for?” he asked again.”
″“Hazel,” he said quickly, “that’s a piece of flat wood—like that piece that closed the gap by the Green Loose above the warren—you remember? It must have drifted down the river. So it floats. We could put Fiver and Pipkin on it and make it float again. It might go across the river. Can you understand?” Hazel had no idea what he meant. Blackberry’s flood of apparent nonsense only seemed to draw tighter the mesh of danger and bewilderment.”
“His father, a happy-go-lucky and reckless buck, had thought nothing of living close to human beings except that he would be able to forage in their garden in the early morning. He had paid dearly for his rashness.”
“The holes are all hidden and the Owsla have every rabbit in the place under orders. You can’t call your life your own: and in return you have safety—if it’s worth having at the price you pay.”
Bigwig and Hawkbit chased each other through the long grass. Speedwell jumped over the little brook that ran down the middle of the field and when Acorn tried to follow him and fell short, Silver joked with him as he scrambled out and rolled him in a patch of dead oak leaves until he was dry. As the sun rose higher, shortening the shadows and drawing the dew from the grass, most of the rabbits came wandering back to the sun-flecked shade among the cow parsley along the edge of the ditch. Here, Hazel and Fiver were sitting with Dandelion under a flowering wild cherry. The white petals spun down around them, covering the grass and speckling their fur, while thirty feet above a thrush sang, “Cherry dew, cherry dew. Knee deep, knee deep, knee deep.”″
“Most of them had not understood Blackberry’s discovery of the raft and at once forgot it. Fiver, however, came over to where Blackberry was lying against the stem of a blackthorn in the hedge. “You saved Pipkin and me, didn’t you?” he said. “I don’t think Pipkin’s got any idea what really happened; but I have.” “I admit it was a good idea,” replied Blackberry. “Let’s remember it. It might come in handy again sometime.”″
“To rabbits, everything unknown is dangerous. The first reaction is to startle, the second to bolt. Again and again they startled, until they were close to exhaustion. But what did these sounds mean and where, in this wilderness, could they bolt to?”
“All were subdued and doubtful at heart. Like the pain of a bad wound, the effect of a deep shock takes some while to be felt. When a child is told, for the first time in his life, that a person he has known is dead, although he does not disbelieve it, he may well fail to comprehend it and later ask—perhaps more than once—where the dead person is and when he is coming back. When Pipkin had planted in himself, like some somber tree, the knowledge that Hazel would never return, his bewilderment exceeded his grief: and this bewilderment he saw on every side among his companions.”

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