Long ago, the great Frith made the world. He made all the stars, and the world lived among the stars. Frith made all the animals and birds, and at first, he made them all the same. Now, among the animals was El-ahrairah, the prince of rabbits. He had many friends, and they all ate grass together. But after a time, the rabbits wandered everywhere, multiplying and eating as they went. Then Frith said to El-ahrairah, "Prince Rabbit, if you cannot control your people, I shall find ways to control them." But El-ahrairah would not listen and said to Frith, "My people are the strongest in the world." This angered Frith, so he determined to get the better of El-ahrairah. He gave a present to every animal and bird, making each one different from the rest. When the fox came, and others, like the dog and the cat, the hawk, and the weasel—to each of them, Frith gave a fierce desire to hunt and slay the children of El-ahrairah. Then El-ahrairah knew that Frith was too clever for him, and he was frightened. He had never before seen the black rabbit of death. "My friend," said Frith, "have you seen El-ahrairah? For I wish to give him a gift." [as El-ahrairah] "Uhh... no... I-I-I have not seen him." So Frith said, "Come out and I will bless you instead." [as El-ahrairah] "No, I cannot, I am busy. The fox and weasel are coming. If you want to bless me, you'll have to bless my bottom." [as Frith] "Very well. Be it so." And El-ahrairah's tail grew shining white and flashed like a star. And his back legs grew long and powerful. And he tore across the hill, faster than any creature in the world. [as Frith] "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 a Swift Warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed."
General Woundwort's body was never found. It could be that he still lives his fierce life somewhere else, but from that day on, mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them. Such was Woundwort's monument, and perhaps it would not have displeased him.
Bigwig: [Mocking Fiver's prophecies] But I'm in a mist! Everything's bad! Oh, I've got a funny feeling in my toe!
General Woundwort: [after Kehaar attacks him] Get away, you damned white bird!
The Cat: [catching Hazel] Can you run? I think not... I think not...
Frith: All the world will be your enemy, Prince With a Thousand Enemies. And when 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 will never be destroyed.
General Woundwort: Come back, you fools! Come back and fight! Dogs aren't dangerous!
Fiver: There's something very queer about the warren this evening...
Hazel: Is it dangerous?
Fiver: It's not exactly danger, it's... oh, I don't know. Something oppressive... like thunder.
Bigwig: Hazel? It is Hazel, isn't it?
Hazel: It is.
Bigwig: What are you doing here?
Hazel: [Motioning to Fiver] We want to see the chief rabbit, Bigwig.
Bigwig: We? You mean he wants to see him too?
Fiver: I must.
Hazel: Look, Bigwig, when have I EVER asked to see the chief rabbit?
Bigwig: [Thinks over, hesitating] All right, all right. Wait here.
[He goes into warren, speaks to Chief Rabbit for a moment, comes back up]
Bigwig: Come along then. Though I'll probably get my ears chewed off for this...
Violet: [Running from a badger] It had just killed. I saw blood on it's lips.
Dandelion: Lucky for us it had, otherwise it might have been quicker!
Bigwig: There's a dog loose in the woods!
Silver: Oh, that does it!
Pipkin: [while all are digging in the rain] What's happening back home, I wonder? Think, when we lived in our own burrows? Dry, soft, warm bodies...
Dandelion: [to Hazel] Look, we can't go on like this.
Silver: It keeps getting worse and worse wherever we go. Where ARE we going?
Hazel: It won't be much longer, then we can all rest.
Silver: How MUCH longer?
Pipkin: We never should have left.
Blackberry: Suppose Fiver's all wrong?
Pipkin: We want to go back and find out.
Hazel: Go back? After all we've been through?
Bigwig: And probably get killed for wounding Captain Holly? An Owsla officer? Talk sense, for Frith's sake!
Hazel: Where are you going?
Fiver: Away, to the hills.
Hazel: By yourself, alone? You'll die!
Fiver: You're closer to death than I am.
Hazel: [Bigwig is being strangled in a snare] Bigwig! Listen, you're in a snare! A snare! And what did they tell you in Owsla? Think!
[Hazel tries to chew the wire loose]
Bigwig: No good biting wire...
Fiver: [they believe Bigwig to be dead] You pay for it! The food, the warren! But no one must ever ask where anyone was or speak of the wires! The whole placed is snared! Everywhere, every day!
Silver: They left Bigwig to die!
Dandelion: Silver's right!
Silver: Let's drive them out, take their warren and live there ourselves!
Blackberry: Back to the warren!
Pipkin: Yes! Yes! Yes, back to the warren!
Fiver: Embleer Frith, you fools! That warren's nothing but a death hole! Yes, let's help ourselves to a roof of bones!
Bigwig: [waking up, still choking] I'll kill them.
Holly: [to Fiver] I remember you. You're the one that saw it coming.
Pipkin: But what happened?
Holly: Our warren, destroyed!
Silver: Destroyed? How?
Holly: Men came. Filled in the burrows. Couldn't get out. There was a strange sound. Hissing. The air turned bad. Runs blocked with dead bodies. I couldn't get out. Everything turned mad. Warren, herbs, roots, grass, all pushed into the earth.
Hazel: Men have always hated us.
Holly: No. They just destroyed the warren because we were in their way.
General Woundwort: Your name?
Hyzenthlay: Hyzenthlay, sir.
General Woundwort: I'll be frank with you. You're safe here. Well, get on with it!
Hyzenthlay: Sir, several of us propose an expedition for...a new warren. Somewhere else.
General Woundwort: A new warren?! Out of the question!
Hyzenthlay: Oh, but you don't understand. The system is breaking down.
General Woundwort: Explain that.
Hyzenthlay: Some of us can't produce litters; we're overcrowded.
General Woundwort: I want no further discussion about it!
Hyzenthlay: We'll go as far as you like!
General Woundwort: Here or anywhere else!
Hyzenthlay: I... [she is approached threateningly by Captain Campion] Thank you, sir. [leaves]
General Woundwort: Campion, have her watched.
Dandelion: [looking at the countryside from Watership Down] O Frith on the hills! He made it all for us!
Hazel: Frith may have made it, but Fiver found it.
[The rabbits first meet Kehaar the seagull]
Hazel: Are you hurt?
Kehaar: KAH, KAH!
Hazel: Bigwig, I've got an idea. See if you can find some worms--
Bigwig: Worms? What for, for Frith's sake?
Kehaar: [fiercely proud] I get up plenty soon!
Hazel: Well if he's hurt, maybe we ought to help him.
Bigwig: A bird? What for?
Hazel: [to Kehaar] We - help - you.
Kehaar: PISS OFF!!! What for help me?
[After the rabbits decide to ask Kehaar to find mates for them]
Kehaar: [sitting and musing in a burrow] What home? This hole? Where are mates? Where are chicks? Mate make eggs, mate sit on eggs, hatch eggs, many eggs. We feed chicks. Egg robbers come, we fight.
[Bigwig pounces on him from behind to get his attention]
Kehaar: YAAAAAAAAAH, YAAAAAAAAAAH!!! KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH, KAH!!! YOU STUPID BUNNIES! You got no mates! Where are mates?! WHERE ARE CHICKS?! Plenty trouble for you! You need MATES!
Bigwig: [whispering] It's working, Hazel.
Kehaar: You got no brains! You no plan! You need mates for plan! Listen - I got plan for you. Wing better. I go fly; fly for you. I find mates.
Hazel: What a splendid idea, Kehaar!
Blackberry: How clever of you to think of it. You very fine bird.
Blackberry: Fiver, there's been some trouble. Hazel's been shot.
Blackberry: The Black Rabbit serves Lord Frith, but he does no more than his appointed task.
Fiver: Hazel's not dead.
Hazel: Did you find anything on your flight?
Hazel: Can you guide us there?
Kehaar: Many rabbits. Too many rabbits.
Holly: The whole lot of us wouldn't be enough to fight one of their wide patrols.
Bigwig: What do you mean?
Holly: [shows Bigwig the scar on his shoulder] You see this? They did it to me. It's an identification mark. Tells you when you can be above ground.
Bigwig: What do you mean? Who's to stop you?
Holly: Their Owsla. Their chief is called Woundwort. General Woundwort. I don't think even you'd match up to him, Bigwig. Under him are captains, each one in charge of a Mark. If you're found above ground at the wrong time they take you before the Council for punishment.
Bigwig: Some of them must get away.
Holly: They caught one trying to run away when I was there. Blackavar was his name. When they'd finished with him, both his ears were ripped to shreds worse than this one of mine. He was lucky not to have been killed. There was another one, a doe, Hyzenthlay. I couldn't have escaped without her help.
Sliver: Why didn't she go with you?
Holly: She wouldn't go without the others.
Hazel: Then there are some that might be persuaded to leave?
Holly: Oh, yes. But you'd never get them out of Efrafa.
Dandelion: Well, you got out.
Holly: Only because Lord Frith sent one of his great messengers. [a flashback shows Holly running away from two Efrafans, the Efrafans are run over by a train and Holly rolls down a steep slope] I didn't see what happened to them. It must have cut them down.
Hazel: Well, it's not going to be easy, but I'm afraid we don't have much choice. We'll start off as soon as I'm fit to travel.
Holly: I don't like this idea of yours at all, Hazel.
Hazel: Holly, I want you to stay here. You're known to them and it could be dangerous for you.
Holly: I've been in Efrafa, and I tell you you're making a bad mistake that might very well get you all killed.
Bigwig: I'd like to talk with you.
Hyzenthlay: I'm in the Mark and under your orders, sir.
Bigwig: Do you remember a pale grey rabbit called Holly you helped escape some while ago?
Hyzenthlay: You've made a mistake, sir.
Bigwig: Listen, Hyzenthlay. Listen carefully. I'm from a warren where life is free. Where you can do is as you wish. I've come to bring you all out of Efrafa.
Hyzenthlay: You might be a spy, sent by the Council.
Bigwig: You know I'm not. Will you join us? And persuade your friends as well, trust me. My friends are not far away.
Hyzenthlay: [Voice is breaking] My courage, my... spirit is so much less than it was.
Bigwig: We can escape Efrafa. Believe me.
Hyzenthlay: Yes... I think I do.
Bigwig: Aren't you going to silflay?
Blackavar: I don't silflay at this time, sir.
Vervain: Tell him why you're here, Blackavar.
Blackavar: [Mumbles] I've come here for the Mark...
[Vervain swipes at him to make him speak up, and he does]
Blackavar: I... I... I've come here for the Mark to see me. I... I've been punished for trying to leave the warren.
Blackavar: The Council were merciful...
[Vervain threatens him again, and Blackavar cowers]
Blackavar: The Council were merciful.
Vervain: He keeps trying to run away. Captain Campion caught him this time. The Council ripped his ears and says he has to show himself every morning early silflay as an example to the others. If you ask me, he won't last much longer. He'll meet a blacker rabbit than himself one of these nights.
Bigwig: [meeting secretly with Kehaar, whispering] Listen carefully.
Kehaar: [none too quietly] YAAAAAAH!
Hyzenthlay: Sometimes I can tell when things are true. Sometimes... I can see it... The high down with trees, and... [shakes head] I've become foolish.
Bigwig: [referring to Fiver] You'll have to meet this friend of mine. He talks just like that.
Campion: The new officer, sir. He's gone.
General Woundwort: Bigwig?
Campion: He's wounded Chervil, taken a crowd of the Mark with him.
General Woundwort: Embleer Frith! I'll blind him. I'LL BLIND HIM!
[Confronting Bigwig leading a mass defection of Efrafans]
General Woundwort: Bigwig, you traitorous...! [to a subordinate] Captain, get this miserable group back to their Marks. I'll settle you myself, Bigwig. There's no need to take you back.
Bigwig: Come on and try, you cracked-brain slave driver!
Kehaar: KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!! KAH, KAH, KAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!![swoops down and attacks Woundwort]
General Woundwort: Get away! Blast you! Get away, you damn white bird!
General Woundwort: You were one of those on the riverbank. Did Bigwig send you?
Hazel: I'm a friend of Bigwig's.
General Woundwort: What was left unfinished on the riverbank will be finished now.
Hazel: It would be better for both of us if we could come to terms.
General Woundwort: Terms?... Very well. These are my terms. Hand over all the deserters immediately.
Hazel: We couldn't agree to that. But I can suggest something better, for both of us--
General Woundwort: [dangerous] You're in no position to bargain.
Hazel: We shouldn't be fighting each other. We have enough enemies as it is. Perhaps we should be together. A joining of free, independent warrens.
[Woundwort considers this]
General Woundwort: ... Ah, I have no time for this nonsense!
Campion: Shall I kill him, sir?
General Woundwort: No. [to Hazel] You take back our terms. And you tell your chief, Bigwig, that if he and Hyzenthlay and the others aren't waiting outside when I come for them, I'll tear out every throat in the place!
Hazel: Lord Frith, I know you've looked after us well, and it's wrong to ask even more of you. But my people are in terrible danger, and so I would like to make a bargain with you. My life in return for theirs.
Frith: There is not a day or night when a mother doe does not offer her life for her kittens, or an honest captain of Owsla his life for his chief's. But there is no bargain. What is, is what must be.
[After they've been fighting]
Bigwig: I told you once that I was trying to impress you... I hope I have.
General Woundwort: And I told you I would kill you myself! There's no white bird here, Bigwig!
General Woundwort: Why throw your life away?
Bigwig: Hraka, ... sir!
General Woundwort: Come out!
Bigwig: My chief has told me to defend this run.
General Woundwort: [Stunned] Your ... chief?
[Campion and the other Efrafans see the dog that Hazel and the others have unleashed on them]
Campion: Run! Run for your lives! Run!
[Woundwort emerges from the hole and sees his soldiers fleeing at the sight of the dog]
General Woundwort: Come back! Come back, you fools!
General Woundwort: Come back! Come back and fight! Dogs aren't dangerous!
[the dog drops a dead Efrafan and then comes after Woundwort, who lunges]
El-ahrairah: Hazel... Hazel... you know me, don't you?
Hazel: I don't know.
[The apparition reveals himself to be El-ahrairah, and Hazel gasps]
Hazel: Yes, my lord. I know you.
El-ahrairah: I've come to ask if you'd like to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you, and I know you'd like it. You've been feeling tired, haven't you? If you're ready, we might go along now.
[Hazel looks at all the younger rabbits of Watership Down]
El-ahrairah: You needn't worry about them. They'll be all right, and thousands like them. If you come along now, I'll show you what I mean.