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Awesome / Watership Down

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NOTICE: Moments pages are Spoilers Off. Read further only if you dare. You Have Been Warned.

  • The fable near the beginning, describing how rabbits became what they are, establishes the book's central theme in a speech from the sun-god Frith to the very first rabbit.
    Frith: All the world shall be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies, and if 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.
  • Bigwig gets one when Woundwort, his mooks having failed getting into the Honeycomb, goes in to handle it himself. He is fought to a brutal standstill by Bigwig, who has buried himself in the tunnel for a surprise attack. However, the book's true Moment of Awesome comes from Woundwort's reaction to the You Shall Not Pass!: he imagines that there is someone who can outfight Bigwig yet to face. For reference, find something that would make Stalin pee himself...
    Bigwig: My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this run and until he says otherwise I shall stay here.
    Vervain: ...His Chief Rabbit?
    • From the film, the voice actor's response is perfect:
      Woundwort: Your... Chief?!
    • It actually becomes the crowning moment for two characters, both Bigwig, who just beat the Big Bad, and Hazel, who Bigwig swears at the beginning he would never call Hazel Chief Rabbit.
    • In fact Bigwig does use the honorific suffix 'rah' to Hazel for the first time after the terrifying escape from Efrafa; 'I couldn't do it again, Hazel-rah.' Of course a page or two later he's back to his old self. 'Now I'm going to sleep and Frith help you if you say I'm not, Hazel.'
    • Also when Bigwig replies with a blunt "Silflay hraka, U embleer rah" (translation: "Eat shit, you stinking leader") when Woundwort tells him to get out of his way.
      • "Silflay" isn't a generic word for "to eat." It refers specifically to venturing out of a warren to forage, and it is a social occasion. Bigwig isn't just telling Woundwort to eat shit—he's telling him to make a meal out of it.
      • Mild Fridge Brilliance there as well, since he called Woundwort embleer rah. "Embleer" is defined early in the novel as "the scent of a fox." So — "stinking prince" or "rabbit chieftain with the scent of a predator"?
      • Piling onto this one - and, to be fair, this translation definitely involves more speculation than the rest, but don't tell me that you don't love to imagine it - "stinking prince" sure sounds like a fancy way of calling someone "asshole."
      • There's also the fact that hraka, contextually, seems to mean "final poop". See, rabbits have a unique way of getting all the nutrients they can out of nutrient poor grass called a double digestive system: they poop once, eat that (this is likely what "chewing pellets" refers to), then poop it out again. So the "silflay hraka" line may have an added meaning of "eat the shit that you're not supposed to eat" with connotations of calling Woundwart an idiot who can't tell hraka from pellets.
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    • It also succeeds in completely freaking out the other enemy rabbits, who are terrified by the thought of a rabbit even stronger than Bigwig waiting for them. Of course, the chief is actually the unassuming limping rabbit whom Woundwort casually ignored earlier.
    • The moment is so emotionally complex that it's hard to decide whether you're seeing an attempted Dying Moment of Awesome, Heartwarming Moment, The Determinator, attempted Thanatos Gambit ('He knew that in the close confines of the run even his dead body would slow the attackers') or just plain Taking You with Me. However, it's definitely an awesome You Shall Not Pass!.
  • One mass awesome moment: The escape from Efrafa. Not just Blackberry's The Plan and Bigwig's bravery, carrying it out, but almost every one of the rabbits, from Silver down to Pipkin charge into Efrafa to help the escape.
    • "Your storm, Thlayli-rah. Use it."
    • From that same chapter:
      Woundwort: We'll settle with you here. There's no need to take you back to Efrafa.
      Bigwig: You crack-brained slave driver. I'd like to see you try.
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  • "Early silfay's been canceled this evening; have a look over there and you'll see why." Only awesome in the movie, though.
  • Fiver gets his Crowning Moment in the siege on Watership too. When the Efrafans break through the ceiling into the Honeycomb, he's in such a deep trance they assume he's dead. But once Bigwig beats off General Woundwort (see above), Fiver gets up and, still in a trance and seeming to channel something beyond rabbits, foretells the death of the Efrafan troops. Woundwort is oddly spooked just looking at him and orders one of his soldiers to kill him. But when talking to Fiver, said soldier hallucinates (or maybe not), that Fiver's summoning up all the souls of the rabbits he's killed as an Efrafan officer and he is soon begging for mercy. Soon enough, after the gambit with the dog, the Efrafans who didn't escape surrender themselves to Fiver, leaving him somewhat perplexed when he comes out of his trance.
    • Even more notable, because rabbits can only count up to four. As a result, virtually countless troops surrender to the Waif Prophet.
    • There's something chilling about Fiver's eerily calm line to the Efrafan army as he "returns from the dead" just moments before the dog arrives.
      Fiver: I am sorry for you with all my heart; but you cannot blame us, for you came to kill us if you could.
      Vervain: Blame you? Blame you for what?
      Fiver: For your death. Believe me, I am sorry for your death.
    • Not to mention that he first sends several enemy running with the screaming willies by channeling Something from the Other Side to give Hazel a vision of how to save them.
  • "Hazel's in that hole. And he's alive."
    • Just the fact that Hazel was hit with a shotgun, survived, managed to hide himself, and then walked home. Of course, without Fiver he would have died; but give the Chief some credit where it's due!
  • Hazel's visionary speech to Woundwort before he attacks Watership Down is subtle, but definitely counts. His more obvious one comes a little later when he sets a gigantic dog on Woundwort.
    • As the author points out, Hazel manages to expose Woundwort as the vicious tyrant he is, rather than the visionary he claims to be.
    • In addition, the more obvious one brings also an awesome moment for Blackberry and Dandelion — particularly Dandelion:
      He tore over the crest and down toward the cattle shed. When Hazel had told him what he was to do, it had seemed to him that his task would consist of leading the dog on and persuading it to follow him. Now he was running simply to save his life, and that at a speed he had never touched before, a speed he knew he could not keep up.

      In actual fact Dandelion covered three hundred yards to the cattle shed in a good deal less than half a minute.
  • Hyzenthlay deserves almost as much credit as Bigwig for the escape from Efrafa; he organized it, but she was the one who made it happen.
  • Woundwort himself has a crowning moment with his cry of "Come back, you cowards! Dogs aren't dangerous!" with the later implication that he not only survived the encounter, but actually sent the dog home early.
    Bigwig: I told you once I was trying to impress you. I hope I have.
    Woundwort: And I told you that I would kill you myself!
    • Even if it was Woundwort's last stand, he saved most of his rabbits by fighting the dog, giving them time to scatter and hide. He made such an impression on our heroes that he gets added to Cuniculine Mythology as an assistant to The Grim Reaper Moon Rabbit!
    • Before the book begins: Woundwort managed to take over a warren in spite of wild rabbits' attitude towards hutch-raised rabbits. Woundwort, you Magnificent Bastard, I read your book!
  • Let's not forget when Hazel pushed Bigwig aside and went out to meet the Black Rabbit of Inle in his place. The Black Rabbit being basically Death incarnate, and a Trickster version at that - the only being besides Frith (God) to out-trick the rabbits' folk hero El-ahrairah. No, it wasn't the real Black Rabbit, but their folklore made it real enough for the moment.
  • Blackavar deserves props for willingly taking the brunt of the Council's anger, to protect his friends from being mutilated after their escape attempt.
  • One of the in-universe stories has an exceptional CMOA for El-ahrairah, the legendary chief rabbit. To save his people, he seeks out the Black Rabbit himself and begs to trade his death for the survival of his warren. The Black Rabbit refuses (in a speech that is itself a CMOA). So he seeks out the hiding place of one of the terrible diseases the Black Rabbit uses to do his work, deliberately exposes himself and prepares to drag his diseased, mutilated body back to the waking world in order to save his people by exposing their enemy to the disease. At which point the Black Rabbit recuses himself, and aids El-ahrairah's people after all. El-ahrairah is preserved from death by a mere technicality - otherwise this would be a DMOA instead.
  • The fact that in the movie, Hazel is the recipient of a vision-speech that was originally given to El-Ahrairah himself when he offers his life to Frith in exchange for letting his plan save the warren succeed.
    "Not a day goes by but a doe offers her life for her kittens, or some honest captain of Owsla his life for his Chief Rabbit. Sometimes the bargain is accepted, and sometimes it is not. But there is no bargain here; for what is, is what must be."
  • Crosses over with a Heartwarming moment and a (happy) Tear Jerker, but it's no less awesome. At the end of the book, Hazel and Fiver's adventures have been immortalized as that of El-ahrairah's and Rabscuttle's.
  • Hazel dies — of old age. Something every rabbit strives to do. No one caught him.
  • El-ahrairah's Batman Gambit to dine on Prince Rainbow's carrots and at the same time discredit witness to the theft, a rabbit spy, by leading said spy through a series of carefully staged implausibilities on the way to the carrot bed in order to exploit the attitudes of the jury of elilla .
  • Finally, it should be noted that all these characters are non-anthropomorphic rabbits, and still manage to be every bit as much badasses as pretty much everyone else in any other work who has achieved a Moment of Awesome, if not more so.
  • No mention of Bigwig surviving the wire snares? This is early enough in the book that no one would have doubted it if Bigwig were Killed Off for Real, and in fact, he was believed dead by all present, until he recovers his strength enough to call out. Even before that, he had enough wits about him, even as the snare was biting into his flesh, to inform the others that it was no good biting the wire. The novel notes after that point that no one doubts in Bigwig's strength again at that point.


  • The voice acting work in the film, including John Hurt and especially Joss Ackland, who serves as the Narrator and the voice of the Black Rabbit at the end.


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