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Nightmare Fuel / Watership Down

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

The Novel

  • In the book are many scenes they cut from the film, such as the "Tale of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé", which Hazel tries to avoid having told just before their Impossible Mission because it'll demoralize, i.e. scare the crap out of, everyone concerned. Bigwig insists on hearing it, though, and so we have to listen to how El-ahrairah descends into the rabbit equivalent of Hades to confront Death as a last resort to save his besieged people. El-ahrairah gradually loses his whiskers, his tail and his ears to the Black Rabbit in futile bets, then in total desperation jumps into a well of deadly plague germs in order to carry them back to the enemy — but it won't work, as the plague is carried by fleas nesting in rabbits' ears. Finally, the Black Rabbit agrees to El-ahrairah's request simply because his persistence in remaining alive is disturbing the place of the dead. So he sends mysterious demons to terrify the enemy into submission...
    • "...And that is why no rabbit who tells the tales of El-ahrairah can say what kind of creatures they [the enemy] were or what they looked like. Not one of them has ever been seen, from that day to this."
  • Just about every one of Fiver's visions, Bigwig's encounter with the Shining Wire, and the poisoning of the Sandleford Warren, to name a few. The film tends toward either short and surreal (the visions and flashbacks) or realistic and gritty (all the violence portrayed in the present tense), while the book has longer descriptions. Pick your poison, and know this stuff can be disturbing to more than just kids.
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  • When Bigwig calls Hyzenthlay up to his burrow, her initial response is hauntingly similar to a sex slave. "If you want a doe you can have her, and no one is allowed to stop you" takes on a horrible new tone.
  • To the Efrafa rabbits the fact that Bigwig isn't the chief is one, due to the assumption that somehow there is a rabbit bigger and more badass than Bigwig out there.
  • The sequel, Tales from Watership Down, feature several new El-ahrairah tales that feature out-and-out Eldritch Abominations, from a predatory thing in "The Story of the Comical Field" to a hostile Outer God in "The Three Cows" to something only seen in gibbering insanity in "The Hole in the Sky". Even a couple of the non-Eldritch Abomination tales are nightmare-inducing: "The Terrible Hay-Making" features a massacre even worse then what took place in Sandleford.
  • There's something very unsettling about the rabbits' Humans Are Cthulhu ideas, mainly because even the simplest concepts are utterly incomprehensible to them. Dogs, weasels, cats, they can get those, they're predators who are bigger and stronger and have teeth and claws but are not quite as fast as rabbits, it's simple enough, but they simply lack the capacity to grasp humans. The most basic technology is beyond most of them, which is virtually a death sentence. How do you explain a trap or a snare to something that can't even grasp the concept?
    • The humans would have destroyed them without a second thought. The rabbits were in the way, that's all the humans cared about.
  • The whole concept of the Warren of the Shining Wires. These rabbits have all the food they can eat, and the human hunts the predators that would normally eat them, but he demands a price: every so often he sets his snare and takes one of those rabbits for dinner. And the rabbits know full well what's happening, but they continue to frequent the regions where the human sets his snares because they know that if they left, or even steered clear of the regions where snares were to be found, the human would stop putting out food for them and protecting them and they would have to live by their wits like El-hrairah once again.
    • And on top of that, there are the poets. In other warrens, these would have been leaders like Hazel, or prophets like Fiver, but according to Fiver, living with the secret of the wires has driven them insane, and now they make mad songs to try to pretend that they have not sold their souls, not given up the very essence of rabbithood with this bargain.


The Film
  • Yes it's a U-rated film (or G-rated, if you're Americannote ), but the movie is very disturbing and does raise questions of "How is this appropriate for children?" and "Why do people think this is for kids just because it has bunnies in it?" Some examples include:
    • Fiver's vision at the beginning of the film is terrifying. "The's covered with blood!"
      • The music that plays during that scene does not help at all.
    • Cowslip's warren. It's a nice little place with good food and shelter, but then Cowslip does some creepy rambling about the Black Rabbit. Turns out that the warren is near a farm that leaves the food in order to fatten and trap the rabbits.
      • The latter scenario is further supported by the succeeding scene of Bigwig almost choking to death in the snare, which is portrayed extremely graphically and realistically and in line with the novel's depiction of it, with blood and frothing spittle pouring from his mouth as he struggles to breathe. It's a horrific scene, and one of the movie's most iconic images, considering the fact the director chose to depict it right front and center in the movie's poster, albeit with Bigwig framed entirely in shadow, to subtly let those coming to see the film that it was most certainly not going to be a fun, family-friendly experience.
    • The flashback to the gassing of the warren, with the glowing-eyed rabbits crammed into the tunnels clawing each other, trying to get out of tunnels that only narrow and spiral into dead ends. Holocaust parallels, anyone?
      • Holly appearing to tell the rabbits about it. The first the rabbits and the audience hear of him, he is moaning, "Zorn, zorn!note  Bigwig, Bigwig!" Bigwig immediately assumes it's the Black Rabbit of Inlé, until Holly drags himself to the edge and falls into the ditch they're in, completely battered and moaning, "All zorn!" We don't know who did this to him, until Holly tells the rabbits of his time in Efrafa.
    • Crossing with Tear Jerker, Hazel getting shot at Nuthanger Farm, spawning the “Bright Eyes” sequence.
    • The disturbing parallells between Efrafa and Nazi Germany - or any fascist state.
    • In the novel, Blackavar survives the climatic battle with the Efrafans. Here? Not so. He stays behind in an attempt to stall General Woundwort, only for him to easily swat him down and tear out his throat in an extremely graphic manner. Even for its standards, this is definitely the single most violent scene in the whole film, and that’s saying a lot.
    • The brutal fight between Bigwig and Woundwort gives many unnerving shots of both severely wounded rabbits...
      • During this, it cuts in the middle of the fight to Hazel and the runners leading Bob the dog to Watership Down. It then cuts suddenly to this no less!
    • Bob arriving and mutilating the Efrafan soldiers. Before attacking Woundwort, he’s seen rising up from the ridge with a mangled bloody Efrafan bunny in his jaws...
    • When Woundwort attacks Bob, if you're watching on YouTube, pause at the right time and Woundwort will look like something out of your worst nightmares (pictured).
      • The music that plays is definitely a bit unnerving...
  • The Black Rabbit is no hallucination, but he's not evil.
  • The rats that attack the rabbits while they're sleeping in a shed.
  • When Tab the cat pounces on Hazel, and actually speaks (in the film, she's the only creature other than Kehaar to speak to the rabbits) as Hazel struggles in terror and expectation of death:
    "Can you run? I think not. I think not."
    • Fortunately, Lucy, the farmer's daughter, speaks up and tells Tab to let him go, to which she complies.

The TV Series

  • The children's series might actually do a better job of foreshadowing the true horror of Cowslip's Warren than the movie version, partially due to the way everyone just sort of...lets themselves forget about their search for Pimpernel, easily distracted by the readily available flayrah.
    • The show doesn't focus much on the horrified realization of what the warren of the shining wires truly is (because, after all, it's aimed at a younger audience) but imagine it from Holly's perspective. Pimpernel was weak, couldn't travel on...and this warren was big, and comfortable, and welcoming, so he left his friend in their care. Just for a few weeks. And then he comes back...
  • The realization of the true depths of this version of Cowslip's insanity. While in the novel and the movie adaptation Cowslip is mostly a sad, spiritless character, living with one foot in the grave and sending innocent newcomers to their deaths to postpone what he knows is the inevitable, the series portrays him in a way that gives the audience chills.
    • In later seasons, as the plot decays, Cowslip becomes a sly, cruel schemer. In the first season, which started out more or less loyal to the book, Hazel And Company realize as they're leaving that living under the shining wires has driven Cowslip completely and utterly mad.
    Hazel: Come with us. You don't have to surrender to the shining wires!

The Netflix Miniseries

  • Due to the series placing greater focus on its female characters, the book's implication of Efrafan does being sex slaves is given more attention than other adaptations. When learning that Clover (who is imprisoned in Efrafa in this adaptation) is a former Hutch rabbit as he once was, Woundwort asks that she be brought to him and chillingly offers to let her be his queen.
    • Though she does not reciprocate his feelings, Clover at first believes Woundwort's affection for her to be genuine, and attempts to use it as a bargaining tool to save Hyzenthlay's life. As it turns out, Woundwort is not willing to bargain, proving that he has no romantic feelings for her besides sexual attraction.
    Woundwort: Either you agree to be my queen, or you do not. It doesn't matter to me which choice you make.
  • The way Woundwort treats the arrival of the dog as it races towards the warren at Watership Down, chasing both Hazel and Bigwig to the edge of the burrow. Unlike the novel and film versions where he's caught by surprise and attacks it out of instinct, he just stands there, unperturbed and bearing a Slasher Smile as it futilely tries to dig itself into the burrow after them. Then, deprived of its prey, it turns to the Efrafans and kills one of them, causing the others to flee in terror but Woundwort remains, not even moving, looking as if he's waiting for the dog to notice him. When it does, narrowing its eyes at him, Woundwort proclaims softly that he does not fear it and lunges forward.
    Woundwort: We fear no elil. I fear no dog. I. Fear. Nothing.


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