6

In a footnote in the beginning of Richard Adams' novel, Watership Down, he makes this statement:

Rabbits can count up to four. Any number above four is hrair “a lot.” or “a thousand.” Thus they say U Hrair-“the thousand’- to mean, collectively, all the enemies (or elil, as they call them) of rabbits- fox, stoat, weasel, cat,owl, man, etc. There were probably more than five rabbits in the litter when Fiver was born, but his name, Hrairoo, means “Little Thousand”- i.e., the little one of a lot or, as they say of pigs, “the runt.”

He explains the meaning behind Fiver's name and gives the reader a glimpse into the rabbits' language and culture. But the part that I'm most interested in is "There were probably more than five rabbits in the litter when Fiver was born...", which implies that Hazel is only one of his many siblings.

With Fiver knowing about the impending doom of the Sandleford warren and Hazel putting enough faith in him to help gather other rabbits in a blind escape, why didn't they search out some of their own siblings as well? Without disregarding the unspoken possibility of their kin leaving the warren or being taken by "The Thousand", does Richard Adams (inside or outside his novel's universe) ever explain why Hazel and Fiver would behave this way?

8

Their siblings are never identified, so there is no canon explanation. It could be any combination of the following:

  • Hazel and Fiver might be the only survivors of the litter. Rabbits have a very high infant mortality rate, and there is a reference to the previous winter having seen heavy snow.

  • Other littermates might be female. A yearling female would be of breeding age and would not consider heading off with a bunch of hlessi.

  • Siblinghood may not be a big issue for rabbits; Hazel and Fiver sticking together could be an exception.

  • Before Hazel & co left the warren they tried to recruit as many rabbits as they could. Presumably any siblings were in fact canvassed along with other rabbits that they knew, but decided to stay.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.