Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cat Woman; when you hear the word hero or heroine that is who you think of. The most famous heroes of all time, as well as the not so famous heroes such as Hazel, fit the archetype of a hero; they are all courageous, resourceful, and strong-willed. Most people don’t notice that almost all action/adventure movies and novels are the same. All of their stories fit the archetypal pattern of a heroic quest. A heroic quest consists of twelve steps that the hero completes throughout his or her journey.
In this essay, I will be explaining the parallels between Watership Down by Richard Adams and the archetypal pattern of a heroic quest; as well as the parallels between Hazel and the archetype of a hero. In the first step of a heroic quest, The Ordinary World, the hero who is uneasy and unaware is introduced in a way that the audience can identify the situation. There is some type of polarity in the hero’s life that is causing stress. Hazel is introduced to the readers as a natural leader. Fiver, his good friend and brother, comes to him in distress. He immediately decides to go talk to the Chief Rabbit, Threarah.
This allows the readers to identify that there is danger in the near future and that it is causing Hazel some stress. The next step is The Call to Adventure, something comes along to shake up the situation, either from an external pressure or something from deep within. The hero must face the beginnings of change. Hazel is called to adventure when Fiver comes to him about a horrible nightmare. Fiver tells him that something terrible is going to happen and they must go tell the Chief Rabbit, Threarah.
The Refusal of the Call; the hero has a fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure. Alternately, another character expresses the uncertainty and danger the hero may face ahead. When Threarah completely ignores Hazel’s warning, Hazel gives little hesitation and makes the plans to leave at moonrise. Meeting with the Mentor; the hero finds a well-seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives the hero the things he or she needs to complete the journey.
Alternately, the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom. Hazel trusts Fiver enough to take his nightmare seriously and arrange to leave the warren. Fiver leads the group through rough times through Hazel. Fiver is the voice behind Hazel’s actions and is looked to for advice throughout the entire story. Crossing the Threshold; the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new condition with unfamiliar rules. Hazel makes the decision to leave at moonrise to escape the possible danger of staying in the Sandleford Warren.
He commits to the adventure and is confident in his decision. Tests, Allies, and Enemies; the hero is tested and must sort out his or her allegiances in the Special World. The rabbits’ strength is test many times throughout the novel. Some of which are when the group of rabbits cross the river for the first time, the group finds that the smaller rabbits cannot swim. They work as a team to get everyone across, using a floating log and pushing the smaller rabbits across. Another test of strength was surviving through the Warren of Snares, where they were welcomed and treated fantastically by Cowslip. Shortly after they arrived, Fiver noticed something off about the warren.
Bigwig, was captured in a snare and soon after the other rabbits were attacked. Hazel makes many allies throughout the story, such as Dandelion, Blackberry, Bigwig, Pipkin, Hawkbit, Buckthorn, Acorn, Speedwell, and Silver. These rabbits came along with Hazel and Fiver when they left the warren. Later on the rabbits come across an injured bird named Kehaar, who heals and becomes a very valuable asset to the rabbits’ journey. Kehaar flies ahead to seek out danger and helps to plot the attack against General Woundwort.
The Approach; the hero and his or her allies prepare for a major challenge in the Special World. Hazel and the others prepare to for their expedition to the Efrafa warren to try to bring back does. While there, Hazel sets up a raid to free the rabbits from the nearby farm. Kehaar plays a large role in this by scoping out the area and helping them know the road ahead. The Ordeal; the hero confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
When Hazel sets off to raid the farm and free the rabbits, he becomes very badly injured. He is shot by a farmer and is thought to be dead until Fiver goes back to save him. The expedition sent to Efrafa comes back banged up describing it as a horrible warren run by a militaristic commander, General Woundwort.
The Reward; the hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be a celebration, but the danger of losing the treasure could prevent a celebration from happening. The group comes up with a plan to capture does from Efrafa. Bigwig goes into the warren pretending to be a solitary rabbit. He finds a doe, who helps him plan an escape. The rabbits escape on a boat as Woundwort was about to attack. The Road Back; the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure that the treasure will be brought home. Soon after they return back to Watership Down, they are told by a mouse that there is a large amount of rabbits nearby.
Hazel immediately gives orders to the rabbits to prepare to defend the warren. They bury themselves and prepare to fight off the invaders, even though it will most likely lead to death. The Resurrection; the hero is brutally tested once more. The hero has another moment of death and rebirth but on a higher and more complex level. During this step, Hazel gets a flash of inspiration and runs off with two other rabbits to try and release the dog from the farmhouse and get him to attack the Efrafan rabbits. While this is happening, Bigwig and the others face Woundwort in an extremely intense battle. Bigwig defeats him and soon after the dog that Hazel releases scares off the rest of the Efrafan forces.
Hazel faces his moment of death and rebirth when he is captured by a cat. He is soon rescued by a girl who lives at the farm and is let go. Return with the Exilir: the hero returns home bearing some element of treasure that has the power to transform the world as it has the hero. Hazel returns to Watership Down where they decide to build a third warren between Watership Down and Efrafa. Rabbits from both of the surrounding warrens will live there.
Hazel lives to see the warren succeed and flourish before he dies. Compared to Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or any other heroic tale, Watership Down has every component that a typical heroic tale has. Hazel has matured throughout the story, molding into the hero that he is at the end. Not only has he matured himself, he has matured the readers. It is his leadership qualities and resourcefulness that help him become who he is as a hero. Although it may not be as exciting or eventful as Superman or Spiderman, Watership Down by Richard Adams is everything that you could ask for in a heroic epic.