Watership Down: The Leader of the Pack (Spoilers)

Posted: 09/01/2010 in Brit Flick, Flicks for Thought
Tags: , , , , , ,

WATERSHIP DOWN (Martin Rosen, 1978. UK)

***Full Spoilers***

Highlight to read title (spoiler)   Why Hazel’s Death is a Positive Event.

So. As I’m sure most of you will have observed, whether Adams likes it or not, Watership Down’s odyssey is a resounding Biblical allegory. Hazel is Moses leading his people through the desert in search of the Promised Land.  Though not subjected to slavery as such, the rabbits, cast as the Egyptians, are in an increasingly hostile environment which cannot sustain the lives they wish to lead.

As they cross the wilderness, they are visited by great hardship and Hazel is called upon to demonstrate great feats of leadership in order both to protect and to invite the continued faith of his flock. Eventually many of them come to worship a false idol in the shape of violent dictator General Woundwort, surely a ‘man’ shaped by the immoral world about him. Again it is Hazel’s duty to show them the error of their ways and lead them back onto the path of righteousness.

Eventually they reach that elusive Jerusalem which has purportedly been built on England’s green and pleasant land and settle there. Nice. Still all is not well however, for they see the flaw in this self-contained colony of unbridled machismo and set about to procure some women folk, in order that they may fulfil their divinely ordained destiny of bearing heirs for the males that deign to impregnate them. Truly antediluvian gender politics I think you’ll agree.

Cue the staccato thump of tiny hind paws. Hundreds thereof. Idyllic, tranquil scenes of the wee ones scampering about in the flopsy cotton-tailed way. Whereupon the old man lays down and carks it. Poetically of course.


But Hazel wins here because, unlike Moses, he gets to see all his plans come to fruition. Moses journeys for a lifetime, facing all that the hostile landscape has to throw at him, overcoming disbelief, disobedience and revolt. He keeps that motley crews of runaway slaves alive and hopeful all his life and never witnesses the truth of his prophecy. Tough break.

Not only does Hazel see and get to enjoy his promised land, and bask in the gratitude and adulation of his subjects in direct opposition to the dissatisfaction Moses had to endure, he then recognises a rather significant oversight in their master plan and resolves it satisfactorily. Having chased away the few clouds in paradise, Hazel sees his life’s work complete and is able to go with the Black Rabbit content in the knowledge that all is well and his legacy will be perpetuated anon. So despite the strong parallels between his story and that of poor old Moses, Hazel has closure (as the Yanks like to say) and more than that, he has contentment. Then he gets to shuffle off the mortal coil before it all goes to shit and never knows how they all turn against each other and the big bad diggers get them anyway. See, lovely lovely death. Lucky Hazel.

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