I loved Watership Down. In trying to describe it to someone who hadn’t read it, it came to me once that the novel is a study of leadership and mutual submission.
Fiver can see and sense things Hazel can’t. Bigwig is a capable warrior with survival skills where Hazel is small and walks with a limp. Blackberry is quick-witted and has clever ideas, where Hazel has to turn everything over and over in his mind. Each of these gifted rabbits has something the warren needs but plain, unremarkable Hazel is the leader. He becomes and remains leader through his own qualities and through winning the respect of the others.
Hazel’s leadership of the warren is contrasted at all turns against Woundwort’s “leadership” model of fighting his way to the top and then being a murderous dictator. “Your Chief Rabbit?” is a wonderful moment that crystallises the point. Woundwort’s owsla naturally assume that Bigwig is the Chief Rabbit, and when they realise he is not, they immediately picture a Chief Rabbit who is even bigger and stronger. The idea of Bigwig willingly obeying a rabbit such as Hazel is completely outside the realms of their experience.
(Hrududu is my favourite word from the whole book. What else would a rabbit call a car? And some of the rabbit’s expletives - “Frith up a tree!!!” always have me in stitches.)