In the book Watership Down by Richard Adams, a group of rabbits set off together after hearing a concerning prophecy that their warren would be attacked soon. They venture off into the unknown, traveling through different warrens; meeting new friends and enemies on their way. Throughout the journey, there was one significant leader that helped all of his fellow rabbits throughout the adventure. This rabbit’s name is Hazel. Hazel travels with his companions, one of which is Fiver. Fiverr is the little rabbit who had visions of the destruction of his warren.
Although there are many leaders in this story, Hazel has certain qualities that his fellow companions don’t possess, making him a better leader than the rest. A leader is someone who embodies certain traits that make him or her a figure that others would follow or listen to. Hazel’s intelligence makes him an astounding example of a leader because he demonstrates certain qualities that are unique to him and no one else. Listening to others is one of the most underestimated values a leader must possess, and some of the best examples of Hazel’s leadership is when he is listening to his fellow rabbits.
At this point in the book Hazel and the rabbits have come across an obstacle on their journey: they must find a way to cross an immense river that stands between them and the long forest ahead. Most of the rabbits will be able to swim across the river except Fiver and Pipkin; two small bunnies that are too injured and tired to swim. Hazel admits that he is not sure what to do, leaving the space open for ideas. Blackberry, a young rabbit with black-tipped ears, comes up and suggests that Fiver and Pipkin should lie on a piece of wood and float across to the other side.
His idea is difficult for others to understand, but Hazel feels open to this new idea and listens to Blackberry: “Well, you’d better get on then,’ he said, ‘and anyone else who wants to” (p. 36). Hazel is willing to listen to others, trusting Blackberry’s opinions and not just relying on himself. After traveling a long way through the woods, the rabbits come across a large warren. Cowslip, the leader of the mysterious warren, greets the rabbits and invites them to come and stay with them. Fiver thinks that something is not right about this warren and is nervous.
During the night, Hazel and Bigwig see Fiver sleeping outside; he refuses to come into the warren. Hazel is concerned for Fiver and also for themselves, and there is something inside of him that thinks Fiver may be right saying, “‘I wouldn’t be surprised,’ said Hazel, ‘It would be just like him. Let’s ask Cowslip””(p. 90). This demonstrates that even though Hazel might not believe in what Fiver says fully, he is still worried about Fiver, and goes to ask Cowslip about the concerns that Fiver has. Even though Bigwig did not believe what Fiver said, Hazel shows that listening to his friends is the right thing to do.
Hazel is the type of leader who listens to others, he values his friend’s ideas, and always takes their opinions into consideration. At this moment in the book, Bigwig is about to set off to try and get does from Efrafa, one of the nearby warrens. Hazel tells Blackberry to make a plan for their escape after Bigwig comes back with the does. Blackberry comes across a boat that had been deserted in the middle of the lake. He came up with an idea that if Hazel can gnaw at the rope attached to the boat, then the force of the rabbits jumping on the boats will break the boat free.
Even though Hazel does not fully understand what Blackberry is saying, he still wants to try and understand what his companion has to say. Hazel said, “Here, wait a moment, We’re just simple rabbits, Bigwig and I. Do you mind explaining? ” (p. 302) This represents that Hazel does not dismiss ideas that he does not understand, but he is curious and wants to know what Blackberry is describing. For Hazel, listening to others is a powerful attribute that makes him a unique leader. When being courageous, a leader has to have the intelligence to make the right decisions of when and when not to submit themselves to danger.
Hazel demonstrates this quality by helping others in sudden situations and putting others before himself so they do not get hurt. In the middle of the rabbits’ journey, they decide to lay down for a while and sleep. During the night Hazel ventures off to try and find a better place for them to stay in the woods. “Hazel determines then and there to bring the rabbits up to the bean field to shelter and rest until evening” (pg. 41). Hazel’s courage motivates him to find a safe shelter for his friends and is determined to get them all there safely.
Throughout the journey, the rabbits decide that they need to find some does so that their warren survives. While looking for a warren nearby, Hazel and few rabbits discover a cage of rabbits; they unlock the box and dash to the trees where everyone is expectantly waiting for their arrival. Just then a cat approaches the rabbits and begins to pursue them. Boxwood and Clover, rabbits from the barn, have trouble keeping pace with everyone and end up far behind, lost in the woods. Hazel waits in the woods for all the rabbits to arrive, but when he notices the two of the rabbits are not there, he goes off to try and find them.
The quote, “To fetch the other two,’ said Hazel. “You’re the fastest, so it won’t be dangerous for you will it? ” (p. 218), demonstrates that Hazel takes an immense risk to go back and find the two rabbits that were left behind. Proving him as a strong leader, as he puts others before himself, showing that a leader must help other people to be effective. Courage makes Hazel a distinctive leader compared to other qualities leaders may possess. Some may think that courage is not a necessity, but to be an effective leader, courage aides one into being more assertive about the decisions he/she is making.
Courage makes Hazel more confident in the choices he’s making, therefore he is becoming a better leader. Intelligence is one of the most important qualities that Hazel exemplifies. He is intelligent in his insights and new ideas. During this time in the book, Hazel is out in the forest; he sees a little mouse who is about to be struck upon by a bird. Hazel attempts to help the mouse by whispering to it and convincing the mouse to come over to him for safety. After the act of kindness, the mouse tells Hazel that he has to do something to repay him in the future.
Hazel knew that if he helped the mouse, his action would pay off in the future. “Run, Here; quick” (p. 145). This demonstrates Hazel summoning the mouse to come to his safety because Hazel understands that animals can interact with each other without being enemies, which most animals do not understand. Later on in the book, the rabbits have trouble searching for a place to stay at night. The little mouse’s friend guides to a nice field to repay Hazel for his act of kindness. “‘You’re a clever chap, Hazel,’ said Holly at last. ‘You and your mouse. Mind you, we’d have found the place ourselves sooner or later, but not as soon as this. (p. 166)
Holly shows his gratitude for Hazel’s actions and intelligent thinking which benefited all of the rabbits. Intelligence gives Hazel a more knowledgeable perspective on all of the obstacles the rabbits come across, therefore making him a strong leader. Hazel’s profound knowledge makes him a great leader of all of the rabbits. All three of these qualities that Hazel possess’ are great examples of leadership; but what makes Hazel such a unique leader is that he exemplifies all three of the qualities. Unlike most rabbits in Watership Down, Hazel has multiple traits that make him a distinguished leader for all.