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Villain Overview
Come back! Come back, you fools! Come back! Come back and fight! Dogs aren't dangerous!
~ Woundwort's last words before fighting the dog and disappearing without a trace.
I'll... Never stop, Hazel! NEVER!
~ Woundwort's last words to Hazel before he was taken by the Black Rabbit of Inlé in the show.
We fear no Elil. I fear no dog. I fear nothing.
~ Woundwort's last words before fighting the dog and disappearing in the miniseries.

General Woundwort (simply known as Woundwort) is the main antagonist of the 1972 Richard Adams book Watership Down, its 1978 animated film adaptation, its 1999-2001 TV series, and its 2018 BBC and Netflix miniseries adaptation. He is a savage, vicious and powerful rabbit who is the tyrannical leader and chief rabbit of the warren Efrafa.

Portrayals

  • In the 1978 film, he was voiced by the late Harry Andrews.
  • In the 1999 TV series, he was voiced by the late John Hurt, who played the main protagonist Hazel in the original 1978 film and also played the Horned King in Disney's The Black Cauldron, Percival Graves, Mr. Mole and Sailor John as well as Snitter in the 1982 film The Plague Dogs.
  • In the 2018 Netflix miniseries, he is voiced by the Academy Award winning actor Ben Kingsley, who also played Nizam in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Archibald Snatcher in The Boxtrolls, Don Logan in Sexy Beast, Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3, and The Rabbi in Lucky Number Slevin.

Biography

Childhood, and Early Years

As a young kit, Woundwort was orphaned when his father was shot by human and his mother killed soon after by a weasel. He was rescued by an elderly school master, who took him home and raised him. However, the old man also had a cat, which occasionally tormented Woundwort whenever the man wasn't looking.

Woundwort grew into an exceptionally large and aggressive rabbit. He eventually escaped the old man's house, in the process, nearly killing the old man's cat, severely maiming it. After a few days wandering, he arrived at a warren, killed its leader, and took over.

Woundwort then conquered several other neighboring warrens, fighting and killing their leaders personally. He formed a new, larger warren to house the inhabitants of all the conquered warrens. Thus, Efrafa was born, and for several years, Woundwort reigned supreme. Until the Watership Down rabbits appeared on the scene.

Watership Down backstory up to Efrafa

In the Sandleford warren, Fiver, a young runt rabbit who is a seer, receives a frightening vision of his warren's imminent eradication.

When he and his brother Hazel fail to convince their chief rabbit of the need to evacuate, they set out on their own with a diminutive band of rabbits to probe for a new home, scarcely eluding the Owsla, the warren's military caste.

The traveling group of rabbits find themselves following the leadership of Hazel, previously a nugatory member of the warren. They travel through dangerous territory, with Bigwig (also known as Thlayil) and Silver, both former Owsla, as the only significantly strong and vigorous rabbits among them.

Fiver's visions promise a safe place in which to settle, and the group eventually find Watership Down, an ideal location to establish their new warren. They are soon reunited with Holly and Bluebell, additionally from the Sandleford Warren, who reveal that Fiver's vision was true and the entire warren was eradicated by humans.

Although Watership Down is a placid habitat, Hazel realizes that there are no does, so making the future of their new home dubious. With the help of a seagull designated Kehaar, they locate a nearby warren, Efrafa, which is overcrowded and has many does.

Hazel sends a small emissary to Efrafa to present their request for does. While waiting for the group to return, Hazel and Pipkin prosperously raid the nearby Nuthanger Farm to rescue a group of hutch rabbits there, returning with two does. When the emissary returns, Hazel and his rabbits learn Efrafa is a police state led by the despotic General Woundwort; Hazel's rabbits marginally return alive.

However, the group does manage to identify an Efrafan doe named Hyzenthlay who wants to leave the warren and can recruit other does to join. Hazel and Bigwig devise an orchestration to rescue the group of rabbits from Efrafa to join them on Watership Down.

Bigwig's Plan

Bigwig and Hazel, along with help from Kehaar and a genius rabbit named Blackberry, devise a plan to liberate some does from the police state warren of Efrafa. Bigwig is sent to Efrafa, and Woundwort immediately promotes him to the Owsla's (military caste) ranks for his strength and rugged fighter's appearance. He then manages to contact several does and a maimed rabbit named Blackavar and tells him his plan to escape Efrafa.

On the day they are supposed to escape, one of the does is captured by the Owsla, and betrays Bigwig's plans to Woundwort as Bigwig jumps one of the Owsla and gathers the does and Blackavar. They are chased by Woundwort and his henchmen to a river, where a boat is docked and the other rabbits are waiting. Kehaar attacks Woundwort to buy Bigwig time, and they barely manage to escape on the boat.

The Siege of Watership Down

Days later, the rabbits of Watership Down are alerted of the presence of Woundwort and a small army from Efrafa who are approaching Watership Down. Woundwort demands that they hand over Bigwig and the does, or he will kill every buck in the Watership warren.

Hazel, Watership's chief rabbit has all the rabbit holes filled in. When the siege starts, Woundwort and his army will have to dig into the warren. Bigwig is ordered to guard one of the tunnels as Hazel, Dandelion and Blackberry hatch a plan to lure the Nuthanger Farm guard dog (encountered earlier in the story) to Watership Down to attack the Efrafans.

Woundwort's army eventually manage to dig their way in, and Woundwort goes in first, moving into a narrow tunnel towards the enemy rabbits. He is soon ambushed by Bigwig and they engage in a fierce fight that ends in a stalemate. When Woundwort asks Bigwig why he won't surrender, Bigwig responds that his chief rabbit (Hazel) instructed him to guard that particular run. This startles Woundwort, who thinks that a chief rabbit would have to be even stronger then Bigwig. Realizing he can't beat Bigwig, Woundwort leaves the tunnel. Just then, Hazel's ruse succeeds and the dog attacks the Efrafans, killing several of them and chasing off the rest. However, Woundwort, in a berserk rage, fearlessly leaps toward the dog.

What exactly happens to Woundwort is unknown; he is never seen or heard from again, but no trace of his body is found, leaving his fate a mystery, although it's a possibility he died of old age, as at the end on the movie, many years have passed and Hazel has passed to the afterlife.

After Story

General Woundwort lives on in the minds of the Watership rabbits of later years as a kind of supernatural bogeyman:

"And yet there endured the legend that somewhere out over the down there lived a great and solitary rabbit, a giant who drove the elil (predators) like mice and sometimes went to silflay (eat) in the sky. If ever great danger arose, he would come back to fight for those who honored his name. And mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them - the General who was first cousin to the Black Rabbit (the Grim Reaper of rabbits) himself. Such was Woundwort's monument: and perhaps it would not have displeased him."

In other media

TV Series

Woundwort serves as the primary antagonist of the television series. A brutal and tyrannical leader who sees himself as the one doing everything for the best of his warren, Woundwort strives to destroy Hazel and his 'outsiders' because of the hope for free life they represent for his own subjects.

He is the biggest rabbit in the series and has black, ragged fur, notched ears, a red right eye and his left eye is blind. He deeply respects Campion, even after his betrayal by him, and he often punishes and threatens Vervain, but still values him as an adviser and loyal subject despite this.

Woundwort in Season 3

Woundwort in the last season.

He briefly shows a softer side after Pipkin tells him that his mother was killed by a weasel (a fate that Woundwort himself went through), and for a brief moment before Efrafa's destruction sees himself for what he is and what he has brought Efrafa to.

After the destruction of Efrafa, Woundwort becomes obsessed with seeking his destiny of destruction, which leads him to the warren he was born in: Darkhaven. In the end, Woundwort pays the ultimate price for his actions and as punishment, he and his Darkhaven minions are taken away to the Shadowlands by the Black Rabbit of Inlé.

Miniseries

Woundwort appears in the miniseries that's similar to the book and the original film.

He is first seen at the end of The Journey, when Sergeant Sainfoin arrives and informs him about the presence of foreign rabbits near the hill. Woundwort orders him to send a patrol to hunt down the newcomers and leave one alive to interrogate.

In The Raid, Woundwort is in his burrow when the three Watership Down rabbits: Holly, Blackberry and Bluebell were captured the previous night and taken to Efrafa in front of the board just outside the burrow entrance. Woundwort silently exits when Vervain and the other council members begin to laugh at the prisoner's request to leave with some females before the big rabbit coldly silences them. He adheres to the thought of Vervain and refuses to entrust his females to the three rabbits. When Holly refuses to leave, Woundwort asks who told him they could leave, meaning he will not let them go home. Woundwort then orders that the three new involuntary Efrafans be marked but as night falls, they manage to flee Efrafa thanks to the intervention of Hyzenthlay, while inadvertently causing the death of Vervain, who is run over and killed by an oncoming train while pursuing them.

In The Escape, Woundwort watches a captivated Hyzenthlay, but then Vervain's brother Captain Orchis rushes in. Woundwort blocks him and listens to him talking about his desire to kill the female for recent events and the death of his brother. Orchis tries to approach only to have Woundwort pin him down and tell him that Hyzenthlay is a source of inspiration for Efrafa's females, so he will not kill her but break. Later, Woundwort comes to the surface and notices a new female captured recently, Clover. He brings her to his burrow, but she does not say anything because she is too scared of Woundwort's scarred appearance. The big rabbit tells her that he thought she was part of the Watership Down bunnies until he learned that she was only a hutch rabbit and admits that he also lived briefly in a hutch, but escaped and became the king of Efrafa. Because of their similar past, Woundwort offers to let Clover become his queen, but gives her time to adapt to his life before having the answer. Before leaving, however, he warns her that he hates to be disappointed. The next day, Clover comes to negotiate with Woundwort so that Hyzenthlay is not executed for her last escape attempt, but Woundwort refuses immediately, declaring that he does not negotiate and that she has only two choices: become his queen or she will languish in the depths of Efrafa, which would make no difference to him, before turning his back on her. In the evening, Woundwort hears the sung females, which he has banned and orders the guards to stop the song before being joined by Orchis who informs him of a possible escape to the West according to his spy, Nettle. However, an infiltrated Bigwig (claiming to be only a storyteller to avoid arousing suspicion and under the name of Thlayli) manages to save Hyzenthlay and evade all the females of Efrafa on the opposite side, only to be pursued by the general and his henchmen. They eventually corner them under a bridge as well as their compatriots from Watership Down during a thunderstorm. Woundwort approaches Bigwig, admits to be delighted to finally meet him while admitting that despite what he had tried to make believe, Woundwort knew that Bigwig was a fighter before saying that he will take pleasure in killing him.

Woundwort's backstory is revealed at the opening of The Siege. When Woundwort was still a young rabbit, he and his family entered a garden and Woundwort had to stand guard, but when he saw a fox approaching, he was too scared to warn the eating rabbits who were later massacred by the fox. While trying to flee, Woundwort involuntarily attracted the predator to his warren, leading to the death of many rabbits. The fox then scratched the young rabbit in the face with its claws, wounding him and making him half-blind.

Back in the present, Woundwort is about to finish off Bigwig when Kehaar attacks from the sky, allowing the escapees to flee and forcing the efrafan to fight in retreat. Back in Efrafa, Woundwort summons all his lieutenants to express their concern. Sainfoin is the only one to express himself and expresses his worries for the hunt for the renegats, Woudwort approaches him and asks him if he is afraid for the life of his comrades or if he is just afraid for his own or if he is just scared. Sainfoin admits that he is afraid what annoys the general, who pushes the sergeant to the ground and yells at him that he disgusts him and that he should consider it a glory to die thus. He calms down and asks Sainfoin if he is loyal and the frightened rabbit answered yes. Woundwort asks the same question to Campion who responds like this, so the big bunny warns his troops that he does not care how long it takes to hunt down the Watership Down rabbits and when they do they will destroy the warren and leave no trace of them. He also warns those who are afraid of the Elil that they do not have to be because the Efrafan are the Elil.

About two days later, the Efrafans arrive at Watership Down but their presence does not go unnoticed because of their smell dragged by the wind. Hazel tries to convince Woundwort to stop the conflicts because both sides will have a lot to lose and even create a new wilderness between the two. While Campion seems to be of this opinion, Woundwort refuses but decides to let Hazel go by saying that he and his friends will not stay for three days, before telling him to warn Bigwig (whom he thinks is the rabbit chief) that he is anxious to see him again, not knowing that Hazel is the true Wateship Down rabbit.

Woundwort sends his minions to each entrance of the warren for the moment of the attack. In the evening, Sainfoin warns the general to find traces of Kehaar, which Woundwort reacts by shouting that the bird is gone and slapping him while regretting not having killed him in the council's room. Campion informs him in turn that his troops are becoming increasingly feverish because of inactivity and he asks him then what they will have to do with the eventual prisoner, Woundwort answers that there will be no prisoner until a soldier comes to give his opinion on the prisoner's use, only for Woundwort to kill him and warns Campion not to question his orders or he will make regret it before ordering the Efrafans to attack right now.

The next day, the Watership Down rabbits bury themselves deep in the warren with only one free entrance. Woundwort joins his troops digging with Sainfoin, who mentions having heard a strange noise that recalls the bird (Kehaar), but Woundwort coldly warns Sainfoin that if he mentions the bird again, he will kill him. The general begins to enter the hole, ordering Campion to follow him, but the captain refuses. Woundwort angrily confronts the brown rabbit to dare to disobey his orders, but Campion says he prefers to be a good rabbit rather than a good soldier. Finally exasperated and enraged, Woundwort orders Orchis to kill Campion before entering the tunnels with Sainfoin.

As they arrive under the tree, Woundwort senses the rabbits and tracks them hiding a wall of earth that he starts to dig and then flushes out his enemies, only for Bigwig to come out of the ground and bite Woundwort's back leg before pushing him back to the ground. The two big rabbits then engage in a fierce duel, while Sainfoin watches without intervening. After a long fight, Woundwort and Bigwig are exhausted and wounded, but the general offers Bigwig to return to Efrafa after admitting that the kill would be a waste, to which Bigwig refuses and calls a shame for the chief's rabbits, while revealing that he is not really the actual chief rabbit, much to the surprise of Woundwort and Sainfoin.

Woundwort comes out of the burrows, spits blood and yells to his minions that this war will end. He then looks threateningly at Sainfoin, whose lasciviousness and fear finally cause him to flee with other Efrafans, to the wrath of the general who assures them that they will be dead without him. He then orders Orchis to gather their troops for a final attack. Bigwig returns to the surface, but Woundwort orders his soldiers to finish off Bigwig rather than fight him again. Suddenly, the invaders are interrupted by fleeing birds and Woundwort spots Hazel in the distance running towards them. When Bigwig says "Hazel-Rah", Woundwort realizes, to his shock, that Hazel is the rabbit chief. He laughs hysterically at the realization because he only sees Hazel as a feeble rabbit. However, he stops laughing when Orchis spots the guard dog of Nuthanger Farm chasing Hazel. Orchis implores his leader to flee, but Woundwort ignores him and incredulously watches as the rest of his troops flee in fear at the arrival and sight of the huge dog, leaving only Woundwort, Orchis and a single soldier. After the dog has mauled Orchis to death and the last Efrafan has fled, Woundwort looks at the animal with an evil grin as it faces off with him and viciously snarls at the general. Woundwort, refusing to flee or give in to fear, asserts to himself that he does not fear any Elil or dog and that he is afraid of nothing. He then lets out a battle cry before rushing furiously at the dog, leaving his fate unknown.

Personality

General Woundwort is the cruel, brutal, arrogant, domineering and tyrannical overlord of Efrafa, ruling with an iron claw, and is very cunning, but also extremely powerful and truly menacing. He is willing to face many dangers himself, fighting predators such as weasels, stoats, and once a cat. He inspires his fellow rabbits to do the same; the General's refrain is that such animals "aren't dangerous". He seems to feel more comfortable fighting threats than running from them.

He is capable of keeping his courage and wits about him when danger and the unexpected occur. However, his rage clouds his judgement, and he occasionally lacks common sense, such as when he launched himself at the Nuthanger Farm guard dog (although we never saw the outcome, it is assumed the dog killed him). However, he does have his limits; he wouldn't take on a fox and Kehaar the seagull was a bit more than he could handle. However, he is extremely suspicious to the point of paranoia and inflexibility; even when Efrafa faces a desperate situation because the population continually increases beyond the warren's ability to contain it, he refuses to allow further digging to expand living space or any of its inhabitants to leave, and as a result Efrafa appears on the verge of explosion or collapse.

Being the savage brute he is, Woundwort lives by a concept of "power from strength", believing that leadership be given to the strongest rabbits. This is seen in the scene when Woundwort discovers that Bigwig is not Watership's chief rabbit, and Woundwort is afraid of a rabbit that could be bigger and stronger than Bigwig.

He is also treacherous and manipulative, offering rewards to those who serve him, such as does, and giving his powerful thugs freedom and privileges. This is primarily done so that they won't feel tempted to betray him.

Appearance

Woundwort's physical description varies in the different adaptions of Watership Down. However, in all versions, he is depicted as an exceptionally large rabbit, bigger than any other rabbit in the storyline (in the book he is described as being "almost as big as a hare").

In the original novel, Woundwort is described as a savage-looking rabbit with long claws and pale eyes. However, no description is given on his fur colour.

In the film, Woundwort is depicted as a brown rabbit with a dark green right eye, while his left is blind. He is the only rabbit who is shown with extra teeth. He shares the other characteristics of the other movie Efrafans, including a darker colour, a more ragged appearance, prominent claws, and dark circles under his eyes. 

In the TV series, Woundwort is shown as a jet black rabbit (though for some reason he is changed to grey in the third season), with ragged fur, notched ears, a blood red right eye and a blind left eye.

In the Netflix miniseries, Woundwort is dark grey with ragged fur, torn ears, a scarred face and a blind left eye, which is white while his one good eye is amber.

Quotes

(Campion: A young doe has a request, sire.) A doe wants to see me? (Campion: Says she represents a group, sire.) I see. Your name? (Hyzenthlay: Hyzenthlay, sir.) Don't be frightened. You're safe here. Get on with it! (Hyzenthlay: Sir, several of us proposed an expedition to start... a new warren somewhere else.) A new warren? Out of the question. (Hyzenthlay: But, you don't understand. The system is breaking down.) Explain that. (Hyzenthlay: We can't produce litters. We're overcrowded.) I want no further discussion. (Hyzenthlay: We'll go as far as you like.) Here or anywhere else. (Hyzenthlay: Thank you, sir.) Campion, have her watched.
~ Woundwort rejects Hyzenthlay's ideas.
(Campion: Sir, we've picked up this hlessi and brought him in.) Who are you ? (Bigwig: My name is Bigwig) (Campion: Bigwig, sir!) What were you doing? (Bigwig: I've come to join Efrafa.) Why ? (Bigwig: I'm suprised you ask. Sir.) Hmm. (Bigwig: Is there anything odd about wainting to join?) I'll ask the questions. What can you do ? Hmm? (Bigwig: I can run and fight.) Hmm. Fight, can you? (Bigwig: I'v been an officer in an Owsla.) So, you came to join us? (Bigwig: I thought you might have some news for me.) Well, for the time being you'll be assigned a post in a patrol. You'll take orders frome Captain Campion. And if you. Uh. Want a doe...you have choice here. You're not an officer for nothing. (Bigwig: Thank you, sir.) And. Uh. You'll be identified...by your mark.
~ Woundwort meets Bigwig come infiltrated Efrafa.
Bigwig! That white bird you were talking to this morning...(Bigwig: Talking to, sir?) You were very close to it. Why? (Bigwig: Well, I've never been hurt by a bird.) That's not what I asked. (Bigwig: To tell you the truth, sir, I think I was trying to impress you.) In future, stay in your own mark. (Bigwig: Sir.) One more thing: What do you know about a homba? (Bigwig: A homba, sir?) You led it onto some rabbits? (Bigwig: I didn't intend to. I didn't know they were there.) You didn't report it. Everything out of the ordinary is to be reported. (Bigwig: I didn't know running from a homba was out of the ordinary.) That was a patrol on the track of a band of strangers. Do you know anything about them? (Bigwig: I saw some tracks, but I can't tell you anymore than that, sir.) I'm taking out a wide patrol tomorrow. We'll cross the iron road and try to pick up their tracks. I want you to come along. (Bigwig: Yes, sir.) (Watch Bigwig go away and talk to Campion) Campion, follow him. Don't let him out of your sight.
~ Woundwort begin to beware of Bigwig after seeing him talking to Kehaar.
(Campion: The new officer, sir, he's gone.) Bigwig? (Campion: He's wounded Sherbil and taken a crowd of the mark with him.) Embleer Frith! I'll blind him. I'LL BLIND HIM!
~ Woundwort become enraged when he learns Bigwig's betrayal.
Nothing's impossible for Woundwort. Nothing can kill me. Nothing in the air, or the woods. Nothing in this world, or in the shadow land beyond!
~ Woundwort in the TV Series.
He who thinks death is the greatest of punishments knows nothing of what it is to suffer.
~ Woundwort to Orchis, on what is really suffering.
So we finally meet, Thlayli. They told me you weren't a fighter, but I know a fighter when I see one. I'm going to take great pleasure in killing you.
~ Woundwort faces Bigwig for the first time in the Miniserie.
Are you really concerned by the life of your bucks or are you concerned for own life ? Are you afraid, sergeant ? (Sainfoin: Maybe...maybe I afraid) (Throw Sainfoin to the ground) You disgust me! If you expire serving this warren, you should consider yourself fortunate to have the glory of such a death. Those of you are not loyal to me invites outsiders to steal our does. Man to kill us and the elil to bring the white blindness. Those of you not loyal to me, hate efrafa. Are you loyal, sergeant? (Sainfoin: Yes, sir.) And what about you, Campion? (Campion: I am, general.) Good, I don't care if everything take one frifth or thousand, you will find the outsiders who stole our does and when you do, we will destroy their warren and leave no trace of them on this earth. And the those of you who tremble in the wake of birds, or foxes or anyone of the thousand ennemy of rabbits, i said this: In Efrafa we run for no Elil. We are the Elil.
~ Woundwort reprimands Sainfoin's cowardice, Campion's loyalty and orders the ruthless attack of Watership Down.
(Sainfoin: The men say they heard a noise, a great wailing. You don't think that bird's back?) If you mention that bird one more time, I will destroy you. Campion, prepare to follow me in, but not too close, in case we're ambushed. (Campion: I will not.) You dare disobey me? What kind of a soldier are you? (Campion: I'd rather be a good rabbit than a good soldier, sir.) Orchis, finish him. Sainfoin, come with me.
~ Woundwort threatens Sainfoin and is betrayed by Campion during the Watership Down attack.

Trivia

  • In the TV series, it was John Hurt's second time working on an adaptation of Watership Down, as he had previously voiced Hazel in the film, along with the irony in that since Woundwort is Hazel's enemy. He also voiced Snitter from the 1982 animated film The Plague Dogs, which is another film directed by Martin Rosen and based on a book by Richard Adams.
  • Woundwort is a name of an herb.
  • In the TV series, Woundwort was born in Darkhaven and is also known as "the Dark One". He shares that moniker with Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon a Time.
  • In the Miniseries, it is shown that when Woundwort was a young rabbit, it was a fox that made the scar over his left eye. It is never shown how he escaped death when the predator was right in front of him.
  • Woundwort's appearance in the Miniseries looks a bit like his appearance from the first two seasons of the TV series.
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