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Watership Down Rabbit Language Dictionary: A Lapin Glossary
Always at some point in an animal’s life, they lose their favor to someone else. It will happen in many different ways, whether it’s important or not, and it can be better or worse depending on whose favor you lose. El-ahrairah lost his favor in a worse way than could happen to any animal – he lost the favor of Frith. You see, Frith had always favored El-ahrairah because he had been faithful to him yet cunning and tricky, and when he was rarely caught by any elil, he always escaped by a trick. But one-day El-ahrairah found Frith no longer cared for him. All the rabbits blamed him for this, for they said his tricks caused him this plague, and said not even the Black Rabbit of Inle could bring a worse one than this. For if El-ahrairah had no favor of Frith, all rabbits did not. One day as El-ahrairah was sullenly silflaying, Frith came down to him and said,
“El-ahrairah, my favor has left you and now rests upon a different animal.”
“I know, Lord Frith,” said El-ahrairah.
“I have decided that there might be others that are more worthy of my favor than you,” continued Frith. “I have never considered until now anyone else. But why is it that my favor rests on you?”
“I know not, my lord,” answered El-ahrairah.
“Do you wish to see, El-ahrairah, which animal my favor rests on now?”
“If you wish to show me, I will see.” In a flash of light, beside Frith stood a great wolf.
“My favor, El-ahrairah, now rests on the Lord of Wolves, Grintaz,” said Frith. The great gray wolf held his head high and looked at El-ahrairah in self-pride. The Prince with a Thousand Enemies could not believe that Frith chose such a creature as a wolf to be his new favorite. “Grintaz,” Frith went on, “is as cunning as you, and knows how to lead a colony as you do. He can play tricks and is worthy of my trust…unless you think you can prove otherwise.”
“I do not understand your meaning, my lord,” said El-ahrairah.
“I challenge you against Grintaz in a contest to prove which of you is truly worthy of my favor. Grintaz has already agreed. What do you say, O Prince with a Thousand Enemies?”
“If it pleases you, O Great Frith, I will accept your challenge,” answered El-ahrairah.
“Good!” said Frith. “Come, and I will give you your instructions.” The wolf and rabbit strode and hopped after Frith, keeping as far apart as possible from each other. Soon they reached a high mountain, in which Frith floated up to the top, but the two other animals were forced to climb it. When they reached Frith they plopped down in front of him, exhausted.
“Here is your first challenge,” began Frith. “I will take you to the home of the Black Rabbit of Inle. You must then escape out of the other side.” El-ahrairah’s eyes went pale and his blood went cold, and he almost went tharn with fear. Grintaz remained calm and unworried, but the facts must be considered he had never been to the Black Rabbit’s warren, and he did not fear rabbits, so this did not seem to him frightening. “Your second challenge,” continued Frith, “will be to find your way into the home of Prince Rainbow. Are we clear?” The two animals nodded. “Then I shall instantly take us to the home of the Black Rabbit.” Suddenly everything around El-ahrairah and Grintaz began to fade, and in the place of the green, grassy hills were cold, dark jagged rocks. El-ahrairah was filled with fear. Grintaz whimpered. They saw they were at the bottom of a cliff with horrible spiky rocks reaching up all around them. At the top of the cliff stood Frith, who refused to enter this underworldly place. The two crouched there for a moment, not sure what to do. Then a voice spoke behind them, and they whipped around.
“Welcome, El-ahrairah. Grintaz.” The Black Rabbit of Inle stood before them, with his shadowy Owsla behind him. “I am rather surprised you have returned, O Prince with a Thousand Enemies. Surely you have not forgotten the last time you were here?”
“I have not, O Black Rabbit,” replied El-ahrairah with utter fear.
“And Grintaz, you lay eyes upon me for the first time.” The Lord of Wolves whimpered. “Now!” continued the Black Rabbit. “Remember. You are in my home, and you are my guest. What I say goes.”
“Remember, O Rabbit of the Night,” said Frith from above, “that this is my challenge, and whatever you say will only be by my will.”
“Of course, O Lord Frith.” The Black Rabbit turned back to his two guests. “I don’t want either of you to try anything on me or my Owsla, or else there may not be anyone for Frith to favor. Oh, yes, and El-ahrairah, you have not even seen half my warren, so don’t think that being here before makes this competition any easier. Am I clear?” The two animals nodded. “Then I will leave this section of my warren, and Frith will say when to start the challenge. But mind you, I will be watching.” The Black Rabbit of Inle instantly faded away into shadow, and his Owsla scattered throughout his warren.
“Well, then,” began Frith. “Grintaz, I will move you to a different place in this warren, and then you will both hear my command to start. But one thing before you begin. I will have neither of you following the other. Now, I will be waiting at the end so I may see who arrives first.” Grintaz faded away to another part of the Home of the Night, and then El-ahrairah once again saw Frith high above him. “Are you ready? Then…go!” Instantly El-ahrairah began running. To him, this didn’t seem anything like a normal warren. He was filled with fear. It was dark and misty, and he kept getting glimpses of the shadowy Owsla. Was there any way to overcome his fear in a place like this? After running aimlessly through random openings of boulders and spikes, he thought he may have found a path amidst the rubble of what the Black Rabbit called home. The Owsla were peering out at him through crevices and holes, and he could not shake off the thought of the Black Rabbit’s red eyes watching his every step he took. At last, he reached the Pit of Plagues. He halted. He felt he could not go any farther. He sat down and stared at all the sicknesses and diseases of animals sat in there. Then he heard voices behind him, and he turned to see the Owsla of the Black Rabbit.
“Why do you linger, O Prince of Rabbits?” one said. “Especially at these holes?”
“I feel completely tired out and tharn,” said El-ahrairah. “I am going to lose.”
“Frith still waits for you,” said the second shadow. El-ahrairah hopped off at this, thinking that he may still have a chance. He went a little ways before he felt a different pair of eyes stalking him. He watched out of the corner of his eye while he slowly crept along. Then he saw it was Grintaz talking him, and following. He went a little ways more. But all of a sudden he could feel a dreadful feeling coming over him. It was the white blindness! He flopped down and moaned.
“Oh, I knew it! I knew it! The white blindness!” he cried and groaned in agony. He could not go on. “I will die here, then,” he said. “Never will I see again!” He groaned and rolled on the icy ground and then lay still, panting, covering his pained eyes. Grintaz drew back, and cautiously passed him, afraid of catching it too. He disappeared after a moment into the shadows, still seeking the end. El-ahrairah sat up, smiling at his clever trick. He turned another way and scurried off. He went still longer, longing to escape. But as he turned a corner he found himself face to face with five Owsla shadows. They seemed to be guarding a path. A shortcut, maybe?
“Turn away from here, El-ahrairah,” said the first one. The Prince Rabbit choked down his fear and looked at them with a confused look.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“Guarding a passage you may not enter,” said the same shadow. El-ahrairah kept looking at him with the same confused look. Then he said,
“Is that what your rabbit is doing?” The shadows looked confused.
“What?” said the second shadow.
“Your rabbit,” said El-ahrairah again.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re shadows, aren’t you?”
“Then your rabbit must be guarding a passage, too.”
“Yes. If you’re shadows, then you ought to belong to someone. It must be stormy in the world, and therefore you have left your rabbit and come down here to live until your rabbit calls on you again.”
“We’re always down here.”
“That’s because you are practically dead up there with your rabbit. You can only remember being down in this place. But it is possible that down here, you are not doing what your rabbit is.”
“Your rabbit may be sleeping, not guarding, and this could be a very big problem indeed. Your rabbit only wants you doing what he or she is doing, and if you’re doing something different, your rabbit could come complain to Frith, and Frith can use his powers of light to eliminate you.”
“What…? But how do we know what our rabbit is doing?”
“Only the Black Rabbit of Inle knows that. You must go ask him immediately, or you could get in VERY big trouble indeed.”
“Really?” The five shadows ran from their gate to find the Black Rabbit, and El-ahrairah chuckled and ran through the passage. It was a cliff-like passage, and he could look down from where he was. He had not gone far when he heard the voice of the Black Rabbit below him.
“He told you what?” he said.
“That our rabbit might not be guarding anything, and Frith might destroy us.” The Black Rabbit turned and stared straight at El-ahrairah.
“EL-AHRAIRAH!” he screeched. The Prince’s eyes went white with fear, and he ran as fast as he could. It was getting brighter and brighter, and warmer and warmer, and then he reached an open plain of rock and ice. Several hundred feet away was a great gate in which the light of Frith shone out. But all of a sudden he heard the pitter patter of the shadowy feet of the Black Rabbit of Inle behind him. He ran as fast as he could, nearer and nearer to the gate, but realized the Black Rabbit was gaining on him. And then, just as he jumped through the gate, he felt the Black Rabbit’s teeth sinking into his tail, and then immense pain. The Black Rabbit had ripped his tail off! He squealed in pain as the Black Rabbit looked angrily at him. Frith seemed pleased, however.
“O Black Rabbit of the Night,” said Frith, “give the Prince with a Thousand Enemies his tail back.”
“O great Frithrah,” began the Black Rabbit, “he tricked my Owsla, and-”
“Night, I have given you a command.” The Black Rabbit reluctantly tossed El-ahrairah’s tail to him and drew back into the shadows. “You have done well, El-ahrairah,” said Frith. “But not well enough. Grintaz has won.” It was true. Grintaz sat there well rested, waiting for the next challenge. Frith attached El-ahrairah’s tail back to him and told them to prepare for the second challenge. “Well, now that you both have had your scare, then we can go to a place a little brighter.” Just as before, everything faded around them, and in the place of the nightmarish warren of the Black Rabbit of Inle appeared a beautiful land. The grass was green, the sky blue, the flowers, red, orange, yellow, and purple. A good ways off stood a great palace of every different color, bigger than any of them have ever seen. El-ahrairah found himself alone, except for Frith way above him.
“I have already separated you both,” said Frith. “Now, remember, you must find your way into the palace of Prince Rainbow. And the rules are the same here as at the Black Rabbit’s home. Remember that.” Frith then said, “Ready…go!” El-ahrairah sat off running towards the great building that stood in front of him. He was beginning to realize that both the challenges had to do with the people that most disliked him. The palace drew near. He was beginning to see the great twists of colors shining throughout the castle. But as he drew nearer, he also saw the guards of the palace. He hid behind a clump of orange bushes. He watched the guards. They were everywhere – on the walls, by the gates, roaming here and there. He spotted a brook very near him and began to get an idea. He crept along the ground, and then into the water. He bathed and bathed and got as wet as he could. The brook trickled right into Prince Rainbow’s garden, and he swam along the bottom, by rainbow trout, and had to come up for breath several times. He crept into the garden and then rolled in the grass, flowers, milkweed, and anything else colorful he could find. He stuck four spider lilies on his ears and then took hrair spiky leaves and stuck them on his back with honey. He stuck oak tree sproutings between the toes of his forepaws and stuck dandelions in his back paws. He put leaves over his face, and fixed them to hang down over his mouth almost like a beak, and stuck a great palm leaf on his belly with more honey. He also hung leaves over his front and back legs. At last, he took a quick soak (long enough not to wash away the honey) in the stream, and then set off towards Prince Rainbow’s Palace. El-ahrairah hopped straight up to the guards.
“Who are you and why do you come?” said the first guard. El-ahrairah chuckled slowly.
“I…am…the Tortoise…of…Waterdue…” he said.
“Don’t you know there is a contest going on here? Come another time.”
“I…can’t. This is…an…emergen…cy.”
“Oh? How come?”
“I…have heard…of…this…contest…that is…taking……place. I have heard…that…great…Frith is…here. This is a…major…problem…for…you.”
“Oh? In what way?”
“If…this is…so…then…there is…too much…sun…here…if…Frith is…here. You could all…disappear.”
“Oh…really?” The guards were beginning to get nervous. El-ahrairah continued.
“But I…the Tortoise of…Waterdue can…save you. I can…bring…water to…all…those who…need it. But in…order…to…save you…I…must ask…Prince Rainbow and…Frith…himself. So you…will…have…to let…me……….pass…or else…you will…evap…or…ate.”
“Then for the sake of us and Prince Rainbow pass!” The first guard yelled up at the wall, “Open the gates!” and the gates opened. The “Tortoise of Waterdue” hobbled inside.
“Oh…” he added, “if there…is…a…contest…going…on…then I suggest…you…close…the……………………………………….gates.” The guards did so and El-ahrairah hopped off. Then he soon entered a great room. And there was Frith with Prince Rainbow!…and Grintaz.
“What is this?” inquired Prince Rainbow disgustedly. The Prince with a Thousand Enemies shook off his costume. “Oh,” said the prince. “I should have known.”
“O great Frith, Lord Sun, I have failed you,” said El-ahrairah. “I am not worthy of your favor more than Grintaz.” All of a sudden Frith burst out laughing. El-ahrairah stared astonished at him.
“O Prince with a Thousand Enemies!” boomed Frithrah. “You have always laid tricks on others, such as Prince Rainbow here (Prince Rainbow squinted his eyes at the Prince Rabbit), but at last I have laid a trick upon you!” Frith laughed harder.
“O Frithrah, I do not understand,” said El-ahrairah.
“El-ahrairah, I never doubted my favor towards you!” said Frith. “I only wanted to see if you still had new tricks in you.”
“But what about Grintaz, my lord?” Almost immediately, a great flash of light smothered the Lord of Wolves and then in his place stood an angel of Frith.
“You were not competing against a wolf, but one of my servants! El-ahrairah, this challenge pleased me. Not only did you show your never-ending tricks, but the fact that you did not turn in my servant when he stalked you against my orders has earned you, even more, favor.”
“Thank you, great Frithrah,” said El-ahrairah.
“Well, then,” said Prince Rainbow, “now that this great challenge is over, and is ended, I would very much like to get this rabbit out of my palace at once!”