Bigwig is the tritagonist of Watership Down. He is a strong rabbit known for the tuft of hair on his head from which his Lapine name, Thlayli (literally translating to "fur-head"), is derived. He was part of the Sandleford Owsla with Silver and Captain Holly. He along with several others left with Hazel and Fiver. Hazel hesitated at first to bring him along because of his stubborn nature, thinking Bigwig might be a bully and troublemaker. Luckily, Bigwig proved to be one of the most valuable members of the party, though he does tend to be quite gruff. He is the strongest of the Sandleford rabbits and an accomplished fighter. He survives two normally fatal situations, being snared in Cowslip's Warren and a brutal fight with General Woundwort. He is also known to be the bravest of the group.

Personality[edit | edit source]

Bigwig is known for being stubborn and tends to be impatient. Hawkbit stated that he knew Bigwig was too stubborn to get killed by Woundwort after he received some serious injuries from his final encounter with the general. Bigwig can be very short-tempered and a bit of a bully, especially if others weaker than him question his ways. Unlike most bullies however, Bigwig is no coward. The greatest display of his immense courage was his willingness to fight against the terrifying General Woundwort in order to defend his warren. Much like Woundwort himself, Bigwig not only has raw power but also a talent for military strategy. His tactical thinking gives him a vital advantage in his fight with Woundwort as he tells his allies to bury him under the earth and then waits until Woundwort is right on top of him, before launching a surprise attack. 

In the beginning, it is unclear to who is leader, but Bigwig comes to follow Hazel in time, recognizing him as being able to lead, while he is not. He is also shown to be quite sexist, unwilling to accept Hyzenthlay as co-chief rabbit because she was female. However, he eventually comes round to the idea. In the television series, his sexism is also shown by his insistence that "bucks don't dig" which is unreasonable as the only doe in the group at the time is Blackberry. Nonetheless he is willing to put this aside for the sake of the warren, but claims that he will only dig if it gives Watership Down a strategic advantage. Bigwig is very loyal to Hazel, and follows his orders usually without question, even if it means he may die.

Bigwig is one of only three known rabbits, the other two being Campion and Hazel during the television series, who is able to hold his own in a fight with General Woundwort, who had previously slain numerous Elil in addition to fellow rabbits. However, it should be noted that in the film and book, Bigwig has the element of surprise during their battle and therefore lands a crippling blow on Woundwort before the general can strike back. Despite his strength and skill, it is implied that if Bigwig had not caught Woundwort off guard, the general would have killed him. During their final battle in the television series, Bigwig holds his own without using the element of surprise, but ultimately Woundwort proves to be the stronger fighter. Although Bigwig survives, he misses the remainder of the battle between the Darkhaven army and Watership Down due to his injuries.

In addition to his fighting abilities, Bigwig also displays a resilience that is rivaled only by Woundwort and Campion, not only surviving a fight with the general himself but also recovering after briefly losing consciousness when he is caught in a shining wire.

Bigwig also developed a strong friendship with Kehaar during his stay with the rabbits.

Books[edit | edit source]

Watership Down[edit | edit source]

Bigwig is a rabbit that Hazel did not expect to have support of when leaving the Sandleford Warren, and eventually becomes glad that Bigwig joined them. Although Bigwig is at first reluctant to trust either Fiver or Hazel, he learns to believe in Fiver and his sixth sense, and despite having a few quarrels with Hazel, becomes one of his most loyal rabbits and key to holding Hazel's authority together. He is no coward, and is very strong, proving to be very helpful in fights, and is the only rabbit to ever defeat General Woundwort. He is also quite clever, managing to come up with a plan to escape Efrafa with does.

Tales from Watership Down[edit | edit source]

Bigwig features in several stories in the sequel book, however he takes a minor role. He is key to holding down Hazel's authority, and without him, as stated by Hyzenthlay, "there would be no authority left in the warren." He is very loyal to Hazel, and warns him several times when his authority as Chief rabbit is at risk. At first, he is against Hazel's idea of having a female chief rabbit, and makes this known to Hyzenthlay. However when Hyzenthlay did not return to the warren after heading out on her own, Bigwig goes to look for her and is glad to see that she is safe, coming to accept Hazel's idea.

Adaptations[edit | edit source]

Film[edit | edit source]

In the film, Bigwig retains his book personality. He is strong and brave, but is also impatient and at first unwilling to trust in Fiver's visions, however, he and the others come to trust in Fiver and respect Hazel's authority. At Sandleford Warren, he is seen guarding the entrance to the Threarah's Burrow, and allows Hazel and Fiver to visit the Threarah. Later that night, he joins Hazel's group of rabbits who want to leave the warren, along with Silver, saying that he has left the Owsla after what happened earlier that day. At Cowslip's Warren, he does not believe Fiver when he warns them about the warren, and believes that Fiver is trying to spoil the situation for the rabbits and he mocks him for his visions. After angrily telling Fiver that he is going to make sure that no other rabbits will follow him, Bigwig runs headlong into a "shining wire" (snare). Hazel sends word by Fiver to gather the other rabbits as they may be able to free Bigwig. Bigwig struggles to breathe in the snare, and at first appears to have died, even though Blackberry has managed to dig out the snare peg and free him. Bigwig manages to stand, startling the other rabbits, and says that he wants to kill all the rabbits of Cowslip's Warren.

When Fiver interjects, Bigwig carries on traveling with the others. He and the others travel along in a ditch, when Bigwig hears something calling his name. He becomes frightened, hiding behind the others, and become convinced that the Black Rabbit of Inle is calling for him. However when the moaning creature appears, it turns out that it is Captain Holly, who has been searching for them.

When the rabbits discover an injured Kehaar on the down, Bigwig is at first reluctant to help it, but after listening to the gull tell stories of his homeland and life, Bigwig becomes fascinated by him. He becomes good friends with Kehaar and usually the rabbit asked by others to speak with Kehaar. Bigwig is tasked by Hazel of coming up with a plan to escape Efrafa with as many does as possible for the warren and infiltrates Efrafa as an Owsla officer. In Efrafa, he found and befriended a doe called Hyzenthlay, and together they came up with a plan to free some of the does. His plan is almost foiled by the efficiency of Efrafa and its officers, and the naivety of a young doe, Nelthilta. He converses several times with Keehar, and by him, relays his plans back to Hazel and the others, who are waiting for him outside of Efrafa. On the night of the escape, he also manages to free the buck, Blackavar. Bigwig felt immensely sorry for Blackavar after learning what happened to him in Efrafa. Bigwig was determined not to leave without him, and attacked his Owslafa guard, Chervil, and broke his leg. He led the does away from Efrafa under the "Iron Road", where they were cornered by Woundwort and his Owsla. They escaped as Keehar attacked Woundwort creating confusion, and fled towards the river. He watched Woundwort and his Owsla vanish as he and the others floated away on the boat.

He enjoyed a brief period of peace before the Watership warren was discovered by Woundwort and his Owsla. When Woundwort attacked, Hazel ordered Bigwig to not give into them, as he, Dandelion, Blackberry and Hyzenthlay run to Nuthanger Farm to free the dog. After being buried under a thin layer of dirt, Bigwig manages to take the general by surprise, injuring Woundwort’s leg in the process. Both sustain terrible injuries, but Bigwig survives though he never speaks of what happened underground.

TV Series[edit | edit source]

Bigwin in season 1-2 of the TV-series

In the TV series, Bigwig is large, loyal, and strong rabbit, with a large mane of fur around his neck and shoulders, thus, making him most likely a Lion Headed Rabbit. Bigwig's strength is unlike that of any other rabbits of his warren, and it was proven enough to rival Woundwort's. He also has been able to tackle predators like badgers and weasels.

At first he and Hazel have differences over who is the leader, but Bigwig eventually tells Hazel that it is not him, and that Hazel should lead. He is the Captain of Owsla on Watership Down, and is often seen at Hazel's side. Although sometimes a bit of a bully, Bigwig is very caring for others. He is very protective of Pipkin, the youngest rabbit, and protects and comforts him when he needs it. Several times, he is seen training the Watership Owsla, along with Pipkin.

Bigwig (right) with Spartina, in season 3 of the TV-series.

In the third season of the show, he falls in love with the doe, Spartina. When it was revealed that Spartina was a spy for the Darkhaven Warren, he became upset and angry. Despite this, he traveled to the edges of Darkhaven and waited for Spartina to return safely. In the end, he settles down with Spartina.

His design was changed slightly from the others seasons in Season 3. In the first two seasons, his mane sits around his neck, with a dark brown coloration. In the third season, his mane is changed to a lighter color, and connects to his belly fur. His brown tipped tail has been removed.

Miniseries[edit | edit source]

Bigwig appears in the miniseries and is voiced by John Boyega.

Bigwig's size is a little bigger and his strength have proven to be most intimidating to other rabbits. As Hazel stood against Captain Holly, who was having more numbers than Hazel's side, but Bigwig joining Hazel and the others made Captain Holly's patrol fear him, knowing they were no match for him alone. Bigwig's strength and skill in combat were enough for General Woundwort to be impressed by him. Bigwig managed to wound Woundwort in a brutal fight and exhausted him as Woundwort was struggling to climb out of the burrow after their fight. Bigwig even took on a cat, and even though he lost due to being attacked from an ambush, he still managed to tackle it away.

In this adaptation, Bigwig is shown to be much more short-tempered and confrontational than previous adaptations, showing much less of a softer side than in the book. The mild tension that exists between him and Hazel on the journey to Watership Down in the novel is amplified in this version, with Bigwig constantly undermining Hazel's leadership. He also takes over Hawkbit's role as the main doubter, actively questioning Hazel's leadership while Hawkbit merely complains about it.

He is first seen guarding Thearah's burrow. Hazel and Fiver manage to convince him to let them through, but he threatens to come looking for them if he gets his head bitten off, which he does, after they leave. The Thearah scolds him for letting a bunch of "outskirters" come in and talk to him, rather than making sure he was left alone, as he was tasked.

Later, under the bridge, Bigwig comes upon Captain Holly and another Owsla officer attempting to arrest Hazel, Fiver, Blackberry, Hawkbit, Dandelion, and Bluebell for attempting to escape the warren, after they were told about it by Dewdrop. He appears to be furious at Hazel for getting him lectured by the Threarah, but then turns on Holly, saying that he's sick of being in the Owsla, and by extension, the entire warren, and he's sick of always following the captain's orders and toeing the line. He threatens to kill Holly if he doesn't leave, which the latter replies by doing so. However, he has gathered the entire Owsla to capture the seven, and they attempt to escape through the woods. Blackberry sees a trash can lid in the stream, and has everyone jump on, while Bigwig and Dandelion push it to the other side.

They eventually make it to a destroyed church, where a bunch of crows live. Despite Bigwig's protests, Hazel attempts to talk to them, resulting in them assaulting the rabbits. Dandelion manages to lure them off, almost dying in the process. Bigwig battles the leader of the crows, and kills him, causing the others to flee. They decide that they cannot rest there, and continue to journey forward.

Fiver senses that a down ahead of them is their home, and Hazel agrees, telling everyone to go there, but Bigwig refuses, denying Hazel his leadership, as it was himself who saved them from Holly, Blackberry who helped them escape, and Dandelion who saved them from the crows after Hazel himself caused them to attack. He then starts to dig a scrape, not to rest, but to stay. The other rabbits, bar Hazel and Fiver, go to help him. The next morning, a buck named Cowslip comes skipping along, and notices them. He offers them a home in his warren, before returning to said warren. Fiver attempts to tell them that they shouldn't have anything to do with Cowslip, and the decision comes down to Hazel. Hawkbit initially assumes that he mindlessly thinks the exact same as Fiver, but much to his surprise, Hazel decides that they should check out the warren. Bigwig only sees this as a single good decision on Hazel's part, but still won't accept him as the leader.

It turns out that Fiver didn't sleep in the warren, and stayed outside through the night. Bigwig then tells Hazel to get control over him, as his actions could get them evicted. Hazel does so, but Fiver pushes him to anger by revealing Dewdrop's actions. He refused to believe him, as he'd had a crush on her.

As Silverweed speaks a poem to everyone, Fiver freaks out again, and runs out to go to the down. Bigwig catches up to him, and berates him for putting them in danger of getting evicted from the warren. Hazel comes up to them. Fiver turns to him, says his goodbyes, and continues onward. It is then that Hazel decides to believe in Fiver's feeling regarding the warren, and goes to get the other rabbits, but Bigwig tackles Hazel to the ground to stop him from reaching the others before kicking him and Fiver out of Cowslip's Warren, threatening to kill both of them if they return. He starts to run back to the warren, but he gets snared. Through the choking, he tells Hazel to dig and bite, which he proceeds to do. Fiver runs back to get the others. Cowslip attempts to bar them from the exit, saying that Frith has decided that it is Bigwig's turn. Blackberry angrily shoves him out of the way, and they come to Bigwig's aid. Fiver manages to chew the peg in half. However, Bigwig has supposedly already died. Blackberry checks his pulse, but hears nothing. Bigwig, who is still alive, overhears Hawkbit telling Hazel of Cowslip's actions, and wants to go back and kill the rabbits in the warren, but Fiver stops him, saying that all they have to do is leave them. Strawberry, a doe from the warren, joins them. Bigwig finally decides to trust in Fiver's vision, and he goes with the others to the down.

Bigwig finally accepts Hazel's leadership when they make it to the down. However, he is still shown to question Hazel's decisions, most notably shown when he gets angry with Hazel orders a retreat from Nuthanger Farm for fear of alerting the humans of their presence, and calls him out for being squeamish, as Bigwig believes that he could have managed the cat fine on his own, despite the bad odds of him winning.

On the second trip to Nuthanger Farm, Hazel goes by himself to save the hutch rabbits, who have been moved indoors. Bigwig arrives just as the cat attacks. He knocks him into a corner. However, the cat jumps up onto a shelf, and knocks down a vase, alerting the wife. She captures two of the hutch rabbits. Hazel saves Clover, one of the hutch does that he has fallen for, from getting shot by the farmer, but in turn, he himself ends up getting shot in the leg. He manages to survive, and Fiver senses it. Clover goes out herself to find him, and Bigwig attempts to get her back. She finds Hazel in a pipe, just as Fiver had sensed, and cleans his wound. She hears a buck behind her, believing him to be Bigwig, but it's an Efrafan guard, who then captures her. Bigwig then plans to get into Efrafa to rescue her, along with the other does. Once he gets there, he passes himself off as a storyteller, rather than admitting to being part of an Owsla, which leads to more difficulties in maintaining his cover, due to the Efrafans wanting him to tell stories. He miraculously manages to keep who he was a secret, until Captain Orchis chooses him to execute Hyzenthlay in order to prove his loyalty to Efrafa, and sets up Sainfoin to kill him if he hesitates to do so. He manages to save her, along with Clover, Blackavar, and the other does, and bring them back to Watership Down Warren.

Just as in the film, during the Battle of Watership Down, Bigwig has the others bury him in the soil, so he can land a surprise attack on Woundwort, whom he fights to a stalemate. Later on, as Hazel is leading Bob to the warren, he staggers out of the burrow, and weakly says "Hazel-rah." This makes Woundwort laugh at the fact that this shrimpy rabbit is the chief of the warren. However, when the Efrafans realize that he is being chased by a dog, they all run, except for Orchis, who is killed because he has gone tharn at the sight of the dog. Bigwig survives his wounds, and falls in love with Strawberry and has children with her. When he sees them carrying worms in their mouths, he is confused for a split second, but then realizes that Kehaar has tasked them with bringing him worms.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Bigwig is voiced by Michael Graham-Cox in the film.
  • Bigwig also appears in the poster for the film, which depicts him in a snare.
  • Bigwig's name stands for an important person for a group or organization.
  • The Punk Rock band, 'Bigwig' is named after the character.

Quotes[edit | edit source]

Bigwig: “We go by the will of the Black Rabbit. When he calls you, you must go.”

-Bigwig after hearing Captain Holly’s cries

Bigwig: “I told you once I was trying to impress you. I hope I have.”

General Woundwort: “And I told you, I would kill you myself! There’s no white bird here, Bigwig.”

-Bigwig and General Woundwort before their battle

Gallery[edit | edit source]

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