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"You've been feeling tired, but I can do something about that... If you are ready, we might go along now. You needn't worry about them any longer. They'll be all right...and thousands like them. Come along, I'll show you what I mean."
— El-ahrairah to an elderly dying Hazel

El-ahrairah is one of the two posthumous overarching protagonists (alongside Black Rabbit of Inlé) in the Watership Down series. He is a rabbit who lived long before Hazel and the rest of the Watership Down Warren were born. He was the Prince of the Rabbits. He lived with his trusted sidekick and captain of the Owsla Rabscuttle, and his people, in a state of peace with the rest of the animals of the World. Until one day, when the rabbits' reproduction increased out of control, Lord Frith told El-ahrairah to maintain their numbers steadily, but El-ahrairah told Frith that his people are the strongest in the world.

Lord Frith saw this as arrogance and told El-ahrairah that if he didn't control his people, that he would do it. So, he gave a gift to every animal in the forest. However, with these gifts came predators such as the dog, the cat, the wolf, the hawk, the fox and the weasel. To each of them, Frith gave them the desire to hunt and kill El-ahrairah`s people. Then Lord Frith bestowed a gift upon El-ahrairah and his people. El-ahrairah was running when Frith came to see him, for he knew that Frith was upset with him. However, Frith gave him the gifts of speed, cunning, digging, and a good sense of hearing, and he told him that his people no longer cover the world, but as long as they used the gifts he gave to them, they will never perish.

It is said that he takes the dead Chief Rabbits to join his heavenly Owsla, as was the case with Hazel. His name is Lapine for "Prince with a Thousand Enemies".

El-ahrairah who was the first of the rabbits to walk the earth appears to have transcended into an immortal spirit that watches over all his descendants. In the present, some rabbits claim to sometimes hear his voice that warns them of danger and guides them to safety.

The Blessing of El-ahrairah[]

Long ago, Frith made the world. He made all the stars, too, and the world is one of the stars. He made them by scattering his droppings all over the sky and this is why the grass and the trees grow so thick on the world. Frith makes the rivers flow. They follow him as he goes through the sky, and when he leaves the sky they look for him all night. Frith made all the animals and birds, but when he first made them they were all the same. The sparrow and the kestrel were friends and they both ate seeds and flies. And the fox and the rabbit were friends and they both ate grass. And there was plenty of grass and plenty of flies, because the world was new and Frith shone down bright and warm all day.

Now, El-ahrairah was among the animals in those days and he has many wives. He has so many wives that there was no counting them, and the wives had so many young that even Frith could not count them, they ate the grass, dandelions, lettuces and the clover. El-ahrairah was the father of them all.


El-ahrairah listens to Frith.

After a time, the grass began to grow thin and the rabbits wandered everywhere, multiplying and eating as they went. Frith said to El-ahrairah, "Prince Rabbit, if you cannot control your people, I shall find ways to control them. So mark what I say". But El-ahrairah would not listen and he said to Frith, "My people are the strongest in the world, for they breed faster and eat more than any of the other people. And this shows how much they love Lord Frith, for of all the animals they are the most responsive to his warmth and brightness. You must realize, my lord how important they are and not hinder them in their beautiful lives."

Frith could have killed El-ahrairah at once, but he had a mind to keep him in the world, because he needed him to sport, jest and play tricks. So he determined to get the better of him, not by means of his own great power but by means of a trick. He gave out that he would hold a great meeting where he would give a present to every animal and bird, to make each one different from the rest. So all the creatures set out to go to the meeting place.

However, they all arrived at different times, because Frith made sure that it would happen that way. When the blackbird came, he gave him his beautiful song, and when the cow came, he gave her sharp horns and the strength to be afraid of no other creature. When the fox, the stoat and the weasel's turn came Frith gave the cunning, the fierceness, the desire to hunt, slay and eat the children of El-ahrairah. So they went away from Frith full of nothing but hunger to kill the rabbits.

Now all this time El-ahrairah was dancing and mating and boasting that he was going to Frith's meeting to receive a great gift. And at last he set out for the meeting place. But as he was going there, he stopped to rest on a soft, sandy hillside. And while he was resting, over the hill came flying the dark swift, screaming as he went "News! News! News!" For you know, this is what he has said ever since that day. So El-ahrairah called up to him and said, "What news?" "Why," the swift replied, "I would not want to be you, El-ahrairah. For Frith has given the fox and the weasel cunning hearts and sharp teeth, and to the cat he has given silent feet and eyes that can see in the dark, and they are gone away from Frith's place to kill and devour all that belongs to El-ahrairah." And he dashed on over the hills.

At that moment El-ahrairah heard the voice of Frith calling, "Where is El-ahrairah? For all the others have taken their gifts and gone, I have come to look for him. Then El-ahrairah knew Frith was too clever for him and was frightened. He thought that the fox and the weasel were coming with Frith so he turned to the face of the hill and began to dig. He was digging a hole, but he had dug only a little of it when Frith came over the hill alone. And he saw El-ahrairah's bottom sticking out of the hole and the sand flying out in showers as the digging went on.

When he saw that, he called out, "My friend, have you seen El-ahrairah, for I am looking to give him my gift?" "No," answered El-ahrairah, without coming out, "I have not seen him. He is far away, He could not come." So Frith said, "Then come out of that hole and I will bless you instead of him," "No, I cannot," said El-ahrairah, "I am busy. The fox and the weasel are coming. If you want to bless me, you'll have to bless my bottom, for it is sticking out of the hole."

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El-ahrairah getting blessed.

Then Frith felt himself in friendship with El-ahrairah, because of his resourcefulness, and because he would not give up even when he thought the fox and the weasel were coming. And he said, "Very well, I will bless your bottom as it sticks out of the hole. Bottom, be strength and warning and speed forever and save the life of your master. Be it so!". And as he spoke, El-ahrairah's tail grew shining white and flashed like a star; and his back legs grew long and powerful and he thumped the hillside until the very beetles fell off the grass stems. He came out of the hole and tore across the hill faster than any creature in the world.

And Frith called after him, "El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first, they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed." And El-ahrairah knew then that although he would not be mocked, Frith was still his friend.

And every evening, when Frith has done his day's work and lies calm and easy in the red sky, El-ahrairah and his children and his children's children come out of their warren and feed and play in his sight, for they are his friends, and he had promised them that they can never be destroyed.

Meeting Hazel[]


El-ahrairah guiding Hazel to the afterlife.

In the book, it is implied that El-ahrairah takes Hazel away, instead of the Black Rabbit of Inlé seen in the film and miniseries. This is supported by a mention of the rabbit's ears glowing a silver light. Aldo Galli, an illustrator chosen by Richard Adams, also painted this approach for the release of an illustrated version of Watership Down.[1] El-ahrairah also takes Hazel away in Watership Down: The Graphic Novel.


  • At the very beginning of Tales from Watership Down, Richard Adams gives a short note on pronunciation of El-ahrairah’s name. It goes as follows: “So many people have asked about the correct pronunciation of “El-ahrairah” that it seemed to be worth including a short note. The first two syllables are pronounced “Ella” (like the girl’s name). These are followed by the single syllable “hrair”, rhyming with “fair”, and finally “rah”, rhyming with “spa”. All the syllables are equally stressed except the “la” in “Ella”, which is almost (but not quite) elided. The two "r"s should be lightly rolled.”
  • In the book, Richard Adams compares El-ahrairah to being like John Henry to the "American Negroes". It should be noted that Adams was not trying to be racist here; the term was widely popularized when Adams was younger.
  • Being the first rabbit, El-ahrairah could be considered the equivalent to Adam from Genesis who was said to be the first man. Both wound up leaving their original paradise to create their own paradise due to unfortunate circumstances and would end up fathering the rest of their race. Both are looked upon as divine heroes for their acts of compassion and rebellion for the sake of those they loved.
  • His name is pronounced as "El-ahrah" in the TV Series.



TV Series[]


Graphic novel[]

Sandleford Warren
BigwigBlackberryBluebellCaptain HollyDandelionFiverHawkbitHazelHazel and Fiver's MotherPipkinPimpernelSilverThrearahToadflax

Nuthanger Farm
Cowslip's Warren
BlackavarCaptain CampionCaptain ChervilCaptain OrchisCharlockGeneral WoundwortHyzenthlayRagwortSainfoinThethuthinnangThistleVervainVilthuril
Black Rabbit of InléEl-ahrairahHufsaRabscuttle

Books only
Introduced in Watership Down
AcornAshAvensBartsiaBetonyBuckthornButterburCaptain BuglossCaptain MallowColtsfootFlescaGroundselMarjoramMoneywortNelthiltaNightshadeNildro-hainNose-in-the-AirPine NeedlesScabiousSnowdropSpeedwellThrayonlosaThrearThunder

Introduced in Tales from Watership Down
BurdockCelandineCrowfootCrowlaFescueFlyairthFoxgloveHeartseaseKing Fur-RociousKnapweedLemistaLoosestrifeMelsaMianMilmownNyreemPeertonPrakeQuiensRithlaSandwortStitchwortStonecropThrennionTindraWoodruff

AspenBlueskyButtercupCaptain BroomFelsparFlaxGentianGiliaGorseGraniteHeatherHickoryLarchMallowMarigoldMossPrimroseRaincloudRedShaleSnowdropSpartinaSpeaker of the PastLaurel
Film/Miniseries only
Dewdrop (Miniseries) • Nettle (Miniseries) • Violet (film)