The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.”

Like many readers, I read The Wind in the Willows as a child and was completely charmed by the adventures of Ratty and Mole and Badger and Mr. Toad and the other creatures who populated Grahame’s captivating tale.  Yet like any children’s book read as an adult, you wonder if it will have the same effect now as then. Would I relate to its characters, be able to vividly imagine its setting, to become part of the story instead of simply experiencing it? Fortunately, I found time had diminished none of its magic. From the moment that Mole discovered the river and began “messing around in boats,” I was there. I could hear the fresh wind rushing through the reeds and the splash of the water as Mole fell out of the boat.  I could feel the warmth of Ratty’s snug house and the fear of Mole as he trekked through the Wild Woods.  And what became appreciated once again became familiar and what became familiar became loved.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing —— absolutely nothing —- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ….”

 

Rat and Mole on the Riverbank

Grahame embues The Wind in the Willows with the lazy, slow pace of nature on one hand, an idyllic existence, yet on the other also portrays inherent dangers which affect the lives of the inhabitants that are curiously brought about by their own choices and actions.  We follow Rat, Mole, Badger, Toad and Otter through a season in their lives and discover some curious parallels to ours.  There are certainly life lessons to be drawn from his enchanting narrative.

“Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wild World,” said the Rat. “And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or to me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all.”

 

The Wind in the Willows map

And while I thoroughly enjoyed this read, I must admit I was somewhat disturbed by the behaviour of Toad of Toad Hall who exhibited some extremely self-centered, if not addictive, tendencies that jeopardized the well-being of others in ways that were often quite dangerous.  From the blatant theft of automobiles and other things, to his time in prison, Toad exhibits a gleeful, remorseless egoism and pride in his unethical, conscienceless acts, no matter whom he upsets or injures.

“Toad sat up slowly and dried his eyes.  Secrets had an immense attraction for him, because he never could keep one, and he enjoyed the sort of unhallowed thrill he experienced when he went and told another animal, after having faithfully promised not to.”

Yet in the end, he magically changes his ways and becomes a reformed Toad, which perhaps indicates that the book is much like a children’s fairy tale and should be enjoyed as such without much introspection into deeper themes.

Toad Hall

Yet in spite of its magical, imaginative nature, one theme resonates deeply from its pages: Friendship.  From my read-along of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, we learned that true friendship is often a matter of circumstances rather than choice, and that friendship strengths as we share common journeys, and we experiences these maxims through the animal friendship in this story.  True friendship requires sacrifice, patience, and the willingness to accept our friends as they are, in effect, how God made them.  As such, I admired the consideration and humility that Rat and Mole showed towards each other, at once displaying natural tendencies towards selfishness but tempered by the willingness to suppress them for the good of the other.  Even their treatment of Toad was far more charitable and tolerant than he deserved, yet that charity and steadfastness won him over in the end.  And this review would not be complete without mentioning Badger, a stalwart figure of fortitude, bravery and strong leadership who, in spite of his dislike of Society, was a firm anchor in their animal community. Oh, to have friends like these!, one might say to oneself!

Messing About in Boats

I would definitely recommend The Wind in the Willows to anyone who hasn’t read it and as a re-read for those who have.  Beware!  You will be drawn away into a magical world of Grahame’s creation and you won’t want to leave!

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.”

 

Otter from The Wind in the Willows

35 thoughts on “The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

  1. I re-read this back in ’12 so it’s not quite time for it to be re-read again. After this review though, I’m already looking forward to it 🙂

    how do you get that nice little border around your pictures?

    • I’m so glad that I could inspire you. 2012 seems a looong time ago …

      WordPress does it for me! All you need to do is pay for a self-hosted domain and then pay for hosting yearly which will increase exponentially after they know they’ve got you, etc. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Just to get that border …. Well, and a few other perks ….

      • I”m always on the lookout for good “re-reads”, as the older I’m getting, the less I like the new stuff coming out in our culture (in general). So far this year my re-reads have been spectacular, but I know that won’t be the case for everything I re-read.

        I know at some point I’ll be going dotcom, due to space issues. I’m already over 16% of my “free” space, and that is with only 3 years of regular blogging under my belt. I hate mucking around online, so I’ll probably just go with wordpress.com and let them do all the work 😀

        • Do you mean worpress.org? That’s who I built my site with. It’s easy to use. It’s the hosting companies who can be frustrating with either their charges or the speed of your blog. Just choose a good one!

          • Nope, wordpress.com. They do the hosting too, which is why I am seriously considering them. One company to rule them all and on the internet to bind them…

          • How would they be different than what you’re on now then? Just curious, Gandalf …. ooops, I mean Bookstooge …

          • Basically, it would just be a dotcom address, more space and ads would be removed.
            And they’d redirect anyone trying to go to my wordpress site to the dotcom site.
            And all of the social things for WP are already baked in, so no need to futz around with stuff (at least in theory)

  2. a learned discourse on a sacred tome… (ha) i’ve read this many times since i was about the age of Christopher Robin; somehow it lies lurking behind the normal everyday operations of my brain pan… i’ve been compared, uncomfortably, to Toad by various people who knew me, but i get excited about books and ideas regardless… Grahame wrote other books, some of which i’ve read, but none so universally telling as this one… great post and lovely pictures (how do you do that?) many tx…

    • That’s wonderful that you’ve read it so many times. I’d like to read it again … perhaps this summer ….. Toad?! Really?! You seem MUCH too humble to be Toad, or has that humbleness required years of practice, lol! As long as you haven’t stolen a car or been put in prison …. I do have to look up some of Grahame’s other works. Even if they’re half as good, they should be worth reading. Thanks for the kind words!

  3. I have not been having luck posting comments to your blog, but I’ll try anyway. I read this book for the first time in my twenties. I was as charmed by E.H.Shepherd’s illustrations as the story.

    • Well, you got through! Good to hear from you again, Sharon! Can you tell me what’s happening? Have you tried a different browser? I now have to use a different browser to post on your blog. I also wonder if it’s my hosting company as sometimes it says the server isn’t responding and I have to reload a page. But if you’re having problems all the time it could be the browser.

      I love Shepherd’s illustrations! They add so much to the story!

    • I have no idea. I know Carol from journey and destination couldn’t post comments so I changed it so she could. So have I now bumped you off? I hate technology.

      • I used to have problems with Blogger blogs if the person didn’t use a pop-up window. I couldn’t sign into my Google account to post if they didn’t have one. Now the problem is mine. I had a friend sign on to my computer with their gmail account once and now their gmail account address keeps popping up in the fill-in when I try to comment using Safari. Even when I sign in directly with my personal account, their address keeps coming up automatically in the fill-in. But when I change to Firefox, my personal account comes up and everything is fine. I have no idea what’s going on. It’s weird. I don’t like technology much either.

  4. I’ve never, ever read The Wind in the Willows and I could kick myself that more years have passed and I haven’t. Must do. Cath of readwarbler suggested the one published by Inga Moore, which I will try to find. I found Inga Moore’s illustrated The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I have fallen head over heals for the illustrations. Thanks for the reminder about Wind in the Willows!

    • Oh Judith, you have to read it! It’s just lovely and a perfect read for these times! I just looked up Inga Moore’s illustrations and they are lovely. I hope you are able to read it soon!

  5. I first read it as an adult & loved it right then so I never had the worry about would it stack up years later. My wife was shocked I hadn’t read it as a child.

    Such a fun book, even if Toad does behave in ways that are not exactly what one could wish. It is nice he reforms at the end, though I’m not entirely certain I believe in his reform… Makes me want to reread it myself. Deb Nance is creating a list of comfort reads–I didn’t notice if this was on it, but it should be!

    • We all have books like that; I only read Swallows and Amazons as an adult yet I so wish I had discovered it as a child.

      I didn’t find Toad’s reformation very believable either but it would be nice if life worked that way, wouldn’t it? Oooo, I’ll have to look at Deb’s comfort reads. I was thinking of those lately and was planning to re-read I Capture The Castle …. that’s a comfort read for me!

    • It would put you in such a good mood. But me, I jump from The Wind in the Willows to The Golden Bough. The titles are very nature-oriented but the content very different! Yikes!

  6. I agree with many of the commenters that rereading The Wind in the Willows sounds like a wonderful idea.

    I find that all I want to do right now is reread. It must be the instability of a pandemic world that drives me to the comfort of rereading a beloved tale. I can’t stop reading Agatha Christie.

    • Interesting. I wonder if old books represent the world we knew and that by reading them we’re hesitant to step into this new one. With good reason probably. I really need to get back to my Christie reads. Perhaps this weekend!

  7. “True friendship requires sacrifice, patience, and the willingness to accept our friends as they are, in effect, how God made them.”

    I love that, and so true it is.

    And yes, it is on my heart to reread it again, again. Someday.

    • Oh yes, do!

      Are you still reading or did the 100 Years read exhaust you? I haven’t even started my Spin book yet …. distracted again, of course! Hope you’re doing well!

      • I am still reading, but I have had a very distracting April, continuing into May, and probably into June. When I can, I will write about what’s happened. It’s just turned my life upside down, and it doesn’t help all this other stuff has happened in the world. I am just beside myself. So, once I get over this one hurdle, I hope to be able to explain what I’ve gone through, and hopefully be able to inform others.

        • Aw, it sounds upsetting and you sound overwhelmed. I’ll keep you in my prayers. I’ll wait for a post but until then, if you need anything just pm me on Goodreads. I’ll help if I can. Take care of yourself! 💕🙏

          • Thanks, Cleo. It’s been agonizing. 🙁 Can’t wait for at least this first part to be over.

  8. It’s been a long time since…well, I don’t think I’ve actually read The Wind in the Willows, so it’s been a long time since it was read to me! But it is, I think, the perfect story for just now. If I didn’t have a tottering tower of books to read, I’d be pulling it off the shelves now. Maybe late summer? It does seem like it might be a good August read.

    • August would be a great time to read it. I can’t wait to hear what you think. I still miss your Children’s Literature challenge!

      And welcome to the tottering tower of books club!

      • I was just thinking about the Children’s Literature challenge the other day. It was a combination of not having enough time to really participate the way I wanted and a seeming decline in interest (other than from you, of course)…but maybe it will have to be resurrected some day.

        • While I do enjoy the contact with people on my blog, what I put or do on it really comes from my own inspiration. I think if you do it because YOU want to and not worry about how many participants you have, you’re happy with the outcome, whatever it is. I will look forward to the day of its resurrection! 😊

          • Blogging generally, is about my interests/inspiration, but when it comes to an event, I tend to feel that if I’m going to put in extra effort to organize something, it would be nice for more than one other person to participate! So I guess it’s the effort/reward thing…

  9. This is one of my most favorite books! I’m trying to decide whether to read it again on my own or do a read aloud with my kids 🙂 A hard choice!

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