The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Title: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Original Publication Date:
1908
Genre: 
children, adventure, fantasy

Before the review, confession time…

Until now, the entirety of my knowledge of The Wind in the Willows came from the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride attraction at Disneyland, a ride I’ve always found vaguely disturbing what with the going to hell bit and all. Seriously, you go through this sinister hell scene and then BOOM! you’ve “escaped” back to the bright light and artificial cheer of loading area. The actual book (or any of its adaptations) were just never something I was exposed to as a child.

The Premise

From the back of my Puffin Classics edition…

Spring is in the air and Mole has found a wonderful new world. There’s boating with Ratty, a feast with Badger and high jinks on the open road with that reckless ruffian, Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. The four become the firmest of friends, but after Toad’s latest escapade, can they join together and beat the wretched weasels?

Or, here’s a bunch of anthropormized animals in an idyllic English countryside setting.

The Good

  • Mole + Ratty 4ever! Seriously, their friendship is everything.
  • Badger! HE is everything. I love the fact that he’s a hermit character who isn’t sad or pathetic or scary. He just can’t be bothered with society most of the time, but if it’s for his friends, he shows up and is totally awesome. Also, his home is so cozy and inviting and sounds so lovely.
  • Speaking of homes, this quote. The whole sequence with Mole returning home was just so spot on for me.
    • He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow, even – it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.

  • Writing this, I am sort of thinking Mole is my spirit animal, because there is also this: “For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.” Now. I can see how some might view this passage as… a little sad, or at least discouraging the sort of boldness and adventurousness that seems to be so highly-valued in he world. As if it’s giving in to your limitations in a way that makes your world smaller. But for me, it’s all about using self-knowledge to decide what your life should be. The fact is boldness and Adventure-with-a-capital-A are not for everyone, but “adventure enough” can be found in any life.
  • Finally, the food writing! I had no idea when I opened this book that the writing about food would be so delightful! Some examples:
    • “…he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-colored flask containing bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.”
    • “…a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter’s evenings, when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contended cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries.”

The Bad

  • Toad. Ugh. I get that he’s supposed to be a sort of charming rapscalion whose good-heartedness and generosity make up for his faults, but… I don’t think I’m capable of reading and enjoying a story about an entitled aristocrat who destroys everything around him through his own vanity and stupidity. The last several chapters of the book chronicling his adventures after that last “wild ride” were really frustrating for me. I wanted more cozy Mole and Ratty adventures!

The Verdict

I’m not actually sure I would have liked this book as a child, but I’m very glad that I was able to come to the as an adult with a sufficient lack of cynicism to enjoy it because it has surprising depth and really is delightful. 4.5/5. The 0.5 is all Toad’s fault.

2 comments

  1. *sigh* it’s always toad’s fault…
    you picked some of my favorite passages to quote and this is one more for you…”They had felt hungry before, but when they actually saw at last the supper that was spread for them, really it seemed only a question of what they should attack first where all was so attractive, and whether the other things would obligingly wait for them till they had time to give them attention. Conversation was impossible for a long time; and when it was slowly resumed, it was that regrettable sort of conversation that results from talking with your mouth full.”

    Liked by 1 person

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