The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

1980

Collection

Description

The escapades of four animal friends who live along a river in the English countryside--Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Kenneth Grahame's classic children's novel, The Wind in the Willows, is the story of a friendship, a picnic, an encounter with the divine, a daring impersonation, a jail-break, a secret passage, a battle, and any number of motorcars. It combines at once the fantasy imagination of a bank secretary and the comforts of a well-off British home, peopled by a collection of memorable animal characters whose foibles continue to delight readers of all ages. At least, they delighted this reader!

As I read it this time, I was struck by how much it reminded me of C. S. Lewis's Narnia books. Grahame's tone is the closest to Lewis's that I've ever read: genial, oh-so-British, and wonderfully humorous (as when Mole "had started his spring-cleaning at a very early hour that morning; as people will do" (34)). There are also religious/spiritual undertones that occasionally come quite sharply to the forefront, but somehow never jar the tenor of the stories. The presence of the divine is a natural feature of the imaginative landscape of both worlds.

Both Willows and Narnia are home to humanized animal characters who reflect all the ideas and mindsets of their creators. And yet these characters are faithful to the quirks of their species as well. I love the part in Willows when it is explained to us that animal etiquette demands that one should never comment on the sudden disappearance of another animal for any reason at all.

Of course, Willows was published in 1908, while the Narnia books appeared in 1950–1957. So all my perceptions of Grahame being like Lewis are backwards; really it's Lewis who was influenced by Grahame (in his Poems, Lewis refers to some of Grahame's characters by name). Lewis was by far the most prominent author in my own childhood and so remains the standard by which I measure other similar works, but there is always room for more kindred-spirited literature among my favorites.

Another fascinating fantasy connection I noticed—or imagined, anyways—is actually related to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, in the invasion of the comfortable little British home and how physical force, actual pitched battle, is necessary to rout the intruders. Go adventuring, by all means, but your safe home may not be yours when you return...

Though I alluded earlier to the classic status of The Wind in the Willows, I think Grahame is underrated both as an author and as an influence on the British children's authors who would follow him. At least, he was to me before this reread. This is an utterly delightful book that fully deserves its place among the very best of children's literature. And, like its company, it is just as delightful to adult readers as it is to younger. I'm already wanting to reread!
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
I'm sure I've read this book as a child, but thanks to my faulty memory, I couldn't say for sure. What's certain is I didn't expect I'd be as surprised by this old classic as I was. I was expecting a quiet pastoral affair with plenty of cute little animals cavorting about, and was almost shocked when the story deviated from the script, which up till a certain point included pleasant trips boating up and down a river and visits between friends Mole, River Rat, Toad, Badger and Otter, and what could have been a scary trip into the woods, had I been a young child. But then, WHAM! Toad getting arrested and sent to jail and the great escape that ensues complete with train chase, all this involving a whole slew of human beings who don't seem to find it the least bit strange that a toad should have stolen a car and driven recklessly, or been mistaken for a washerwoman once having donned the clothing of one such person, well... I never thought this innocent book would shake me up as much as it did. Blame it on the fact that I was sleepy and expecting a variation on Beatrix Potter maybe? But now I think of it, is Beatrix Potter anything like what I think I remember? I'm almost scared to find out!… (more)
LibraryThing member StormRaven
The Wind in the Willows is regarded as a classic of chidlren's literature, and while it is enjoyable, I'm not sure it deserves that status. The book follows the activities (I hesitate to call some of the trivial things they engage in adventures) of four animal friends: Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and Toad. For the most part, the book follows Mole and Water Rat, who serve as stand-ins for middle-class English country gentlemen. The pair spend their days boating on the river, having very English picnic lunches and dinners, hosting poor Christmas carolers, exploring the enticing and dangerous wild wood, and trying to keep the aristocratic Toad from getting into trouble.

One thing that is never clear in the book is why Mole and Water Rat are middle class, why Toad is wealthy, and why Badger is working class, although they all clearly are. The Otter family and the field mouse carolers seems to be poor as well,and the weasels and stoats are essentially poverty-stricken ruffians. No one seems to do any work in the animal worls, so it is unclear why the field mice are poor, while Mole is comfortable enough to have them all in for a bite to eat when they knock at his door. It is a mystery how Toad is able to afford the multiple cars he purchases (and wrecks) in the story. This bit of English class structure, while giving an interesting window on the state of the world in Grahame's era, makes the book more than a little dated, and probably not particularly approachable for a young reader today.

For the most part, the four friends putter around doing more or less mundane things - the biggest excitement in the first half of the book is when Mole and Water Rat find and return one of the Otter children who had gotten lost. The actual adventures, such as they are, of the quartet are heavily driven by Toad and what appear to be his attempts to stave off the boredom that comes with being wealthy and idle. He steals a car, gets thrown in jail, escapes, and finds his home taken over by ruffians (Stoats and Weasels), whereupon the four friends arm themselves with clubs, pistols, and swords, and toss the trespassers out. They, of course, immediately plan a party to celebrate.

The book is mostly noteworthy for its love of country living, and the unspoiled, but tamed English countryside (the river dwellers being carefully distinguished from those that live in "the wild wood"). In some ways, Grahame is a predecessor of Tolkien, wishing that a pastoral way of life would persist and not be overcome by industiralization and a breaking down of class barriers.

On the whole, the book is fun, even if the doings of the protagonists range from the merely trivial to the criminal, and probably worth giving to a child to read, but I would not consider this to have the "must read" status that it has been accorded.
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LibraryThing member ben_a
"One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial."
-- A. A. Milne

"I don't want to teach them, I want to learn them!"
--Badger

Bought in the Lexington, KY airport (2.1.07), and now re-reading
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Nature is, in a sense, English, is it not? Not the real ecosystems and glacial lakes and herd mammals and giant fungi and sewage outflows that make up our planet, but that pastoral Arcadia that's just wild enough to be thrilling but where you always come out all right in the end. I think as a kid the animals here would have been a bit too anthropomorphized for me--your Berenstain Bears or whatever can go suck their paws, I wanted worlds based on assumptions fundamentally different from our own. And the fact is that's actually what you've got here, in a way--a world where all is instinct and instinct is always right, the nose always knows, and all that's left is to follow your nature. And nobody's nature is haunted by demons, cracked open by Ypres, and England can almost pass as its own Arcadia, though unraveling a bit around the edges if you really want to know. (Mr. Toad was based on Grahame's son, who killed himself in 1920, and with a little hoptoad of my own now, infinitely delighted to be here and him, I can't muse on that too long.) The beauty of this is it imagines a world where nobody who gets in your face offers more than a dunking or some night-time forest skulduggery, where animals are basically your countrymen with their best, laziest, most complacent faces on, the garden looks really good this year, and there's always time for messing around in boats. I see this as written as a tonic for imperial ennui, serving too, later, unexpectedly but so luckily, as an escape from post-imperial psychosis. Reading it made me feel calm.… (more)
LibraryThing member Grimauds
I just finished reading this story to my five year-old daughter. She loved it! I sometimes needed to substitute more familiar vocabulary for less to create a smoother read aloud experience. For a slightly older child I wouldn't think this would be necessary.

If you have only seen the Disney version, you are missing out. The characters are very genuine and lovable. The adventures they have are exciting without being terrifying, funny without being too silly, and the story is long enough for the reader (or read-to) to connect with the animals.

I wasn't sure if the pace would be too slow for a young child, but it was not. The book could be divided into three acts: The River, The Woods, and Mr. Toad. Each story arc was exciting enough in it's own way to keep attention. The addition of so many wonderful full-color illustrations by Inga Moore only helped to hold interest.

My daughter was truly sad to finish the final chapter. She now plays "Wind in the Willows" with her stuffed friends so that even though we have finished the book - the story continues.
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LibraryThing member adzebill
An important early science fiction allegory (obvious influence on Animal Farm) of closeted gay subculture in Edwardian Britain.
LibraryThing member ctpress
Five reasons why I love Wind in the Willows

1. Playfulness: It’s pure delight when Mole decides to drop his spring cleaning and begin to enjoy a day of rest and play and leisure in the company of his new found friend, Ratty. Grahame reminds us of this essential part of “human” life, remember to take time of to enjoy life and rest and have fun.

2. True friendship: This is specially seen in the way they have patience with the silly conceited Toad and keep rescuing him and save him from himself. As William Horwood writes in the preface: “Kindness is at the very heart of “The Wind in the Willows”, the kindness that makes one character put the interests and needs of another first. For these are not characters out to gain advantage over each other.”

3. Sweet Home (Dulce Domum): The scene where Mole feel homesickness and they decide to find his place and he invites Ratty in to his humble dwellings is priceless. Even the caroling field mice have a feast there. It reminds me of this essential breathing space - a home where meals unite family and friends - an almost holy place where we find renewed energy.

4. Transcendence: How to interprete the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”? The mysterious Friend, nature god Pan, this awe and reverence in the presence of something transcendent - the feeling of both joy and sadness. It’s just a miracle.

5. Poetic nature: Grahames poetic descriptions of nature is remarkable. You just feel a desire to experience it all in its fullness. The wind, the grass, the sun, the snow, the river bank.
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LibraryThing member shelf-employed
This was my favorite book when I was a child. When I read it years later to my own children, I still loved it, and they did too!
LibraryThing member Helenliz
If ever there was a more perfect concatenation of material and reader (with a touch of nostalgic memory thrown in), I'm not sure I've heard it.
As a child the BBC had a programme with a very simple idea - someone would sit and, for 15 minutes each night, read a children's story. Usually over a week, but sometimes over several weeks. Sometimes they'd be in a chair, sometimes they'd read it on location, sometimes there would be still cartoons or illustrations to accompany the reading. A more simple idea would be difficult to imagine and yet it worked - brilliantly. Somewhere lodged deep in my memory is the remembrance of hearing Alan Bennett (who I had never heard of at that stage) read. He most famously read Winnie the Pooh ()and a more doleful Eeyore has never been heard) but he also did Wind in the Willows for Radio. He has such a dry narrative voice, but did all the voices, from the humble Mole the farmer-esque badger, the slightly Henley ratty and the ebullient Toad. And in my memory it has stayed, so when I saw it on CD in the library, i snapped it up. And it is every bit as good as memory imagined. for a start, the text is divine. Hearing it again I had to wonder if Grahame had written it with an ear to it being read aloud by a parent to a child, there's rhythm and alliteration and repetition throughout that would hook a child's attention. And it's such a great tale. Toad and his enthusiasms, Mole and his burrow when the carolers come, Ratty and his love for boats, badger being the fatherly figure keeping them all in line. Great text, brilliant reading and the rose tinted glasses remain thoroughly intact - how can you possibly go wrong.… (more)
LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
I don't like talking animal books, most especially when the animals interact with humans and are smaller than them one minute and the same size the next (as with Toad passing for a washerwoman). Then we have the issue of the main characters apparently having a great deal of wealth and not having to work or gather food, while the other animals do. As if this weren't bad enough- I hated Toad. Throughout the latter half of the book, I was hoping that he would die a horrible death. Overall it read fast, but was an awful story.… (more)
LibraryThing member RBeffa
I suppose I was in the mood for this book, but it was a sheer delight and it immediately became a favorite book. My copy has an introduction and afterword, as well as a brief author bio written by Jane Yolen which I really appreciated. We only have a small cast of central characters here, a mole, a water rat, a badger and a toad, 'Mr. Toad'. I adore Mole and Ratty. I found myself loving every one of them, maybe even Mr. Toad. This is a children's book for grown-ups as well as mid aged kids. When I got to chapter 7, titled "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" my mouth dropped open. My copy only has a few illustrations in it - lovely black and white drawings, and the artist is not credited, although I think I deciphered the name Zimic. Then I decided that artist Tricia Zimic created the delightful cover illustration as well as the interior pen and ink drawings.

I much more partial to the early half of the book, the rather nostalgic, pastoral adventures of Mole, Rat and Badger as well as the Piper piece in the middle. As Jane Yolen notes, this is really three sorts of stories in one book.
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LibraryThing member teesside_dazza
I dislike this book.
Itseems a parochial middle-class English allegory worrying about the working-class getting uppity.

There's a perpetual fear of the inhabitants of the wild wood - like some kind of housing estate.

Ratty said to Mole of these inhabitants

"They're all right in a way--I'm very good friends with them--pass the time of day when we meet, and all that--but they break out sometimes, there's no denying it, and then--well, you can't really trust them, and that's the fact"

By 1908 the Labour Party received a significanr number of MPs in parliament(in 1906 General Election) - obviously Graham had to teach the kids to be wary of them.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
The introduction tells us this is "the first novel-length animal fantasy" and as such "foreshadowing" "Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, Adam's Watership Down and White's Charlotte's Web. I've never read Winnie-the-Pooh, but I can't say I liked this one anywhere near as much as Watership Down or Charlotte's Web.. I think partly because those two other books the picture of the animals are consistent. The animals of Watership Down are ordinary rabbits, if rabbits had fables, myths and their own speech and consciousness. The animals of Charlotte's Web are animals who can speak to each other. The animals of The Wind in the Willows sometimes seem animal-shaped creatures who can be mistaken for humans, wear clothes and steal motorcars, and sometimes animals. And the stories seem more episodic compared to those other books. There is some lovely writing within, appealing tales of friendships (among males anyway, Grahame has seemingly little use for women) and certainly Toad of Toad Hall with his mania for motor-cars is unforgettable. Read for the first time as a adult, this doesn't have the appeal of say Alice in Wonderland, but I bet if I had first had it read to me at six-years-old or read it for myself at ten, I'd have been enchanted.… (more)
LibraryThing member mfbarry
This was the "G" entry in my A-Z challenge based on the unread books I had at my house.

I had never read this book as a child - which is too bad because it has such a good message to young people about friends, adventure and going outside of your comfort zone. As an adult reading this book for the first time, it still resonated with me. I am very glad I read it and will probably read it again in another year or so as i would like to revisit Ratty, Badger and Toad.

I recommend this book to a reader of any age.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
The Wind in The Willows is a highly inventive, very English story about the rich spoiled Toad and his worthy friends, Rat, Mole, Badger, etc. It has become a timeless classic that appeals to all ages. This would make an ideal read aloud story for children as an adult could help with the pacing and perhaps put on interesting voices for the various characters.

A morality tale that praises the value of friendship and community, this story has it’s slightly dark moments, but over all it is a gentle tale that paints a strong picture of English country life as we would all wish it to be. This very comforting read delivers it’s message in a subtle, humorous fashion helped by it’s Edwardian pastoral setting and woodland creatures who have very human characteristics.

I read this book in short installments through the Daily Lit on-line site, and found myself so looking forward to my next installment that I often didn’t wait but pushed the button for immediate delivery of the next chapter.
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LibraryThing member Cygnus555
As I child, I tried to read this book several times. Each time, I made it about 1/2 a chapter in and I was bored to tears and stopped. But I kept being drawn back to it for two reasons. 1) It had animals in it and I found that appealing. 2) Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Come on... a ride like that had to come from a great book!!

So I'm now an adult and I'm walking through Borders and I see it on a discount rack. I grab it with the same instinct - knowing it must be a good book. This time, I made it past the first chapter. Midway through Chapter Two, I was hooked.

What a beautifully written book. it was absolutely magical and eloquently written. I could just read some of the paragraphs and chapters over and over. My particular favorites were Dulce Domum, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Wayfarers All. These are some of the best writing I have read in a long time.

The end was a bit of an off trajectory from the rest of the book... but still fun - a little more like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.... funny though, now that I'm an adult I wasn't as attracted to this aspect. It was the beauty of the chapters noted above.

But I do want to go to Disneyland again, just to experience it from a knowing perspective...
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LibraryThing member redfiona
I've known the story of The Wind In The Willows forever, one of those things that seeps in in the time before memory begins, but on the other hand I have no memory of ever having read the book.

And it is wonderful.

Warm and clever and lovely, and touched by some sort of magic.

It's all the little things like Mole feeling so much more at home in Badger's sett, because he's an underground animal at heart, but loving the river enough to forego that. And Ratty being lovely, and kind and ... Ratty is my favourite. And, it must be said, has been since I was wee.

Completely and utterly worth reading, no matter how old you are.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Originally published in 1908, this classic British animal fantasy began as a series of bedtime stories that the author created for his young son, and only found its way into print after Grahame retired from his career in banking. Described as everything from a paean to the beauty of English country life, to a portrait of the class structure of late Victorian Britain, The Wind in the Willows is one of those stories that can be interpreted in diverse ways, and appreciated on many different levels. The tale of four friends - humble Mole, who happens upon a new life and a new social circle one day, when he sticks his nose up out of his burrow; friendly Ratty, a stouthearted sailor and happy-go-lucky river-dweller, who serves to bind the friends together; wise and retiring Badger, who may prefer the solitude of his woods, but nevertheless proves a valuable ally and friend; and spoiled Toad (of Toad Hall), the conceited son of privilege, who has a better heart than either judgment or resolve - it is as engaging as it is well written, and every bit as relevant as the day it was first published.

Chosen as our December selection, over in The Children's Fiction Book Club to which I belong, The Wind in the Willows is one of those books (of which there are far too many, I am afraid) that I have long been meaning to read, but to which I never seem to get to. How glad I am that my book-club commitments finally gave me the push I needed to pick it up, as I absolutely adored it! I can see why so many readers have recommended it to me over the years. The social analysis is certainly of interest - I find the idea (put forward in our book discussion, amongst other places) that the four friends each represent a different strata of the middle and upper classes, while the residents of The Wild Wood (the weasels, stoats and ferrets) represents the "underclass," quite convincing - although it was the beauty of the language that really stood out, on this initial read. The playful use of language, with made-up words and plenty of alliteration - So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws..." - the lyrical descriptions of the world of river and wood, and the gorgeous dreamlike passages leading up to the breathlessly magical encounter with Pan, in "Pipers at the Gates of Dawn," all left a powerful impression on me. I will be wanting to read this again, I think, and will be thinking of it for some time to come. It's just a lovely, lovely little book!
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LibraryThing member bell7
Somewhere alongside a river lives a Water Rat and a Mole, two friends who take pleasure in the simple things, like taking a ride in Ratty's boat and having a picnic. Their friends Toad, Otter and Badger, living near the river and in the Wide Wood, join them in various adventures throughout the seasons.

Somehow, when I was young and reading The Chronicles Narnia and all the Thornton W. Burgess tales, I missed this children's classic featuring Mole and the Water Rat, pompous old Toad and the sturdy Badger. I especially loved Toad, his faddish delights and mood swings from deepest despair to puffed up self-display. This was a truly charming read, by turns familiar (due to a movie I saw as a child) and new. The episodic chapters and long, meandering sentences lend themselves to a read-aloud, and I look forward to someday sharing this story with a young child.… (more)
LibraryThing member melydia
A book that appears to have been part of everyone's childhood except mine. We had a lovely hardbound copy as long as I can remember, but I never read it until now. And it doesn't translate well to adults. Having been written a century ago, I expected it to be dated, but I didn't expect it to be quite so...odd. Each chapter is more or less a separate story about the same group of characters: poetic Rat, generous Mole, selfish Toad, gruff Badger, and friendly Otter. Toad has by far the most personality, what with his utter conceit and his obsession with motorcars, but he's less entertaining than tiresome. I don't have any issues with the idea of talking animals in general, but when they begin interacting with humans it can get a little strange. For example, the illustrations in this book show Toad at roughly half the height of an adult human - which he would have to be, given part of the storyline. Maybe I would like this book more had I grown up with it, but as it stands I just see it as a really bizarre little tale that I will most likely never read again.… (more)
LibraryThing member feelinglistless
As the introduction (written back in the 80s by Grahame biographer Peter Green) rightly identifies, although Mr. Toad made The Wind in the Willows famous, his action packed adventures are the least evocative and I’d go further to say he’s the least interesting of the characters. The best chapter, Dulce Domum, in which Mole desperately seeks to return to his own home despite its humbleness is an intoxicatingly emotional description of the inescapable connection most of us have to our own familiar four walls however else we might imagine they seem to others (and nearly had me in tears by the time the carol singers arrived). The loyalty between Ratty and Mole is also especially touching, not unlike that between Sherlock and Watson, the former often riding roughshod of the latter’s feelings until he realises he’s gone too far, guilt sets in and he shambles about making amends.… (more)
LibraryThing member mks27
This little story presents children and adults with an understanding of what it is to be human, all accomplished using a variety of lovely animals as characters. The humanness of the characters is the story’s greatest strength. It teaches about human weakness, temptation, friendship, and redemption. I enjoyed submerging myself in its early 20th century British language and custom, and its subtle humor. It is a beautifully told children’s fantasy, but includes adventure, a sense of discovery, and a love of the natural world. Grahame balances a wonderful sense of freedom with the dangers inherent in that freedom and the skill required to find the precious balance between.… (more)
LibraryThing member johnthefireman
A beautiful children's book which, like so many really good children's books, is still of great interest to adults.
LibraryThing member rowfy
The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame is cool story in an old-fashioned way. It is about the adventures of Mole and The Water Rat, who live by the banks of a river in England. The beginning is a little childish, like The Hobbit, but if you don't think you're too "bad" you might like this story. Watership Down is another cool book that is similar to this one.… (more)

Publication

Watermill Press

Original publication date

1908
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