The Wind in the Willows

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The Wind in the Willows
Wind in the willows.jpg
Cover of the first edition (with illustration by W. Graham Robertson)
AuthorKenneth Grahame
Original titleWillows whistle
IllustratorErnest H. Shepard (1931)
Arthur Rackham (1940)
Charles van Sandwyk (2007)
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherMethuen
Publication date
October 1908
TextThe Wind in the Willows at Wikisource

The Wind in the Willows is a children's novel by the British novelist Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. It details the story of Mole, Ratty and Badger as they try to help Mr. Toad, after he becomes obsessed with a motorcar and gets into trouble. It also details short stories about them that are disconnected from the main narrative. The novel was based on bedtime stories Grahame told his son Alastair. It has been adapted numerous times for both stage and screen.

The Wind In The Willows received negative reviews upon its initial release, but has since become a classic of British literature. It was listed at No. 16 in the BBC's survey The Big Read,[1] and has been adapted multiple times in different mediums.

Background[edit]

Kenneth Grahame married Elspeth Thomson, the daughter of Robert William Thomson in 1899, when he was 40. The next year they had their only child, a boy named Alastair (nicknamed "Mouse"). He was born premature, blind in one eye, and was plagued by health problems throughout his life.[2] When Alastair was about four years old, Grahame would tell him bedtime stories, some of which were about a toad, and on his frequent boating holidays without his family he would write further tales of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger in letters to Alastair.[3]

In 1908, Grahame took early retirement from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. He moved with his wife and son to an old farmhouse in Blewbury, Berkshire. There, he used the bedtime stories he had told Alastair as a basis for the manuscript of The Wind in the Willows.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

With the arrival of spring and fine weather outside, the good-natured Mole loses patience with spring cleaning. He has fled his underground home and ends up at the river, which he has never seen before. Here he meets Rat, a water vole, who takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with “Ratty” teaching Mole the ways of the river, with the two friends living together in Ratty's riverside home.

One summer day, Rat and Mole disembark near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to Toad. Toad is rich, jovial, friendly and kindhearted, but aimless and conceited; he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them abruptly. His current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. When a passing car scares his horse and causes the caravan to overturn into a ditch, Toad's craze for caravan travel is immediately replaced by an obsession with motorcars.

On a snowy winter's day, Mole goes to the Wild Wood, hoping to meet the respected but elusive Badger. He gets lost in the woods, succumbs to fright, and hides among the sheltering roots of a tree. Rat finds him as snow begins to fall in earnest. Attempting to find their way home, Mole barks his shin on the boot scraper on Badger's doorstep. Badger welcomes Rat and Mole to his large and cozy underground home, providing them with hot food, dry clothes, and reassuring conversation. Badger learns from his visitors that Toad has crashed seven cars, has been in the hospital three times, and has spent a fortune on fines. They resolve that when the time is right they will make a plan to protect Toad from himself.

With the arrival of spring, the three of them put Toad under house arrest with themselves as the guards, but Toad escapes. Badger and Mole continue to live in Toad Hall in the hope that Toad may return. Toad orders lunch at The Red Lion Inn, and then sees a motorcar pull into the courtyard. Taking the car, he drives it recklessly, is caught by the police, and sent to prison for 20 years.

In prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the gaoler's daughter, who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman. After a long series of misadventures, he returns to the hole of the Water Rat. Rat hauls Toad inside and informs him that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood, who have driven out Mole and Badger. Armed to the teeth, Badger, Rat, Mole and Toad enter through the tunnel and pounce upon the unsuspecting Wild-Wooders who are holding a celebratory party. Having driven away the intruders, Toad holds a banquet to mark his return, during which he behaves both quietly and humbly. He makes up for his earlier excesses by seeking out and compensating those he has wronged, and the four friends live happily ever after.

In addition to the main narrative, the book contains several independent short stories featuring Rat and Mole. These appear for the most part between the chapters chronicling Toad's adventures, and are often omitted from abridgements and dramatisations.

Main characters[edit]

  • Mole: known as "Moley" to his friends. An independent, timid, genial, thoughtful, home-loving animal, and the first character introduced in the story. Discontent with spring cleaning in his secluded home, he ventures into the outside world. Initially intimidated by the hectic lifestyle of the riverbank, he eventually adapts with the support of his new friend Rat. He has a spontaneous intelligence moment with his trickery against the Wild Wooders before the battle to retake Toad Hall.
  • Rat: known as "Ratty" to his friends (though actually a water vole), he is astute, charming and affable. He enjoys a life of leisure; when not spending time on the river, he composes doggerel. Ratty loves the river and befriends Mole. He can be very unsettled about subjects and endeavours outside his preferred routine, but is persistently loyal and does the right thing when needed, such as when he risks his life to save Mole in the Wild Wood, and helps rid Toad Hall of the unruly weasels. Ratty is the free and easy sort, as well as a dreamer, and he has a poetic thought process, finding deeper meaning, beauty, and intensity in situations others may see through more practical eyes.
  • Mr. Toad: known as "Toady" to his friends, the wealthy scion of Toad Hall who inherited his wealth from his late father. Although gregarious and well-meaning, as a fixated control freak, he is inclined to boast lavishly and make outrageous outbursts when held back by another character, regardless of their intentions with him. He is prone to obsessions (such as punting, houseboats, and horse-drawn caravans), but gets dissatisfied with each of these activities and drops them fairly quickly, finally settling on motorcars. His motoring craze degenerates into a sort-of addiction that lands him in the hospital a few times, subjects him to expensive fines for his unlawfully erratic driving, and eventually gets him imprisoned for theft, dangerous-driving, and severe impertinence to the police. Two chapters of the book chronicle his daring escape from prison.
  • Mr. Badger: a firm but considerate animal, Badger embodies the "wise hermit" figure. A friend of Toad's deceased father, he is strict with the immature Toad, yet hopes that his good qualities will prevail through his shortcomings. He lives in a vast underground sett, part of which incorporates the remains of a buried Roman settlement. A fearless and powerful fighter, Badger helps clear the Wild-Wooders from Toad Hall with his large stick.

Supporting characters[edit]

  • Otter and Portly: a good friend of Ratty with a stereotypical "Cockney costermonger" character, Otter is confident, respected and head-strong. Portly is his young son.
  • The weasels, ferrets, and stoats: the story's main antagonists. They plot to take over Toad Hall. Although they are unnamed, the leader is referred to as "Chief Weasel".
  • Pan: a gentle and wise god of the wild who makes a single, anomalous appearance in Chapter 7, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", when he helps Portly and looks after him until Ratty and Mole find him.
  • The Gaoler's Daughter: the only major human character, she embodies the youth perspective toward the situation faced by Toad whilst he's incarcerated in prison; a "good, kind, clever girl", she helps Toad escape.
  • The Wayfarer: a vagabond seafaring rat, who also makes a single appearance in Chapter 9, "Wayfarers All". Ratty briefly contemplates accompanying him on his adventures, before Mole convinces him otherwise.
  • Squirrels and rabbits, who are generally good-natured (although rabbits are described as "a mixed lot").
  • Inhabitants of the Wild Wood: weasels, stoats and foxes who are described by Ratty as "All-right in a way but well, you can't really trust them".

Editions[edit]

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, frontispiece to a 1913 edition by Paul Bransom

The original publication of the book was plain text, with a frontispiece illustrated by Graham Robertson, but many illustrated, comic, and annotated versions have been published over the years. Notable illustrators include Paul Bransom (1913), Nancy Barnhart (1922), Wyndham Payne (1927), Ernest H. Shepard (1931), Arthur Rackham (1940), Richard Cuffari (1966), Tasha Tudor (1966), Michael Hague (1980), Scott McKowen (2005), and Robert Ingpen (2007).

  • The most popular illustrations are probably by E. H. Shepard, originally published in 1931, and believed to be authorised as Grahame was pleased with the initial sketches, though he did not live to see the completed work.[4]
  • The Wind in the Willows was the last work illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The book with his illustrations was issued posthumously in a limited edition by the Folio Society with 16 colour plates in 1940 in the US. It was not issued with the Rackham illustrations in the UK until 1950.
  • The Folio Society 2006 edition featured 85 illustrations, 35 in colour, by Charles van Sandwyk. A fancier centenary edition was produced two years later.
  • Michel Plessix created a Wind in the Willows watercolour comic album series, which helped to introduce the stories to France. They have been translated into English by Cinebook Ltd.
  • Patrick Benson re-illustrated the story in 1994 and HarperCollins published it in 1994 together with the William Horwood sequels The Willows in Winter, Toad Triumphant and The Willows and Beyond. It was published in the US in 1995 by St. Martin's Press.
  • Inga Moore's edition, abridged and illustrated by her, is arranged so that a featured line of the text also serves as a caption to a picture.
  • Barnes & Noble Classics featured an introduction by Gardner McFall in 2007. New York, ISBN 978-1-59308-265-9
  • Egmont Press produced a 100th Anniversary paperback edition, with Shepard's illustrations, in 2008. ISBN 978-1-4052-3730-7
  • Belknap Press, a division of Harvard University Press, published Seth Lerer's annotated edition in 2009.[5]
  • W. W. Norton published Annie Gauger's and Brian Jacques's annotated edition in 2009.[6]
  • Jamie Hendry Productions published a special edition of the novel in 2015 and donated it to schools in Plymouth and Salford to celebrate the World Premiere of the musical version of The Wind in the Willows by Julian Fellowes, George Stiles, and Anthony Drewe.[7]
  • IDW Publishing published an illustrated edition of the novel in 2016.[8] The hardcover novel features illustrations from Eisner Award-winning artist David Petersen, who is best known for creating and drawing the comic series Mouse Guard.

Reception[edit]

A number of publishers rejected the manuscript. It was published in the UK by Methuen and Co., and later in the US by Scribner. The critics, who were hoping for a third volume in the style of Grahame's earlier works, The Golden Age and Dream Days, generally gave negative reviews.[3] The public loved it, however, and within a few years it sold in such numbers that many reprints were required.[citation needed] In 1909, then US President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Grahame to tell that he had "read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends".[9]

In The Enchanted Places, Christopher Robin Milne wrote of The Wind in the Willows:

A book that we all greatly loved and admired and read aloud or alone, over and over and over: The Wind in the Willows. This book is, in a way, two separate books put into one. There are, on the one hand, those chapters concerned with the adventures of Toad; and on the other hand there are those chapters that explore human emotions – the emotions of fear, nostalgia, awe, wanderlust. My mother was drawn to the second group, of which "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" was her favourite, read to me again and again with always, towards the end, the catch in the voice and the long pause to find her handkerchief and blow her nose. My father, on his side, was so captivated by the first group that he turned these chapters into the children's play, Toad of Toad Hall. In this play one emotion only is allowed to creep in: nostalgia.

Adaptations[edit]

Stage[edit]

Theatrical films[edit]

Television[edit]

Unproduced

  • In 2003, Guillermo del Toro was working on an adaptation for Disney. It was to mix live action with CG animation, and the director explained why he had to leave the helm. "It was a beautiful book, and then I went to meet with the executives and they said, 'Could you give Toad a skateboard and make him say, "radical dude" things?' and that's when I said, 'It's been a pleasure ...'"[17]

Web series[edit]

Radio[edit]

The BBC has broadcast a number of radio productions of the story. Dramatisations include:

Abridged readings include:

Other presentation formats:

  • Kenneth Williams did a version of the book for radio.
  • In 2002 Paul Oakenfold produced a Trance Soundtrack for the story, aired on the Galaxy FM show Urban Soundtracks. These mixes blended classic stories with a mixture of dance and contemporary music.
  • In 2013 Andrew Gordon produced a full-cast audio adaptation of his stage play, available on Audible and on CD.[18]

Sequels and alternative versions[edit]

  • Jan Needle's Wild Wood was published in 1981 with illustrations by William Rushton (ISBN 0-233-97346-X). It is a re-telling of the story of The Wind in the Willows from the point of view of the working-class inhabitants of the Wild Wood. For them, money is short and employment hard to find. They have a very different perspective on the wealthy, easy, careless lifestyle of Toad and his friends.
  • In 1983 Dixon Scott published A Fresh Wind in the Willows.
  • William Horwood created several sequels to The Wind in the Willows: The Willows in Winter, Toad Triumphant, The Willows and Beyond, and The Willows at Christmas (1999). These books include some of the same incidents as Scott's sequel, including a climax in which Toad steals a Bleriot monoplane.
  • Jacqueline Kelly's sequel Return to the Willows was published in 2012.
  • Kij Johnson published The River Bank in 2017. If Wild Wood reimagined Grahame's work through a shift of class, Johnson's work may be said to do the same thing through shift of gender.
  • Daniel Mallory Ortberg included the story "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad," which blends Wind in the Willows with the Donald Barthelme short story "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby," in his 2018 collection The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror. In Ortberg's retelling, Toad's friends are abusive and use the guise of "rescuing" their friend to justify violence and manipulation.
  • Frederick Thurber's In the Wake of the Willows was published in 2019. It is the New World version of the original, recounting the adventures of the same set of characters, and their children, who lived on a coastal estuary in southern New England.
  • Dina Gregory released an all-female adaptation on Audible in 2020. The story sticks very closely to the original, but with Lady Toad, Mistress Badger, Miss Water Rat and Mrs Mole.[19]

Awards[edit]

  • Mr. Toad was voted Number 38 among the 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 by Book magazine in their March/April 2002 issue.[20]

Inspiration[edit]

Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire was an inspiration for Toad Hall,[21] although Hardwick House and Fawley Court also make this claim.[22]

The village of Lerryn in Cornwall claims to be the setting for the book.[23]

Simon Winchester suggested that the character of Ratty was based on Frederick Furnivall, a keen oarsman and acquaintance of Grahame.[24] However, Grahame himself said that this character was inspired by his good friend, the writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Grahame wrote this in a signed copy he gave to Quiller-Couch's daughter, Foy Felicia.[25]

The Scotsman[26] and Oban Times[27] suggested The Wind in the Willows was inspired by the Crinan Canal, because Grahame spent some of his childhood in Ardrishaig.

There is a proposal that the idea for the story arose when its author saw a water vole beside the River Pang in Berkshire, southern England. A 29 hectare extension to the nature reserve at Moor Copse, near Tidmarsh Berkshire, was acquired in January 2007 by the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Trust.[28]

Peter Ackroyd in his book, Thames: sacred river, asserts that "Quarry Wood, bordering on the river [Thames] at Cookham Dean, is the original of [the] 'Wild Wood' . . . ."[29]

In popular culture[edit]

Music[edit]

  • The first album by the psychedelic rock group Pink Floyd, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), was named by the founding member Syd Barrett after Chapter 7 of The Wind in the Willows. However, the songs on the album are not directly related to the contents of the book.
  • Chapter 7 was the basis for the name and lyrics of "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", a song by the Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison from his 1997 album The Healing Game.
  • The song "The Wicker Man" by the British progressive metal band Iron Maiden also includes the phrase.
  • The British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth released a special edition of its album Thornography called Harder, Darker, Faster: Thornography Deluxe; on the song "Snake-Eyed and the Venomous", a pun is made in the lyrics "... all vipers at the gates of dawn" referring to Chapter 7 of the book.
  • The song "Power Flower" on Stevie Wonder's 1979 album Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants", co-written with Michael Sembello, mentions "the piper at the gates of dawning".
  • In 1991, Tower of Power included an instrumental entitled "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" on the album Monster on a Leash.
  • Wind in the Willows is a fantasy for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, narrated by John Frith (2007).
  • The Dutch composer Johan de Meij wrote a music piece for concert band in four movements, named after and based on The Wind in the Willows.
  • The Edinburgh-based record label Song, by Toad Records takes its name from a passage in The Wind in the Willows.
  • English composer John Rutter wrote a setting of The Wind in the Willows for narrator, SATB chorus and chamber orchestra.
  • The American post-hardcore band La Dispute adapted the first chapter of the book into the song "Seven" on their EP Here, Hear II.

Adventure rides[edit]

  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the name of a ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and a former attraction at Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, inspired by Toad's motorcar adventure. It is the only ride with an alternative Latin title, given as the inscription on Toad's Hall: Toadi Acceleratio Semper Absurda ("Toad's Ever-Absurd Acceleration"). After the removal of the ride from the Magic Kingdom, a statue of Toad was added to the cemetery outside the Haunted Mansion attraction in the same park.

Other[edit]

  • In 2016, the historian Adrian Greenwood was tortured and murdered in his home by a thief intent on finding a rare 1908 first edition print of which he was in possession. The book was later recovered as part of the criminal investigation. The crime was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary entitled Catching a Killer: The Wind in the Willows Murder.[30][31]
  • In The Simpsons 1998 episode "Lisa Gets an 'A'" (season 10, episode 7; AABF03), Lisa neglects to complete her Wind in the Willows reading homework and subsequently has to cheat on a pop-quiz.
  • In Rugrats 1992 episode "The Santa Experience (season 2, episode 14; Chaz mentions that he had the lead role in a Wind in the Willows play in school when they were kids. Drew remarks that Chaz just played a tree.
  • In Downton Abbey, series 2, episode 2, the Dowager Countess learns that her granddaughter, Lady Edith Crowley, has volunteered to drive a tractor for a local farmer during the war, to which the Dowager Countess says, "You're a lady. Not Toad of Toad Hall!" [32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Big Read top 200". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  2. ^ Bootle, Robin; Bootle, Valerie (1990). The Story of Cookham. Privately published. p. 188. ISBN 0-9516276-0-0.
  3. ^ a b c "Biography". Kenneth Grahame Society. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. ^ E. H. Shepard ill. ed, Charles Scribner's Sons, US, introduction.
  5. ^ Grahame, Kenneth (2009), Lerer, Seth (ed.), The Wind in the Willows (annotated ed.), Belknap Press / Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-03447-1
  6. ^ Grahame, Kenneth (2009), Gauger, Annie; Jacques, Brian (eds.), The Annotated Wind in the Willows, Norton Annotated Series, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-05774-4
  7. ^ "Wind in the Willows musical set for world premiere". BBC News.
  8. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (Illustrated by David Petersen)". IDW Publishing.
  9. ^ "First edition of The Wind in the Willows sells for £32,400". The Guardian. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2014..
  10. ^ "The Wind in the Willows: short play or musical adaptation for children". David-gooderson.co.uk. 30 July 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  11. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (Musical, Copeland)". Dramatic Publishing Company. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Julian Fellowes to write Wind in the Willows Musical".
  13. ^ "The Wind in the Willows/Der Wind in den Weiden work page at Boosey & Hawkes music publisher". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  14. ^ Gordon, Andrew; Whitney, Bruce (12 September 2013). The Wind in the Willows: A Musical in Two Acts. ISBN 978-0985239350.
  15. ^ "The Wind in the Willows (1987) (TV)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  16. ^ "IMDb". IMDb..
  17. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes: del Toro on why Wind in the Willows went away". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  18. ^ The Wind in the Willows.
  19. ^ "Audible: The Wind in the Willows". Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  20. ^ Paik, Christine (19 March 2002). "NPR report". NPR. Archived from the original on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  21. ^ West, Mark (2003). A Children's Literature Tour of Great Britain. Scarecrow Press Inc. pp. 49–51. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  22. ^ Winn, Christopher (2010). I Never Knew That about the River Thames. Ebury Publishing. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9781407080604. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  23. ^ "The animals of Wind in the Willows". Inside Out. BBC. 10 January 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  24. ^ Winchester, Simon (2003). The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  25. ^ The copy with Grahame's inscribed identification of Arthur Quiller-Couch as an inspiration for Ratty was auctioned by Bonhams on Tuesday 23 March 2010 for £32,400.Flood, Alison (24 March 2010). "First edition of The Wind in the Willows sells for £32,400". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Wind whispered in the Scottish willows first". The Scotsman. 16 April 2005. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  27. ^ "Was Crinan the seed for Wind in the Willows?". Oban Times. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  28. ^ "Ratty's paradise joins eight new reserves". Natural World. Spring 2007. p. 10..
  29. ^ Ackroyd, Peter (2007). Thames: sacred river. London, UK: Chatto & Windus.
  30. ^ Travis M. Andrews (5 October 2016). "Historian tortured, killed for first edition of Wind in the Willows, prosecutor tells British jury". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  31. ^ "Wind in the Willows murder case a 'vicious' attack". BBC News. 10 July 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  32. ^ "Downton Abbey -- Critical Contexts -- Toad of Toad Hall". Kansas State University. Retrieved 12 August 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Grahame, Kenneth (1944), Grahame, Elspeth (ed.), First Whisper of The Wind in the Willows, Philadelphia & New York: J.B. Lippincott tells how the stories evolved from bedtime stories (and letters, in his absence) for his son Alastair, then known as "Mouse".
  • Hunt, Peter (1994). The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia. New York: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-8816-7.

External links[edit]

Online editions[edit]