Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Simply Messing About in Wind in the Willows

The boastful, unstable Toad, the hospitable Water Rat, the wise Badger, and the Mole with his pleasant habit of boyish impulse," noted Vanity Fair nearly a century ago, "are types of that deeper humanity which sways us all." Written by Kenneth Grahame as bedtime stories for his son, The Wind in the Willows continues to delight readers today. Basing his fanciful animal characters on human archetypes, Grahame imparts a gentle, playful wisdom in his timeless tales. Few readers will be able to resist an invitation to join the Wild Wooders at Toad Hall, enjoy a quick splash in the river with Rat and Mole, or take a swerving ride with Toad in a "borrowed" motor-car. But why say more? To use the words of Mr. Toad himself: "Travel, change, interest, excitement!... Come inside."

There are many classic children’s books that are still known and loved today and yet one of the best hardly ever gets the recognition it deserves. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is such a great, timeless story! Originally published almost a hundred years ago, it still has a sort of timeless quality to it that every child (and adult) can still enjoy.

I just adored the characters (well everyone but vain Mr. Toad ) and how Grahame made them seem so human-like. If I had to pick one out of the foursome as my favorite it would be Ratty. He’s such an altogether friendly old chap! Mole isn’t that bad either and Mr. Badger reminds me of a gruff (but kind) old uncle. Their friendship is what holds the whole book together.

When I first read The Wind in the Willows, I was still really young so recently when I re-read it for my online reading group, (The Children’s Books of Yesterday- now deleted) it was like reading it for the first time. I honestly only remembered tiny bits and pieces such as the grand battle at Toad Hall and when Ratty and Mole visited Badger. It’s just described in such detail that you can nearly see it! I guess that’s why there have been so many different illustrated versions of the book. (My favorite is the ones done by E. H. Shepard who also did the illustrations for Winnie the Pooh).

There have also been numerous film, stage, and even a TV series adaptation of this book. The best known though is probably Walt Disney’s 30 minute featurette that makes up the second part of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. It later went on to become a popular ride at Disneyland called Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Well whatever version you read or see I still think nothing can top the original but make sure that your book copy says “unabridged” because this poor book has been butchered by so many people.

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  1. I'm slightly horrified to say that I never got around to The Wind in the Willows, and so far, my sons haven't either (my fault, I know). Must remedy that.

  2. I actually hate Wind in the Willows. I don't think it's a kids story: these adult animals are getting drunk, stealing cars, breaking out of prison, and otherwise being very poor role models. It seemed the majority of the book was Mr. Toad, so my hatred for him really made this book a no go for me....



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